A loved one in my life has been going through a lot lately. Honestly, so much has come to light the past week that my head is still spinning. Not only was I unaware of just how bad her own situation was, I was also in the dark about the toxicity of the conditions under which she has had to live. The everyday home life that’s supposed to be a safe place… a refuge.
This morning, I ran across an article I can only describe as one of the best published articles I’ve ever read. Not only is it well-written – it delves deep down into the crevices of certain ‘toxic environments’ we sometimes find ourselves in, exposing unspoken facets of unhealthy and even hellish habitats. After reading it (twice), I simply couldn’t continue on with my day without sharing it with all of you.
Escaping a Toxic Environment – Written by Natalie Thomas
(Published in Huffington Post Healthy Living, 10/27/12)
We’ve all been in them. Situations so dire we lose hope, becoming the very person we pitied, dreaded, swore we’d never become. We talk of an exit like a dream scenario: a child running away with the circus, an adult winning the lotto and immediately quitting their job (not to mention the detailed disbursement of riches: 10 percent to charity, 10 to parents, 10 to splurge, 20 for dream home, 50 in savings). But somehow, we can’t seem to envision a world in which we get there. Capable, otherwise strong, able-bodied beings paralyzed by fear, believing the hype, fearing the backlash.
I’ve been in quite a few dysfunctional situations in my life: bad relationships, unhealthy work environments. And no matter the category, the symptoms are similar: broken-down self-esteem, misery-loves-company companionship, excuses like rain drops.
But while unhealthy intimate unions can wreak havoc on the psyche and may inform the way in which we treat others, it’s usually an insular thing. Group dysfunction, however, is far-reaching and often much more dangerous. They say there’s safety in numbers, but there’s also destruction.
My first experience with toxic circles began like most — in middle school. Her name was “Shannon.” Up until she arrived, we were a blissful, naïve little bunch. Most of us had grown up together, performed in dance recitals, shared many a sleepover and were on track to ride out our middle and high school years together, tight as ever. Then she showed up.
Within weeks, we turned on each other. Shannon decided who was in and who was out. One day you were popular and pretty, the next you were a pariah, with no warning, no bearing on your behavior or actions, simply her whim. She had the power and she abused it. Heavily. If you didn’t agree with her, didn’t laugh at her jokes at the expense of others or talk trash about your friends, you were her next target, and God bless you, because her bad side was everyone else’s backside. You were ostracized. No one would face or acknowledge you despite it having been done to them the week before — how horrific it felt, how they were raised, how much they knew it was wrong. They were just thrilled to be accepted again and did whatever it took to stay there, in her good — albeit evil — graces. Shannon transferred before high school, but it was too late. The damage was done. She came, she terrorized, she left. We were never the same.
It began in middle school. It should have ended there too. But we all know, sadly, that’s often not the case. I had a few more experiences through college and post but, thankfully, I was experienced enough to avoid the drama, speak up for my friends and myself and maintain some shred of dignity. Since Shannon, I’ve made a conscious effort to surround myself with trustworthy, unconditional, loyal and uneasily-influenced friends, so it wasn’t until I entered the working world that the toxicity returned.
Despite the professional setting, those with power and plenty on their plates, those who know better are often caught up in office drama, choosing sides and spewing names. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They also manifest in all ages and professions. Just like middle school, in the corporate world there is a cool crowd with a penchant for hazing. And although the behavior is similar, the ability to remove oneself from it is likely harder. After all, beyond your reputation, your paycheck, career and livelihood are also at stake.
As a newbie, you’re tested, humiliated and alienated, but you suck it up and trudge on. Eventually you earn your place as newer souls are indoctrinated. There’s a level of pride and confidence that comes with seniority, being a veteran. You’re finally accepted and, initially, that’s enough for you. But eventually that too wanes, and you realize how silly it all is. You realize who you’ve become and, disgusted with yourself, start to break away from the group and forge your own identity. But it doesn’t come without a price.
As soon as they smell indifference, independence, you’re a target again. To blend in, strike a balance between individual and included, you laugh at the occasional joke, roll the obligatory eye, knowing it’s wrong. With each disparaging remark you champion, a bit of you erodes. This is not who you are, who you want to be. You are better than this. Better than them.
In winemaking, there’s something called bunch rot, in which one bad grape infects the group. Toxic friend and work situations are no different. By definition, toxicity is the degree to which something can damage. Make no mistake, these are damaged people — once smart, free-thinking, well-respected individuals now broken down to think and act like a vicious, rotten herd.
These cultish environments lead you to believe you are fortunate to be where you are, can never do better, there’s another waiting to take your place. Those that leave are ingrates, “depressives” — no matter how many years you gave, how hard you tried, how amicable you think you left, you are the enemy. Others are encouraged to shun you, engage in the shit-talking. The ringleader feels more secure — and less inclined to lash out — the louder the laughs. And so you do it; you laugh at what you know is wrong. You contribute in the ripping apart of your friend, your former colleague. It’s just easier. Knowing, hoping one day you too will be a refugee, doing all you can to better your situation in the meantime, adopting the mantras, lying to others and yourself. You are happy. It’s just temporary. Everyone else is doing it. It’s not that bad.
Until it’s finally your time. You’ve woken up, gathered the strength, gotten a better offer, had a life-changing experience… Whatever it is that is propelling you forward, upward, past the muck, the insipid and incestuous clone-like clique, you do it. You — gasp — leave.
You’re filled with a rush of emotions: elation, paranoia, sadness, relief. You seek shelter with other survivors, celebrate with drinks, commiserating about how bad it had gotten, exchanging war stories, your scars like badges of honor.
Away from the brainwashing and the negative influence, you realize how self-consumed you’d become, how jaded, how bitter. And, little by little, each moment without your toxic crutch, you become you again, realizing just how crippling your situation had been. You start to think like an independent, no longer part of a petty pack. You become kinder, lighter, sunnier. And soon it all starts to feel like a dream. A beautiful, shameful, fucked up dream.
You move on. You work on and better yourself. And you wait. You wait for the next embattled soul to wise up and join your fray. And you welcome them with outstretched arms and a cold beer. No “I told you sos,” no “What took you so long?” not even a “How could you do that to me?” because they know and, with one look, you do too. It wasn’t them. It was the atmosphere, the influence. After all, you once were there too. And you don’t “get it” until you’re gone. And once you are is when you really start living again.
For more by Natalie Thomas, click here.
What a whirlwind of a year 2014 has been. It does seem now that every year goes by quicker than the last, and as time marches on I find myself saying it more and more.
My ‘word of the year’ usually comes pretty easy for me. As this year drew to a close, I found myself still searching for one. 2013’s was Persistence, 2012 was Disclosure, 2011 was Transitional, 2010 was Serene, 2009 was Colorful, and of course my inaugural word of the year for 2008 was Monumental. So how do I compete with any or all of those?
Personally I’m ready to put 2014 behind me. In this particular year, my father was diagnosed with dementia, and my mother with breast cancer. I’ve actually contemplated the word tumultuous to describe the year, but I find that an extremely negative description to mark an entire year with. Can’t say I didn’t think about it for a minute, though.
The word Endurance seems fitting. Because no matter what life throws our way, we’re pretty much forced to steel our resolve and keep moving forward. The only other choice would be to lie down and give up, and that’s just not a choice I’ll make.
Yep, Endurance. It’s got a nice little ring to it.
And hey, 2014 – don’t let the back door knick your heels too hard on the way out.
I’ve grown comfortably accustomed to my husband working out of town. Would I rather have him working locally? Of course. But we both realize sometimes sacrifices must be made in order to earn a living. We’ve been blessed in more ways than I can begin to count, this would include us both having successful careers as well as remaining gainfully employed.
For a while now, I’ve felt like my one life has been split into two different realms of existence. I don’t know quite how to describe this feeling; it’s just weird. I really had gotten used to these different realms – because at the end of every week, my husband would be back home. Each week I would morph from my single-life-working-girl realm back into my ‘whole’ realm which includes my husband on the weekends. Oh how I cherish the whole realm… I anticipate it’s arrival the entire week.
Last month Keith was given notice that his new job site was not only much further from home, but also mandated overtime hours – meaning no more coming home time for a good while. It’s so strange. Now I can see these two familiar realms being transformed into a new third existence. An existence where I just… am. Literally, I’m just there. Not sure what to really do. Yeah, it’s pretty tough to explain, obviously.
I miss him. Badly.
I do realize he could be deployed overseas for many months at a time. I am grateful that’s not the case. While I don’t whine out loud much about the situation (doesn’t do any good and no one really wants to hear about it anyway), I can and will write about it. That much at least helps.
I’m not afraid, quite the contrary. It’s the loneliness factor that comes into play… that empty hole feeling inside my gut. This is in addition to feeling like I’m thrown into this third identity. It’s not the same as living alone as I’ve done in the past. It’s quite different than living alone, because I actually know what I’m missing… and, what we both are missing out on.
This weekend, most of us will get back that hour we lost in the Spring for Daylight Savings time. If you happen to still be in denial of the fall season (like me) – the time change could very well serve as an alarm clock to fall’s arrival.
The subject got me thinking this morning about time, and change, and how we change as we get older. My thinking time during the drive in to work will sometimes get me in trouble.
In the past I never really considered how much a person changes over time. Guess I figured you just travel through life keeping whatever preferences you always had. Now that my 46-going-on-26 year-old self is finding out that’s not the case, it’s got my attention. Here are a few things that come to mind when I consider these changes.
My taste in music. As far back as my adolescent years, I’d never listen to anything but rock. The heavier, the better. Now, country music has my heart. It actually soothes my soul and brings me peace.
My driving. I admit I used to be an aggressive driver, where even simple things set me off. Because of this I would experience cases of road rage at the drop of a hat. Now, my motto is ‘just get there safely’. I now look at operating an automobile through an entirely different set of eyes.
My taste in food. When I was young, there weren’t many things I would eat. I hated mac & cheese (any cheese, actually), pizza, seafood, cole slaw, and many others. The only fruit I would eat was a banana. From my 20’s to my 40’s, my ex was a picky eater. In this era, everything I cooked had to be bland – there was no ‘slipping in’ of an onion, tomato, cheese, mustard, etc. – lest he refuse to eat it. Fast forward to now – I love so many different foods and enjoy cooking new recipes with no restrictions as to the ingredients. I actually welcome opportunities to try foods from different ethnicities.
Life in general. I have found simplicity is the better way. This was not always the case for me. The older I get though, the more I search for an easier way to do things. This can range anywhere from household chores down to how I style my hair or what I wear. I’m constantly looking for better ways to save time. Maybe this is because with each new day we have less time left. We live in a world now where everything is complicated – government issues, terrorism, religious wars and a short-staffed workplace just to name a few. I yearn deeply for a world where everything is simple.
I never thought I’d see the day where my sweet Mom watches football games, y’all. If none of the above convinces you of people changing with time, maybe this one will. She inspires ME to watch more.
Time changes, all right. It’s become clear to me this will likely be an ongoing venture with many more changes to come. And, I’m okay with that.
It is to me, at least.
My circle of friends is small, and that’s by choice. Once you’ve been burnt by a select few throughout the course of a lifetime, it becomes pretty easy to build up that old retaining wall – to keep the nicely filtered water safe inside and disastrous tidal waves out. The quality level of my true friends is nothing short of stellar now – that’s what is important to me. I love having a friend I know so well that half the time we actually finish each other’s sentences. With most every subject, Lou and I end up having the same opinion. On the rare occasions we don’t agree on something, we still respect each others opinions. Neither of us have ever tried to change each other, nor persuade the other into doing something we’re uncomfortable with. Because a ‘real’ friend would never do that.
Lou and I have joked for years now about how we would be perfectly content to drive home from work on Friday and not leave out again until Monday rolls around. Once home from work on a weekday, we won’t start our car and go out again until the next workday. Doesn’t matter if we’re in need of something, it has to wait. You’d literally have to light a fire under both our asses to get us back out. Like many others, we both have a dog waiting for us to get home. Fact is, any type of errand after work requires careful prioritizing because of our pets – but I don’t know a pet-lover out there that begrudges this. I wouldn’t trade a thing.
I’m not complaining about any of this – quite the contrary. It makes me happy going straight home and and staying home. I’m not a socially active person by nature, never have been. Once in a while Keith and I will have a family event to attend over the weekend which we enjoy. I just find joy in weekends which have no plans whatsoever – aside from the rare impromptu day trip with him.
Speaking of my husband. He’s a hard-working man who works out of state all week and only comes home on the weekends. After so long it became routine like anything else – I just got used to it. I am not afraid. I’ve got my fearless boy Mojo, a fully loaded S&W and a quite sophisticated home security system. All that said, when the weekend finally does get here I relish my time with him. Since the weekend is all we have, we definitely make the most of every moment together. Hey, I realize it could always be worse – he could be deployed overseas for months or even years. I’m thankful for the time I do have with him and everything else we’ve been blessed with.
I’ve never been a bar person by choice. Ever. There’s something very sad to me about bars. Again, just my personal preference and opinion. We do enjoy having dinner with our parents on occasion. I don’t socialize with friends on a ‘regular’ basis aside from maybe a couple times a year, then it’s usually just for dinner or when someone is moving away or some life-changing event like that. I do not enjoy shopping – while I know this is weird for a woman, trust me when I say I’m totally okay with it. I guess the most social I’ve been in my entire life was last summer while I was busy planning our wedding, which I’ll admit about killed me. Literally had to be somewhere or meet up with someone 3-4 times a week. My stress and anxiety levels were off the charts. It was during this time that my friend Lou even sacrificed her own after-work time (something we both hold sacred, remember?) to plod the hot summer streets with me to help search for a wedding dress. I remember that after the wedding was over, I couldn’t wait to get back to my old ‘rut’. And so I did. I didn’t walk… I literally RAN back to it.
Ah… the aroma of sweet familiarity. Mmmm – smells SO so good. Just. Breathe. It. In. And Relax.
So what’s the point of all this, Bon? This is getting a little monotonous.
Apparently there are some out there bearing a false impression that I have a moral obligation to restructure my time to deligate more of my after-work hours to socialize. This has even included pressured attempts during the weekend when Keith comes home from working out of town all week. Needless to say, my patience level has bottomed out on this.
It’s not like I’ve been silent about my stand on the subject. It’s not a hidden secret on a game show being held for a big reveal later to floor everyone. I’ve expressly stated on several occasions that I’m a homebody and choose to spend my time after work at home, and my weekend time with my husband – but it’s all been blatently ignored.
My question is this… having made this a wide-open fact, why on earth would someone push the envelope, again and again? And if you do find yourself attempting to change or reroute how a person thinks – what kind of friend does that make you? And why would a person want to spend more time with you if you’re trying so hard to inflict your preferred method of thinking on them? Why would any real friend do that?
My reasoning is, a real friend wouldn’t.
I will not change the way I choose to spend my time, and I refuse to be bullied into it. Of course I realize there are exceptions to every rule. But if dire circumstances ever did warrant a change, my family and close friends would be those who took precedence. This 46 year-old broad has worked 40+ hours a week my entire adult life (attending several years of college during that), and traveled from one side of hell to the other in an attempt to start a new life. I have earned my right to spend my time after work however I damn well please. So I’m gonna clear something up real quick-like, once and for all. If you have a problem with how I spend MY time – weeknights or weekends – I strongly suggest that you start keeping it to yourself.
I will not apologize to anyone for being a homebody. It’s who I am, and I won’t apologize for being me. So quit right now trying to change me.
That is all.
Now if you’ll excuse me – I’m home for the evening. So I’m gonna fix myself something to eat and watch Dr. Phil.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. ~Maya Angelou
If we allow ourselves to admit it, we are all constantly learning new things about ourselves. In reality, perhaps it’s only the realization of some already existing traits; or where certain events have led us. Through spurts of time, I enjoy compiling certain findings to peruse at a later date – thought I’d share my most recent ones.
• Unlike the majority of the population, I do not trust cruise control – therefore I don’t use it. And I’ve tried. When enabled, I experience the most profound sense of loss of control ever. For this reason I must maintain control of the brake and gas with my own foot – just my own personal preference.
• I have found that you can learn a lot about a person simply by watching how they treat a stranger. I’ll go so far to say that it speaks volumes.
• I cannot understand why someone would purposely choose to stay in a relationship without a strong sense of commitment from each side. Of course, I’m aware there exists an entire rainbow of exceptions on this little finding.
• I can sit with the insides of my thighs, calves and ankles flat on the floor like a frog. When I was younger, I secretly enjoyed the looks of horror from others when I did it. I kinda still do.
• I’ve never broken a bone, had stitches or been in the hospital (with the exception of having my daughter, and a hysterectomy some twenty years later).
• I have found that under most conditions, I drive better with one hand instead of two.
• The $5 taco bell ‘box deal’ will generally be a disappointment due to a lot of dough. It’s better to just order what you like.
• I’ve abhorred any type of seafood my entire life, but 2 years ago found I love sushi. Not the veggie stuff, but good reputable sushi with raw fish. I have it at least once or twice a week.
• I dated Clyde Pickler (Kelli Pickler’s father) back when I was 17 and living in Albemarle, NC. This was long before he had Kelli. He was a nice guy and a gentleman – and of course we thought the whole ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ thing was treacherous. Back then, treacherous was the word Albemarlinians substituted for cool.
• I have a scar on the back of my right hand that looks exactly like the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek. It happened when I was washing dishes while swirling my hand inside a glass and the glass decided to bust. Thus, the ‘Scarship Enterprise’ serves as a daily reminder never to stick my hand in a glass again.
• Certain dreams have much significance to me, so I pay close attention to them. One such recent incident occurred two nights before Keith hit that deer. My mother has a very strong hold on this ‘gift’, and apparently my daughter as well – as she dreamed of the tragic 2005 tsunami two days before it happened. Unfortunately, with dreams you sometimes have to read between the lines and figure the details out.
• The power of certain words continually amaze me. Like a man who opts to use the word ‘dear’ condescendingly on a female. You can always spot it – I’ve found it’s almost always used in a persuasion effort. ‘Here here!! SEE THINGS MY WAY… NOW.’ Guys, you gotta know we don’t like that shit. So am I one of those females that will call you on it? Damn straight, every time. And for the record, it’s not my husband who does this. He’s a smart one, he is.
My, how I’ve missed my little weblog. The last time I posted, Keith had hit a deer with his truck. He thankfully escaped injury to his self, but his truck (and the deer) was a hot mess.
What I failed to mention was the very next day was to be our 5th annual New Years beach trip. I was honestly ready to cancel any out of town plans at this point, but he seemed intent on going and rented an SUV so that we could still accommodate Mojo. Our first full day there, a small tornado touched down and ripped the roof smack off our condo. I was sitting on the couch against the wall and actually felt myself being lifted when it hit. Soon after, we discovered a large piece of the roof missed hitting our rental car by mere feet. Although it doesn’t show the extent of the damage from everything that fell (roof lights, concrete bags, etc.) here’s a photo of the aftermath.
Parts of the roof are visible on top of the adjacent restaurant and under the palms on the asphalt. Keith had just walked Mojo in this same area 10 minutes prior to it happening. What is it they say again about those silver linings?
Aside from a lot of cleanup noise including chainsaws, a crane and lots of workerbees – the rest of the trip was awesome. One of my favorite memories would be our farewell balloons. We each assigned a few private hells from our past, then sent them out to sea forever. The picture’s pretty poor, but believe me when I say it’s very therapeutic to watch these babies go until you can’t see them anymore. Then they’re just… gone.
I so enjoy watching the souls of the surfers… had to share this shot.
Flash forward to now. Other than a few sushi dinners, a winter storm, watching my fellow southerners make national news with their stupid driving, a dog that wouldn’t allow us to build a snowman, an extreme gum-popper at work, a few dozen Twilight movie reruns, a couple nice unplanned car repairs and vet visits, and a sick husband diagnosed with pneumonia at the urgent care today – life has been pretty typical since the first of the year. Aside from the temporary pneumonia bit, we’re still on our honeymoon and we don’t see that ending anytime in the near future. :D But I’ve definitely got my nurse Bon hat on, the poor guy.
Have I mentioned I’m stoked for full-time flip-flop wear again?
Two days ago on Christmas night, I had a disturbing dream. I was driving Keith’s truck with my mother in the passenger seat. It was very dark. As dreams often have their way, time passed and it became more and more difficult to see. Finally, I became all but blinded and was forced to pull over. We pulled off the road and sat in the dark, not knowing what to do or where to go next.
The dream ended as quickly as it began. I told both Keith and my mother about it and described how vivid it was. It’s a horrible feeling to realize (even in a dream) that you no longer have control of a moving vehicle.
That next morning on my way to work, I discovered the heat in my car had decided to fly south for the winter. Last night Keith asked me to drive his truck in today so he could look into the reason why. Although I’ve driven his truck many times, I told him this time I’d rather just drive my car in since that dream was still so fresh in my head. He said he understood, and if I’d like, he would drive me in and pick me up since he really wanted to fix my heat. So that’s what we did.
When my cell phone rang here at work, I knew that he hadn’t had enough time to make it home yet. I noticed the voice on the other end didn’t coincide with that of my deep-voiced husband with a mild manner and gentle demeanor. I immediately knew something was wrong when
‘Oh my God baby, I just hit a deer!! My truck is f****d!! Destroyed the whole front end – oh my God!!’ Insert a few more expletives in there, just use your imagination.
Both lights busted, chrome grill GONE, bumper and fenders all hanging, the radiator was even busted so he had to get it towed.
Though shook up, Keith says he’s okay. Far as the truck goes, he’s right – it’s f****d. So is the deer. But the truck can be fixed. That’s the thing about material things, they can be replaced – my sweet man cannot. Later on this morning, I told him I was so sorry it happened to him with his new truck. His response: ‘I’m just glad it happened to me and not to you.’ If at this moment I had to paint a mental picture of what love looks like, his response is what I would envision.
The past few months, there have been a few local fatalities involving deer colliding with vehicles. These things can kill you, I know this.
I’m so very thankful that my husband is okay.
2013 – time just keeps ticking on by, doesn’t it? Jerry Garcia once wrote into a song, ‘Lately it occurs to me… what a long strange trip it’s been.’ This is surely the truth.
It’s hard for me to believe the series of events that have been jam-packed into one lone year. Honestly, I’d never have believed it even if someone had forewarned me. A lot of things stand out, too many to mention really. If you follow my blog, you know them already anyway.
Every year, I pick one word in an attempt to describe the year. 2008 was Monumental. 2009 was Colorful. 2010 was Serene. 2011 was Transitional.
2012 was Disclosure. That one just looks so out of place with the others, I figured it deserved it’s own paragraph.
I hadn’t even thought about a word for this year, until my husband started monkeying around with our dog while using the word on him. Only then did it hit me – BAM… there’s my word.
My word of 2013 is Persistence. Maybe I should say it’s Keith’s word instead, since it was his own persistent efforts that played out in both our favors. In any case, I’m forced to use it just because it fits better than a glove.
Continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. Donning your suit of armour, setting forth a plan of action for something you feel you can’t live without, never accepting defeat – making something so worthwhile to you actually happen.
Gotta admit I admire your persistence, baby. And at least Mojo’s pronunciation of the word is considerably different than our own… Per·thith·tenth.
I’ve already grown weary of winter. Winter months are hard, and those who know me already know I’m not a fan of anything difficult.
If you’re still reading this, you’re probably aware that this will be a rant post. Hey, we all need one now and then. With that said, I’ll proceed to touch on a few of the reasons why I
abhor hate dislike the season.
- All the extra required clothing, resulting in more laundry. Additionally, more clothes give the illusion of more pounds. Hate.
- I must wear socks. I hate socks. More importantly, my feet hate socks. And any accompanying enclosed shoes.
- Staying up longer at night to make sure that last log is in fact extinguished results in Bon getting less sleep. This is not a good thing.
- Everything looks bare naked and dead. That’s because it is. For several months.
- My car is happy in cool weather – but hates freezing temperatures. It’s not unusual for my key locks and/or door jams to freeze, resulting in me being late for work.
- Lotion up. Now, lotion up once more. Wait, we’re not done here – dammit the lotion bottle’s empty again.
- Dear Sun, how I adore thee. But alas, our time together seems to have been cut in half. I am pale. I mean like Edward Cullen pale. The forecast calls for even more pale.
When torrential rain gets thrown into the mix (over three-inches-expected-in-one-day torrential) it turns from aggravating to disastrous. Like when you let your puppy out to poo and he decides to find a hidden spot in the yard to dig while in said torrential rain.
Yep, I’ll be late for work again.
“I know you’ve only ever known your father and me. And I love Jack, because he is your father. But there’s another kind of love, Amanda. One that gives you the courage to be better than you are, not less than you are. One that makes you feel that anything is possible. I want you to know that you can have that. I want you to hold out for it.”
~Adrienne Willis, Nights in Rodanthe
by Nicholas Sparks
Appropriately enough, this movie was released exactly three months after the ending of my 21-year marriage. To date, it’s the only movie I saw at a theater more than once. I actually saw it on three separate occasions, taking a different girlfriend with me each time.
I related with it on so many levels. Being alone for the first time in my adult life. Having yet to find out who I really was. A product of a looming divorce. A mother of an extremely strong-willed daughter who would have her say regardless. Never to be last… a woman who fought to maintain her dream that a true unconditional love did in fact exist, somewhere out there. Hey, it might’ve been a dream – but it was my dream.
When you do find that kind of love, you want your loved ones to know that it’s out there for them as well. You want them to hold out for it.
Another kind of love.
One that gives you the courage to be better than you are, not less than you are. One that makes you feel that anything is possible.
My post is simple today, though indeed thought-provoking. Below would be my number one pick of all Bob Marley’s quotes. The amount of love that erupts from this one wise paragraph has always overwhelmed me. Even so, I never could grasp the full intensity of it – just the intense yearning to someday find this beautiful kind of unconditional love. One without judgement, one that makes you want to learn new things, one that makes you feel beautiful, one where you openly invite vulnerability into your life. One Love.
Hope you enjoy.
On this day four years ago, Keith and I went on our first date. For this reason, we’ve always celebrated it as our anniversary.
I remember I didn’t want him coming directly to the door of my third-floor apartment. I think this was a combined reasoning of not wanting to add to his stress level of a first date along with if I didn’t want a second date, the exact location of my apartment would be kept secret. :)
Wearing high heels while descending wooden-slat steps could prove to be a recipe for disaster for any woman, especially an accident-prone one like myself. I was certain I wouldn’t make it down without a catastrophic fall. I didn’t, though. As I rounded the sidewalk and the parking lot came into view, so did this tall, dark and handsome man – flashing a grin while leaning back ever so cool-like on the hood of his Volvo. Four years later, I can still see it as clearly as I did that evening. If memory ever eludes me when I get older, I pray for this one memory to remain because it is seriously that precious to me.
We went to dinner at a restaurant called The Grid Iron, which is still open today. Through the course of the meal, the conversation seemed almost too easy, if that makes any sense. He talked about his job as an elevator installer and came across as just a kind soul in general. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was spot-on in that analysis.
To bide a little time before the movie started, he asked if I’d like to ride around his town of Gastonia for a bit. I found him to be an excellent tour guide, narrating this and that, gingerly pointing out an establishment or two he’d installed elevators in.
I’d never seen a Harry Potter movie, actually don’t think I’ve seen another one since. But Harry Potter it was that night, and looking back it was probably the best choice by far. After the movie, he drove me back to my apartment in Lake Wylie. Because of a few losers I’d been out with prior to Keith, I decided I didn’t care much to kiss goodnight on the first date, and so I held fast to that. I reached over the seat, hugged him and told him I’d had a good time. That was it – our first kiss didn’t actually happen until another week later on our second date.
The rest is history. He got the car door for me that night, and he still gets it for me today. He still sings Josh Turner songs to me in that deep sexy voice and it still makes my stomach flutter. His tour-guide antics still entertain me, especially when we’re up in the North Carolina mountains where he’s spent so many years working.
And so inspired a little tribute to you, baby. Happy Anniversary to my precious tour guide…
Keith’s father’s wedding was this past weekend, and it was a beautiful ceremony centered completely around love. My future sister and her husband hosted a lovely reception at their house afterwards, which was so enjoyable. Keith’s side of the family is very kind and loving, so the time we enjoy with them is always priceless.
The older I get, the more cognizant and appreciative I am of incessant acts of selflessness. Every good thing I witness reminds me to try and be a better person. I look at it as a sort of pay-it-forward view on life, for lack of a better term.
The priest officiating the ceremony spoke about the sanctity of marriage and how you wake up each morning with the goal of putting your spouse’s needs before your own. Just because of that thing called Love. Because that’s what real love does, you want to give as much as possible when you love someone that much. It’s a mutual respect between each other that is never ending – it’s not something that changes with passing time.
When dinner time came, we stood back and waited on others to get theirs. I’ve always preferred to get my plate after everyone else has gotten theirs, never first or even middle. Keith attempted to hand me an empty plate and usher me in line. I politely refused, telling him I’d rather wait. He went on about midway through and filled his plate, while I stood conversing with a few family members. A few moments later Keith stood smiling in front of me, presenting me with a large plate of food. What he had just gotten was for me.
Now I know this might not sound like a monumental act of kindness to some, but to me it speaks volumes as to the type of man he is. This is Keith, every day. Even after four years, he’s constantly putting my needs above his own, as I do his. When I wake up every morning, he’s the first thing I think about. He’s the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. We both hold a strong mutual respect for each other. Our time apart at the beginning of the year only served to make us stronger, resulting in deeper devotion to each other as one whole. As it should be. As it always will be…
Have I mentioned we can’t wait for September to roll around?
As a kid, I always remember hearing the term “stick out like a sore thumb”. It’s probably a southern saying. I truly believe that tidbit of terminology somehow got permanently embedded in my brain.
I’ve never dealt well with being the center of attention. Even my color choices in attire reflect this – the vast majority of my closet consists of grays, blacks and basic earth tones (with the exception of my beloved Bob Marley shirt). A huge part of my comfort zone has always been to ‘blend’. Years ago when my ex-husband and daughter threw me a surprise birthday party, I felt both embarrassed and awkward that those people were there solely for me. It’s pretty difficult to blend in that type of situation.
Soon I will experience another first in my life – trying on wedding dresses for the first time. It seems funny to me that at my age, I’ve never experienced this.
I’m for sure starting to feel the pressure of planning a wedding and the attention that comes along with it. The associate at the bridal gown store told me over the phone “This night will be all about you!”, to which my stomach immediately tightened upon hearing. I don’t like hearing something, anything, will be all about me. Is this weird?
Now I find myself questioning my own judgement of having a full-blown wedding. Don’t get me wrong – I’m super excited, I just wish there was a way to pass the attention factor on to someone else. I’m gonna have to find a way to suck it up for a day and put this weird-ass feeling aside. Pardon my language, but I simply cannot find a more descriptive word for this mentality of mine.
Just plain weird-ass.
Speaking of, have I mentioned we’re hiring police security for our wedding? A whole ‘nother blog…
I didn’t use to think so, but life is packed full of second chances. And thirds, and fourths. As far as an individual goes, there are usually varying opinions as to whether someone is even worthy of another chance. When it involves you personally – it’s ultimately up to you to make that judgement, hopefully weighing everything carefully in order to make the right decision.
A couple of weekends ago, Keith proposed. I said yes.
It’s not something that happened overnight. Over the past month, there has been much take place in the area of damage control and his attempts to fix things. This much I know… he’s a good man. Is he guilty of sitting on his hands for a year? Sure. Is he guilty of cheating on me, hitting me or any type of emotional abuse? No. Have I considered that he may have done this out of desperation and/or a last ditch effort to keep me? Yes, I’ve considered it very well – and no, he did not. Why do I feel the need for any explanation on my decision? Because I care about what others think – especially so with my family. It also doesn’t escape me that the views my family and friends have of him are largely a result of what they’ve heard from me regarding his commitment issues.
A good friend told me last week, ‘the breakup sucked, but it served a greater purpose for you both’. That’s quite possibly the most insightful statement I’ve heard so far. I’ve said here before that I do regret moving in with a man without being married. I don’t regret moving out a few months ago.
The bare-bones of it all is this… my decision will directly affect my life and my happiness. We, as the natural makers of our own destiny, must hopefully choose the right path which leads to that happiness. Can we ever be 100% sure in making a decision of this magnitude? Of course not – none of us can. All we can do is take time to carefully weigh all the ins, outs, and everything in between… along with lots and lots of prayer.
Of that much I’m sure.
Being a fish out of water is just not my cup of tea. I still find myself holding the perpetual empty jar in the ongoing quest to find my ‘niche’. One word – awkward. Having already gone through this once 5 years ago, I realize I’ve never had a ton of patience in the area of self-discovery. I second and third-guess every single thing I do and say. I’m quite unsure of myself, to say the very least – it’s a very unsettling feeling.
It seemed easy to lose my own sense of self in a long-term relationship – in which case, I mistakenly assumed was forever. I surrendered every bit of myself to a man and, subsequently, assumed a portion of his persona as my own. No matter whose fault a breakup is, the hurt and anger that ensues afterward simply has to be dealt with, and there are many ways of dealing. After a certain amount of time passes, I think it’s natural (I hate the word normal) to crave some form of human connection. Recently I’ve found myself venturing outside my comfort zone and conversing with a few friends of the opposite sex. Although I think they’ve gone well, my own inner core remains stone-cold and untrusting. While half of me hopes this little issue remains undercover, the other half screams defiantly, “I don’t [expletive] care!!”
I seem to have the innate ability to over-analyze something as simple as a pineapple. Miranda said it best…
I went to see the new Nicholas Sparks movie Safe Haven over the weekend. There’s something about Sparks’ books and movies that have always drawn me to them – I’m fairly certain the ever-hopeless romantic in me would be the biggest reason. I also love being able to closely relate with the locality he incorporates into his stories. Sparks is from New Bern, NC and he always chooses a place within close proximity to his hometown for the story’s local. Safe Haven was filmed in the coastal town of Southport, NC – a town that’s dear to my heart. We used to vacation at the beach right up from Southport, and even rode the same ferry they took in the movie when we visited the Southport Aquarium.
Although a little slow… it was a good movie. I have this terrible knack of comparing all of Sparks’ story lines with The Notebook, which set the bar at an unprecedented height for any subsequently written stories.
Back in 2008 when I began my journey to build a new life, I adorned the theater on three separate occasions to see Nights in Rodanthe. My girlfriends teased me relentlessly for this – but that movie was (and still is) mesmerizing to me. I related so closely with it for several reasons; the middle age of the characters, the setting of the beautiful Outer Banks beach with the horses, and the fact that, from time to time, love can in fact resurface it’s pretty little head for a second chance. To this day, Nights in Rodanthe still remains one of my favorites. I even followed the real-life story of the house (Serendipity) being relocated to a safer location to avoid erosion from the ocean a few years back. I’d wished for the opportunity to visit it in person before that happened.
Two steps forward, three steps back, as they say. There is an absolute downside of being a romantic at heart. Combine said trait with a Pisces nature and a breakup and (BAM!) it can quite literally be a recipe for disaster. I know I need to get my head out of the clouds for a moment and realize there is nothing perfect out there – nor are there any fairytales, as much as I’d love to believe there are. I guess if I had to sum total it all in a nutshell… hope is what I derive from these stories.
And I’m always up for a little bit of that.
As I came to the first red light on the way to work this morning, I was stunned to see a car stalled between it and the busy highway which I was waiting to turn on. An elderly lady with a desperate look on her face sat in the drivers seat on the phone, and her husband sat slumped in the passenger seat with a blank look on his face. The ass-end of their car sat poised in the busy intersection of the highway, just waiting to be t-boned. She’d even called the cops, who still hadn’t showed by the time I left a half-hour later.
When I finally got her attention I asked if her car was stalled, she replied yes. I asked her to hang on since I was forced to make the green light turn. Maneuvering a quick U, I pulled in front of her, ran back to their car and asked her to put it in neutral. I immediately took note of the incline it would have to be pushed up – even though I had doubts about handling it alone, knew I had to try anyway. They always say adrenaline kicks in the moment you need it, and these people desperately needed to be moved out of a very busy intersection of a highway. The cars came and went, some honking and rapidly switching lanes to avoid hitting us at the last minute. I finally had to face the brutal stomach-sinking reality that I couldn’t move the car by myself. I started locking eyes with passerby cars who came to rest at that red light, spotted what I thought was a guy, and waved them down. Lo and behold, the door opened and out popped a female. I yelled over to her that we needed to find a man, but she ran over anyway and became my teammate.
Inch by slow inch, we made tiny progress. We both put our entire body weights into it, which even combined didn’t seem enough to get the job done. The elderly disabled husband began exiting the car very slowly (as we were moving it). I noticed his arms didn’t work – they just hung to his sides. I tried to get him to step to the side but he wouldn’t. He leaned his back end into it and did what he could, bless his heart.
My cohort and I proceeded to inch the car along, with it coming to rest every few seconds. Her and I didn’t speak, but every time the car stopped I knew we were thinking the same thing – we both had to fight to keep it from reversing backwards on us. I truly believe it was God’s hand that helped us push that car upward…
For the next 20 minutes, car after car whizzed past us while we expended every bit of energy we had to get the car up the hill. Once we got her pulling into the grass, a van stopped and a man got out. With three bodies pushing, the car finally came to rest safely in the grass.
When it was all over and I was back in my car, I found myself beyond infuriated. Why, you may ask? It’s simple, really. WHERE THE HELL WERE ALL THE MEN?? I mean, are you serious? Out of the scores of cars that passed us in that 20 minutes, my money’s certainly not riding on the fact that they were all female. This includes all the ones at the red light who were already safely stopped, who came and went.
I know of a good many men that I feel sure would have stopped and leant their strongarms. I’m hoping that chivalry is indeed not dead and the people I encountered this morning who ‘opted out’ were not in the majority of the population. This chance encounter only dimmed that hope, unfortunately.
It took me a month to pack and less than a week to unpack. For some reason, I’ve always struggled with packing. Not just with moving, but with packing for a trip or vacation as well. It’s always easy for me to unpack and stick the stuff back in it’s respectful places – but gathering items and organizing them in boxes is hard for me. I think it’s largely due to my ocd about categorizing things. I also tend to want to clean out when I’m packing… I’ll abandon a box and go in search of other ‘like’ items to combine with it. Before I know it, an hour has passed and I’m still on the same box.
This got me thinking about life in general. I don’t necessarily have issues with making a change – I am a Pisces, after all. If a Pisces isn’t comfortable with the direction their life is headed, it’s a well-known fact that they will simply disappear or swim away in the other direction. That’s not to say that finding the courage to actually make that change is easy. Once the change is made however, my organizational skills are unmatched. If I can say one positive thing about myself, it’s my ability to organize – once the deed is done, so to speak.
It’s slowly beginning to dawn on me how much of myself I put into a relationship. It would also seem that I’m easily replaceable. Over the past several years I’ve lost a huge chunk of me that I’m now struggling to find again, and it’s frustrating. I must give myself time and patience in this endeavor, in as much as time passed through which I allowed that loss.
But guess what? I’ve already started.