The perks of being true to yourself

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I was recently rummaging through my writing desk when I came across a letter I had long since forgotten.  It is not the typical style of prose I would choose to hang on to but it is a glaring reminder of how therapeutic it can be to exorcise a toxic friend from your life.

Toxic friendships start so innocently.  The relationship begins to build on a foundation of trust and common interests, a bond is evident and the rules of the alliance seem to be clearly outlined and understood by both parties.  Each participant silently vows to put the other’s well-being ahead of the general population and to always have the other friend’s back.

But, somewhere during one particular friendship of mine, the rules changed.  My toxic friend began to show the obvious characteristics of being narcissistic and she no longer had a genuine investment in my feelings.  She began to pollute my reality with her selfishness and her uncanny ability to focus solely on herself.  Although the previous vows of our friendship still may have percolated in the back of her mind, she forged ahead only looking out for herself, completely negating any regard for my feelings.

Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to more than my fair share of toxic friends.  I have created excuses for their behavior, forgiven them on many occasions for the negative effect they have had on my life, and the lives of others, and defended their antics ad nauseam.  For the duration of those relationships my toxic friends broke all the fundamental and universal laws of friendship and yet I found it difficult to break the bond of our kinship.

I keep this letter, still, as a reminder of the journey I took to find my worth.  This one solid shred of evidence is proof of the strength I possessed to finally walk away from a toxic friendship and put myself first.  It is a letter, penned by a third-party, written to attack my character and accuse me of misrepresenting myself as a friend.  Although this letter initially angered me because the author was completely ignorant regarding my history with this certain friend, I now look at the words and smile.

I was accused of being a bad friend, and I was a bad friend – to myself.   I was accused of changing, and I did change – for the better.   I was told I would regret ending this one-sided friendship and, yes, I did indeed have regret about ending this particular friendship – but only because I didn’t have the balls to do it sooner.

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I made a monumental decision that day and one I will never regret making.  I finally gave myself permission to define how I let people treat me.  My friendships now are nurturing and reciprocal and the friends I have in my life treat me with the same respect I show them.  It was a bumpy road for a while but knowing when to let go was a lesson I learned the hard way.  I may have a few cuts and bruises from having walked into a new freedom but I shall wear those scars with pride.

Good things come to those who wait

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mouse

The snap of the spring echoed throughout the house.  Nervous whiskers twitched as big eyes peered from the hole in the floorboard.  A lone piece of cheddar sat untouched on the trap.  The second mouse pilfered the cheese without the slightest hesitation.

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A new way to hitch a ride

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For those unfamiliar with the bird in the above picture, this seemingly benign creature is a Black-Capped Chickadee.  They are tiny in stature and extremely friendly once a level of trust has been developed.  I would spend countless hours as a child sitting outside on our deck with a handful of sunflowers seeds charming these little creatures to land on my hand.  I would marvel at the heat produced by their tiny claws as they gripped my fingers and admire their courage to trust a human feeder.

I became much smarter as time went on and removed the actual bird feeder altogether.  I was the only source of food for these feathered friends and slowly became the Chickadee Whisperer.  These beautiful little birds would jockey for positions on my outstretched hands and graze on the seeds that I willingly provided.  More often than not, I would have to leave my perch to fill the supply of food but they were anxiously fluttering around the deck awaiting my return.

On one particular occasion, I had gone inside to replenish the supply of seeds and had unwittingly left the screen door wide open.  One lone Chickadee flew into the house through the open door and, like a Kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission, thrust itself straight into our living room and landed squarely between the shoulder blades of our long-haired Lhasa Apso, Misty.  She had been sound asleep on the couch but the shock of having a foreign object entangled in her fur was immediate and Misty leapt off the couch to shake the intruder loose.  The more she shook, the stronger the bird held to her hair.

Not knowing which creature was more terrified, I watched Misty go from disbelief to panic in milliseconds.  As Misty began  thrashing like a bull being ridden in a rodeo, the bird held fast.  The movie 8-Seconds had nothing on this bird.  It was going for the World Record and the seconds began to tick on the clock.  Misty, realizing that a mere shaking of her shoulders was unsuccessful, jumped off the couch, taking off like a shot into a full run.  She lapped around the circuit from living room to kitchen to dining room and the chickadee hung on for dear life, riding that poor Lhasa Apso like it was going for Gold in the Olympics.  (I had to stop writing for a moment because I’m laughing too hard to type)

If you’ve ever watched a horse race and really concentrated on the jockey’s hands on the reins and position on the horse – this is what the poor Chickadee looked like riding my dog through the house.  I made vain attempts to catch the dog so we could rectify this unsettling but extremely hilarious chain of events but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to focus on the task at hand.

After I finally caught up with the dog there was a great deal of panting.  I was panting trying to catch my breath after laughing so hard.  The dog was panting because she was probably moments away from having a stroke, and the bird was even panting – perhaps thinking a few more seconds would have garnered that coveted position in the Guinness Book of World Records.

With a great deal of wrestling, we finally held the dog still long enough to cut the hair in the death-grip of the birds feet and finally took that poor Chickadee back outside to give it the freedom it so rightly deserved.  World record or not, that was one hell of a ride!  After this scene, that could only be described as something from a movie, my mother and I both had to change our pants.  It will live as one of the most cherished memories of my childhood and I think about that rodeo ride every time a Chickadee graces my feeder.

What is your funniest childhood memory?

The things I should remember

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I have been thinking about, and talking about, my parents a lot lately.  For a person my age, it is sad that I have to talk about how they used to be because they were taken far too early, both victims of the serial killer known as alcoholism.  I wrote a very heartfelt blog post here telling the tale of what my perspective was like growing up as a child of alcoholic parents.  But after I read it again, and cried again, I realized I had been doing them a grave injustice.

So, I went back to the beginning – back to the days before that serial killer lurked in the shadows of my house, back to the days when life was great and back to the days when no elephant existed in any room in our home.

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My mom and dad were a lot of fun.  My brother and I had many parties at our family home and my parents would remain in their bedroom allowing us full access to the house to host our friends.  But at the end of the night, the number of our friends watching TV with my parents in their room far outweighed the number of our friends in our living room.  Those were my parents.

They played strip ping-pong with the neighbours.  They ran naked from the neighbours’ sauna to roll in the snow and then back to the sauna.  They enjoyed life, they made the most of the good times and they truly loved each other.

When I began to think of what they were like as a couple, I couldn’t help but smile remembering how my dad used to look at my mom.  If my mom was within arm’s length, his hands would make contact with whatever part of her he could reach.  He would pat her bum as she walked by him.  He would kiss her every chance he got.  And when he grabbed her hand, I could see his hand physically squeezing hers several times in a sworn gesture of being smitten by her.  It was all about being able to touch each other, just to remind each other that they were there for the right reasons.

I had long forgotten those moments.  I was so marred by the effects that alcohol had on their relationship that I failed to remember the beautiful connection they had to each other.

And now that I have blinded myself to the painful memories, I will embrace the images of their fingers intertwined without realizing they were holding hands.  I will cling to the thought of how my dad just wanted to be close to her.  And I will forever hold close the knowledge that a simple touch from someone who means so much can change everything about your day.

After so many daily thoughts about so many things that don’t matter, I finally realized…..these are the things that I should remember.

 

 

 

 

I cry a thousand tears

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A thousand tears have fallen

and saturated my face.

Keeping alive the memories

that time will never erase.

Salient thoughts burden my brain,

each with a life of their own,

keeping me close to my ardent emotion,

my sadness never far from home.

A rushing wave of sorrow,

an eclipse of what was good,

 trying to find the buoy of happiness,

in the sea of misunderstood.

Embracing loss, moving on,

clinging to what I hold dear.

Knowing that the emotion I feel,

others keep just as near.

I cry a thousand tears,

knowing I am not alone,

 and I hold tight to those who cry with me,

 feeling that they are my home.

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If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…..

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I may not always follow the letter of the law when it comes to my health.  I have been guilty of eating things that are more processed than my hair after it has been freshly dyed.  I have been known to imbibe in some alcoholic beverages which is frowned on….depending on which new study you read.  And I have been culpable of using over-the-counter nasal sprays that wreak havoc on my blood pressure.

Thankfully I am not a hypochondriac and I only take up space in my doctor’s office when I truly have a medical issue or need a prescription refilled.  The moments are few and far between that I will put myself through the painstaking process of arriving considerately early at the office, getting in exceedingly late for my scheduled appointment and then feeling like I am taking up too much of my physician’s time by asking questions.

It took me a while to warm up to my doctor’s “desk-side” manner but I truly appreciate the fact that she does not sugar-coat her curative banter.  I have had my share of real health issues that warranted a trip to the hallowed dominion of her office and I came out wondering if there were a few chapters in her medical books that other doctors had not been privileged enough to read.

I had a severe case of Pneumonia two years ago that could have possibly been diagnosed as a lung infection.  I had been so sick that I purposely subjected myself to a walk-in clinic…..in the middle of the afternoon…….on a Saturday.  After being prescribed a drug that made me feel like I had been chronically licking a tire-iron for a week, I made an appointment to follow up with my doctor.

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I was given the good news that the intensely strong medication had its desired effect and my lungs sounded relatively normal.  During the course of my regaling her with my intermittent trips to the office while sick with Pneumonia she casually expressed a few primitive medical terms, obviously from the book that only she received in med school.

The first archaic phrase was uttered and I was called an “idiot”.  This is a much shorter version of the 19th Century diagnosis that was identified as a “profound intellectual disability”.

Approaching with caution, I summoned up the courage to then mention the truthful number of times I had been to the office, and out in public, during my illness and I was then diagnosed as “stupid”.  I have since examined an alternate medical journal a little more closely and found that analysis of my symptoms to be defined as Fecal Encephalopathy which, roughly translated, means “shit for brains”.

I have always held on to the hope that my doctor has remained on the cutting edge of technology, that she is one of the few rural doctors that truly has her finger on the pulse of modern medicine.  What I had not prepared myself for was the fact that she was reverting back to honest medicine and just calling a spade a spade.

A womb with a view

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For those about to panic and skip by this blog, this is not a collection of words about childbirth.  This musing is about Magnetic Resonance Imaging or, on an alphabetical scale, an MRI.

I had reason to have an MRI on my knee two years ago after it had swelled to the size of a slightly deflated football.  In hindsight I should have contacted Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, but instead I opted for the less challenging task of calling my doctor.  After  her skillful medical prodding determined I was not a hypochondriac, I was placed on a waiting list for an experience I am hoping to forget but probably never will.

I am not new to hospital procedures.  I have had my fair share of expensive medical equipment scan parts of my body that only a skilled technician should see.  I just regaled a few friends with this tale about how a mammogram and an ultrasound have been the cause of many laughs.  (If you need a good laugh, click on the link.  It’s a really good story).  But having an MRI is an experience like no other when you are prone to enjoy open spaces and breathing normally.

I had done my best to mentally prepare for what I assumed was similar to a Sensory Deprivation Chamber.  I arrived early to undertake the task of filling out reams of paperwork which only made my pulse race faster than it already had been.  I dressed myself in the latest hospital fashion and was led to the room where I would spend the next 45 minutes trapped in a small vessel that made up for its size with its sound.

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I can only be grateful that I was not fully immersed in the tube-shaped magnet that would send pulses through the layers of my being.  My head was allowed to be free of the cage in which my body was being held hostage.  With headphones blasting horrific music and the thrum of the machine making me wish that I had chosen to be thrown from an airplane, the scan ensued.

I tried my best to close my eyes and concentrate on the disconnected notes playing on the music channel they had chosen for me.  But I am a curious sort of person and that doesn’t always bode well.  After mistakenly hallucinating for the duration of the scan,  I realized, after the torture was over, that the wall to my left was a live-action wall and that birds had been flying across the screen while I lay, coma-like, on the bed of the scanner.  I was relieved to know it was the hospital’s sick sense of humour and I was not having an aneurysm.  At the end of the process, I was birthed from the giant womb that is the MRI machine and sent, in my swaddling clothes, to the change room to retrieve the belongings that represented freedom – my clothes and my car keys.

I have a dear friend who, as of this morning, will have undergone his first of two MRI’s last night and I can only hope he weathered the first of his two storms with as much of a consequent sense of humour as I now have about my encounter.

And although it is an unpleasant experience, I do hope his womb with a view can provide answers that will help him move forward and begin to feel like himself again.