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.
It’s always worried me when a fellow blogger disappears suddenly and never comes back to let you know they’re okay. In these albeit rare instances, it serves to feed a pit of never-ending questions and scenarios in my head. Did they have an accident, did they die, are they sick, the list goes on – and believe me, I can create some scenarios. It’s for this reason that I wanted to let you guys know I’ll be taking a blogging break. Heck I as much as have already, anyway.
When I started posting back in 2009 it was something I needed to do, and it ended up being very therapeutic. It was also something I enjoyed doing. The past few months, maybe more actually, it’s become (can I be frank?) more of a chore. All of you should be able to relate to this honest admittance, since we’ve all likely had an occurrence of being burnt out on some thing at some point in our lives. To be honest, I’m dealing with a lot of ‘stuff’ right now, and a blog isn’t always the best place to, ahem… bare it all. Sometimes it is, just not all the time. So I also consider it ‘removing the cell phone from the drunk’. Yeah. That’s a good analogy.
I’ll try to visit in here and there, and may even be back again in good time. I value all of your friendships through the years more than I can tell you. I’ve met some truly wonderful and inspirational people who, I like to think, have influenced me in very positive ways. For this I feel so blessed, and I’m thankful for each and every one of you.
With that I’ll bid you all adieu for a while, and in typical bon-fashion will leave behind a couple of renegade thoughts.
- As much as I prefer routine, it seems as if my life is always changing.
- Never take communication for granted. It’s such an integral part of life.
- A promise is a promise – it’s not made to be ignored or left to dry up, as if never mentioning it again will make it disappear. That’s simply not the way it works.
Hugs and Kisses
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more of what my fellow bloggers have to say – even if it meant me writing less. I figured if I didn’t have anything interesting to post (which often I don’t) I’d just utilize the time to enjoy the intellect of others. This has been one of the few resolutions that I’ve actually kept, and turns out to be the most beneficial one.
Most of us have heard the saying ‘listen more, speak less’. I’ve never taken that in the literal sense perhaps like I should. In carrying out my resolution, I discovered an invaluable treasure when I chose to ‘read more, write less’.
The extra effort I’ve put into reading more has opened up a whole new world. The depth of talent out there amazes me, and I’ve learned much from each of you. All this compels me to search and read even more. I have a deep appreciation for all the thoughts, music, ideas, art, poems and pictures you guys give so freely for the rest of us to enjoy.
I just wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to all you gifted souls out there… and thank you for sharing a piece of your world with the rest of us.
When I started this little blog back in ’09, the intent was to create a sort of release valve for myself. Blogging can be a great way of expressing ones innermost thoughts, opinions, and feelings – especially for things that tend to go unsaid. Anything I jot down is not intended to impress a single soul with the exception of my own self. I held no expectations of anyone ever wanting to read what I wrote. I’ve said before but feel it bears repeating – those of you who find anything I have to say even remotely interesting humbles me greatly, and I thank you for that.
Regardless of content, anything you write that’s open to the public eye will eventually be critiqued on some level. It’s not a matter of if, but when. I’ve had posts taken out of context, some misconstrued, and three or four even taken personally which was never my intent. Through the course of time I have been ‘conditioned’ on what might be acceptable material and what might not ‘pass’. I’ve been advised as to what did and didn’t sound right, had recommendations on future topics, and believe it or not – had disappointment expressed on certain topics that I did choose. For example, something as simple as a television show that I like.
I believe when you change how you express yourself for the sole purpose of being politically correct to others, you start to lose a huge chunk of your own depth and creativity. I’ll even go so far as to say an actual part of your own self. Being a natural cut-up, I enjoy laughing more than anything – it’s not uncommon for me to incriminate myself from time to time in an attempt to be funny. Alas, long gone are my drinking jokes on twitter (hey, Blake Shelton can do it, why can’t I?). I have abandoned most of the profanity in my posts. Just when I think I have everything down pat – along comes yet another evaluation that all but demands a detour.
I guess it all boils down to how I choose to react to or handle the ‘conditioning’. I remind myself it’s only natural as a human being to yearn for positive attention and that ‘fix of approval’ from others. Sometimes though, I feel like a sculpture in the making – watching silently from the inside, as chip by chip I am chiseled into an image that everyone else approves of. But this isn’t reality – there is no such thing. It’s impossible to please everyone.
Personal possessions aside, how many things in life can you say really belong to you? Are actual extensions of you? Probably not very many. I’m not writing this blog for anything or anyone other than myself. These are my thoughts, and however crudely they may or may not be written is also mine. In fact, this whole thing you’re reading is about me. And I’ve gotta get back to being me.
Sammy said it best…[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5k2ZE6HAVo &rel=0]
Once again, a New Year is upon us. Time for me to choose a new header/banner, for the year 2012. Just as I choose a single word that best describes the prior year that passed, I also pick a new banner to use for the coming year. I enjoy reflecting back on the prior years’ words and banners, specifically for their powerful meaning to me.
In 2008 I wasn’t blogging yet, so no banner – but my word for that year was Monumental.
It’s not by accident that my first banner below included so many mountains.
My word of 2009 was Colorful.
The next piece below is made up of five of my most favorite things.
My word of 2010 was Serene.
The below shot is a panoram I took while staying at the beach last New Years.
My new word for 2011… drum roll please…
My word of 2011 is Transitional.
It was hard to find a word for 2011. When I finally ran across transitional, I knew I didn’t need to look any further.
I’m finding the end of 2011 to be this huge reflection pool, of this year as well as years prior. In late Spring I moved from my humble abode of three years, the place where I started my new life in 2008. It took some adapting to learn to live with someone again, since Keith and I had both been living alone for so long.
It didn’t take long at all. Where I live now is home in every sense of the word. Hard to explain, except that I feel like I’ve always lived there. Whenever Keith and I are together, everything just seems so easy. Of course life will always have it’s trials and tribulations – but it just seems easy. If that makes any sense.
So on to a brand new year. Nearly four years later, I can finally breathe that long-awaited sigh and say… this butterfly has completed her journey. And what a journey it’s been.
Have you ever heard the term “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? I grew up with that old saying, but I don’t know what it’s gonna take for me to ever learn.
I wish I could step back several days in time and undo the name change I assigned to my blog. Had I known then the repercussions of doing it I would’ve left it as is, or at least kept the old blog name with a line or two of where to find me.
It’s not that important, I know, but here’s the thing. I’m now realizing how long it took for me to establish a permanent fixture here and obtain a few loyal readers – however boring my posts may be. It’s literally taken years. Not that stats mean anything, I know – but when do I hit it and the number is consistently 0, it kinda sucks. Every one of my prior subscriber links and blog roll links are broken to holy hell.
It really is just like starting over.😦
I’d like to eventually have/make more time to spend on reading other’s blogs. It’s something I really enjoy, particularly the ones of those who take their own precious time to comment on mine. With all the stuff I’ve had going on with moving, work and the likes of everything else, my hope is to get settled in soon and do just that – consistently. I’m amazed at the talent that each of you have – whether it be through writing, arts, or a combination of both. It inspires my own desire to do better. I thank each of you for that.
In updating my blog roll tonight, once again I had heavy thoughts of a certain individual in our blogging world. This is someone that I miss very much – known as Grown Man (as self-referred, GM). It’s for this reason I chose to profile Grown Man in this post today. If you’ve never visited his blog, why not hop on over and read a few excerpts. Click the ‘list’ link for more options. I can guarantee you’ll have to break yourself away from it.
Grown Man has not posted since November of 2010. Prior to that, his fairly frequent posts were eloquent, vivacious and packed full of wisdom. Although geared mainly towards the male genre, his content inspired males and females alike. His own hilarity paired with
common sense insight on the male psyche made for some darn good reading and entertainment… not to mention education. He remained ever-kind in his replies, to which he always gave. I’ve always been a sucker for that kindness trait. The love he had for his wife was evident, not exactly spelled out – rather something that was apparent between the lines. I deeply respect his writing style.
I do worry about what may have happened to him, at the risk of sounding silly. Did he meet a dreadful fate… or did he abandon it for a chance of a lifetime, moving on to a bigger and better thing? I’ve googled to no avail to find out what might have happened, having noticed his twitter feed has also been abandoned. He had the potential to be HUGE, and was already getting there fast. Over 188K hits with less than 80 entries – this thing grew pretty quick, my friends. It’s obvious by reading the comments on his last post that his readers really miss him.
I’ll continue to have Grown Man appear on my blogroll because I prefer his legacy to live on, even if not ongoing. I agree with one of the last commenters who stated, appropriately: We miss you, Grown Man.
Footnote: Even my Keith enjoyed reading GM’s posts, and he’s not usually into reading blogs unless he’s coerced into reading mine, cough-cough.
Last night I had some very strange dreams. I was walking on a road and I noticed there were kittens everywhere… one narrowly escaped being hit by a car. Freaking out, I gathered as many of them as I could, and they were all so precious. After gathering all the kittens up, here in the middle of the road also sits this iguana. It was a beautiful iguana, bright green and healthy looking – and it couldn’t take it’s eyes off me. I go pick it up and it instantly clings to me – of course this captured my heart.
People started arriving to help, and I knew the kittens were going to have to go to the pound. While I contemplated keeping one, I petted on the iguana who had happened upon a new mommy. At that moment I knew exactly who I was taking home. He was abnormally large, about the size of a full-grown dachschund. I carried him everywhere and we formed a strong bond… I can even say by the end of the dream that I loved him.
All in all, it was a good dream – except for being disappointed when I awoke and realized my little Iggy was just a figment of my imagination.
I honestly didn’t think I would find any interpretation on dreams of iguanas, but I should’ve known better. What I found floored me.
To see an iguana in your dream, represents harshness, cold-heartedness, fierceness, and inhuman poise. It is an indication of both hostility and unstoppable determination. The iguana may remind you of someone or some situation in your waking life that you find frightening yet awe inspiring.
Well. This is about as clear as it gets to me. This references me back a couple of posts to one titled Les Miserables. I am reminded of the advice of a dear friend, that no matter what, the offending entity deserves to be lifted up in prayer (thanks, E). Just imagine if Jesus picked and chose who he wanted to love! So, it doesn’t matter if they want it or not. No matter what – it’s my responsibility to do this.
Thanks for another good one, dreamland.
We’ve all been caught in an embarrassing position. A scene that, much to our chagrin, turns us red quicker than a freshly boiled lobster. Being caught in a sticky situation makes you wish you could just melt away from it… oh, if it were only that easy.
At this point, I find it very comical that the subject of my last post was about a wedding.
A week ago, my boyfriend’s dear aunt passed away. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, a real shame since I’ve heard many people speak so very highly of her. Realizing a funeral isn’t the optimal situation to meet your boyfriend’s family members, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to meeting a few that were coming in from out of state.
In the last few moments before we left, we were saying our final goodbyes. From the beginning, there’s been nothing but positive input and vibes from his family – always making me feel so welcomed. Then, here it comes. (Folks, it took me such by surprise that I can’t remember the exact words used… so I’ll do my best to paraphrase.) Something was asked about how long K and I had been together, to which I replied going on two years now. The conversation ensued from there…
Family member: Oh, you ought to just go ahead and get married.
Me: *red*red* **oh, hail, miss brightass-red** I look over at said family member, shaking my head ever so slightly left-to-right in attempt to avert the subject (wondering which direction my dear K’s sight was aimed as well). I also mouth a NO. Unfortunately, I now realize that this mega-defensive act was likely perceived as a sign that old Bon never again wishes to wed… which of course isn’t the case.
Family member: Oh c’mon… you know you want to!
Me: *screaming to myself on the inside, ‘WHAT DO I DO??’* So I stammer: ohhh… well – we ARE moving in together this summer… **another desperate attempt to thwart said subject matter** (Immediately I realize I could not have picked a more inappropriate time to mention our moving in together… a family funeral, of all things.)
Ugghh… another epic Bon FAIL.
The truth is, I have very strong feelings on the subject. A couple of my close friends feel the same as I do, for very valid reasons. In another lifetime many years ago, I was the first to ‘suggest’ marriage with my now ex-husband – I was two months with child at the time. As the years went along, many of our arguments would result in him ‘reminding’ me of this. Trust me when I say these instances never added any valuable building blocks to the relationship – instead it only allowed hurt and embarrassment to grow and fester within me. The backlash of a southern ‘shotgun wedding’ via the good old Justice of the Peace in York County, SC seemed to always be on the forefront of his mind.
Never again. This is something that can make you feel unworthy for a lifetime.
No, if it ever happens again, it won’t be coming from my mouth. I made a pact with myself a long time ago that I’d never utter words that even hint of it – no siree Bob. Besides, why would I need to when others do it for me?
I was browsing through bookmarks yesterday and was surprised to find my ‘Letter to my Sixteen-Year-Old Self’ was still on the front page of the Simon and Schuster site. I realize this is because nothing else has been posted since they posted mine, but gotta admit – I still like seeing it…
Me: so uh, I’ve been wondering… could I act all crazy like some Hollywood dude is doing right now and get my writing noticed?
Voice of reality: *clearing throat* uhhh, no Bon – see, you have to be famous beforehand for that to work.
sheer sheen entertainment purposes, I thought I’d share a copy of Charlie’s most recent tweet. I’ll have to say I’ve been enjoying the literary stance he’s taking…
Happy Friday, everyone!!
I have no idea where time is going. It’s flying by so quickly and I feel I’m getting nothing done – not the things that are really tops on my to-do list, anyway.
I want to get started on some brochure work I promised a friend for her side business. I miss writing!! I want to spend more time with my family. I want to catch up on the few blogs I follow. I seriously need to get a grip on my time management skills. And I need to start packing to move. Hey Bon… would you like some cheese with that whine?
I haven’t mushed and gushed about romance for awhile and boy do I feel the need… so if this topic isn’t for you then this is quite possibly your stopping point. When exactly did I start believing that my Prince actually did exist? I can’t say exactly. All I can say now is that he does. In him, I have found everything and more that I thought never existed in a soulmate. I have happened upon a treasure – one that I want to expose to the entire world. Sometimes I find myself feeling paranoid that something is going to ruin what could only be described as my fairy tale love affair. I worry about car accidents, deadly diseases and crime. I know I shouldn’t, the Lord takes care of everything in His way – but I worry just the same. I mentioned this to my daughter, and you know what her response was? ‘Mom, that’s an actual condition associated with an anxiety disorder. It’s not that uncommon and if it’s really bothering you, there’s help for it‘.
That’s my little psychology major.
So, play it once, Sam, for old times sake…
An end result can hit you in the face with the same impact as a thrown brick, even if it’s something that’s been coming on for a while. Especially if it’s been coming on for a while, since the inevitable seems to lay dormant even more so.
The emotions of a mirrored past are thick – but flow swiftly, and justly. Even so, they lie bare and open to the focus of others. We often feel the need to either avert, hide or thwart these emotions (thanks, human nature). Therefore, once we’re faced with the reality of finality, BAM!! there goes that brick to the cheek.
Where and when one door closes, another has usually already opened – or is waiting to. This ever-wise quote has provided comfort to many, myself included. I do hope it provides that same comfort to those who might read this.
The finalities in life aren’t always as we might perceive them. Just as a brook or waterfall continually recycles itself… finality may also serve as a means to better yourself as an individual. To protect and heighten your own standards. The chance now exists to persuade your own self of going that extra mile. To further yourself in a way you never thought possible… to perhaps exceed your own expectations.
I’ve written about second chances more than one time, so you’re likely already aware of my deep appreciation of them. The dear fella by the name of Shawn B. over at Happy Publishing frequently brightens the days of many with his website dedicated to inspirational quotations and poems. The one posted yesterday captured my attention, and heart.
The following was posted January 17, 2001 on www.happypublishing.com. Feel free to check the site out if you get a chance…
The Second Chance
We may not have the means at hand
To change a circumstance.
But we may gain, to our relief,
A welcome second chance–
A chance to prove that we will try,
With all our might and main,
To change our ways, to right some wrong,
And pull our weight again.
So let us thank the generous folk
Who overlook our lapse,
And put their trust in our success,
Where once we failed, perhaps.
The second chance can bright results
The first one to outweigh,
For in the meantime we have learned
A little more each day.
2010… it’s hard to believe it’s already over! Once again, it’s time for me make my year-end picks. I must pick my word of the year, and a meaningful new banner picture – something that I can look at for an entire year without getting sick of it. For those of you who missed it last year, here’s the link to New Year, New Beginnings Part I.
Even after a full year of looking at my banner pic, I’m sad to see it go. The below collage was made from all things I love, and I think the visual description alone pretty much says it all. Five little things at a glance that describe me.
For every year since the start of my ‘new life’, I’ve donned a single word that seems to most closely correspond with what that year meant to me. This whole word thing started pretty innocently in 2008, when I reflected back and chose the word Monumental. 2008 was the year I grew a backbone, or I’d like to think part of one – and walked that plank in search of a new life. The word I chose for 2009 was Colorful. 2009 was the year of
mistakes growing for me. The chance to experience many, many firsts and new things, as well as learning truckloads about my own self.
On to my word of 2010. Drum Roll Please…
Serene. Isn’t that nice? I even like the way it looks. True, it doesn’t pack a punch like Monumental does. It doesn’t make the mind wonder what the hell I’ve been up to like Colorful does. It’s simple. The way my year was. Simple, easy… predictable. And, predictable can be a very good thing.
There’s also something else – something I honestly hadn’t contemplated until after I’d already chosen my word. As a young girl, I decided I didn’t like my name. My fix was, much to my Mother’s chagrin, ‘changing’ it to one of my own choosing. My choice was Serena. I was often asked ‘oh you mean Selena?’ ‘No’, I would say, ‘Serena.’ I could never explain exactly why I loved this name, and I even used it as my own signature until a teacher told me I couldn’t do it anymore. I was crushed! Such a beautiful name that was just slightly beyond my reach. Of course I grew out of this ‘phase’, but even in reflecting back, I remember how good the name made me feel when I used it as my own. (I also used to go around with a bright yellow turtleneck attached to my head, pretending I had long flowing blonde hair… but that’s another story. I blame all that on the Barbies.)
I like to think that after this year… I’ve finally found myself. Because, I actually feel ‘Serene’.
I believe I’ve finally found Serena.
I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all of you. May it be a year of good health, prosperity, peace and unity for us all – God bless.
I received the below story via email this morning. The preface warned that the story was a little on the long side, and it is – but a great read nonetheless. I found the story not only moved me to tears, but more than worthy of posting as a blog subject. Hope you all enjoy.
Now this is what a country Christmas is all about…
Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.
It was Christmas Eve. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.
After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.
Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.
Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.
After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I asked. “Pa, what are you doing?” “You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what? Yeah,” I said, “Why?”
“I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. “Shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”
We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern.
We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?”
“Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?” Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.
“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children – sturdy shoes, the best – shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.
“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.
I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”
In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.
Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.
Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.
At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.
Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, May the Lord bless you; I know for certain that He will.”
Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”
I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children.
For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best and most memorable Christmas of my life.
My wish for you all is to have a real country Christmas! It is, after all, what we do for others that makes CHRISTmas such a wonderful blessing…
In keeping with traditional Piscean fashion, I seem to always have a few to several pre-fabbed little fantasies floating around in my head. One ‘fantasy fave’ proposes the question – If you were awarded 24 hours to spend with a famous person of your choice, who would it be and why?
I’m not one of those Hollywood star-chasers, nor is my life is so drab that I must live vicariously through them. That said, from time to time I do find certain news and current events of the ‘famous half’ to be of interest. I’m sure I’m not the only one – if I was, there wouldn’t be shows like Inside Edition or Entertainment Tonight.
Which leads back to my original question – given the opportunity to spend an entire day with someone famous, who would you choose? I’m thinking in terms of actor/actresses, singer/songwriters, television personalities, etc. Once in a while I’ll broach the subject to friends, who generally look at me with raised eyebrows – especially when they learn that I’ve already got a running list in my head. (Which has me wondering… is my life so drab that I’m contemplating what it would be like to spend a whole day with a star??)
For what it’s worth, here’s my short list… and the reasons why.
1. Mike Rutzen (Skipper, Oceanic Enthusiast, Free-Diver). Do I need to state the obvious on this one? An entire day of scuba and cage-diving with great whites in the favorably populated waters off the coast of South Africa, with one of the most respected experts in the industry. Just WOW.
2. Ellen DeGeneres (Television Personality). And what a personality. Again, don’t believe I even need a reason for why I’d like to spend a day with her. But if I do, here goes… laughs, laughs, and more laughs…
3. Toby Keith (Country Singer). I’d get him to take me fishing, and I bet I could persuade him to drag his guitar along for a few songs! He’s big and strong – so I’m thinking any bears we encounter would run the opposite way. I like his style, and I also get the impression that he’s a lot of fun.
4. Tyler Perry (Actor, Producer, Screenwriter, Author). What a mega-talented man. Tyler was on Oprah recently and shared his heartbreaking childhood story, which brought him and the entire audience to tears. He persevered from the ground-floor up and is very humbly self-made. Add to that the fact that he’s hilarious.
5. Derek Jeter (MLB Player, Shortstop for NYY). Okay, I had to throw a little eye candy in there. My favorite Yankees player would be ready for a weeks vacation after a full day of me dragging him around to show him off. Additionally, he looks (oops there’s that word again) to have an excellent sense of humor.
6. Ozzy Osbourne (Singer, Songwriter, Father of Darkness) Okay, for hilarity’s sake, humor me here with my childhood idol. True, his speech might be a bit slower and jumbled now from the um, well you know – but the guy’s a barrel of laughs. You just can’t make this stuff up. However, if this wish were ever granted I’d need to drag my daughter along with me. After all, Ozzy was her first concert at three years old. Come to think of it, I’d have to drag her along on my day with #5 as well.
7. Stephen King (Author). Alas, I must look overlook the fact that he’s a Sox fan… for the man taught me the love of reading. No, I am not dark – he is simply talented. I’ve read many others, but his book ‘On Writing’ is a true love of mine… in my opinion, a writer’s must-have. He’s another self-made success of which I so admire and appreciate.
8. Carlos Mencia (Comedian). He would probably take one look at me and say, “hhhNo wayyy, bishhhh”. Oh how I DO love a really good comedian. I was fortunate enough to catch him live in ’08, no holds barred. Seriously, nothing was off limits. Know the thing I love most about him? His lack of discrimination – if you’re in his presence, you’re fair game.
I’m gonna leave some room to grow on for nine and ten.
Did I mention I love to laugh? ALOT?
Some time ago, I entertained the notion of writing a letter to one’s 16 year-old self. After posting the idea, it felt overwhelming to me. Every time I’d try to start it, I’d freeze up at the very beginning. A few months went by, and it bothered me that I’d abandoned my proposed ‘project’. It’s not supposed to be a toil, I thought – there’s no right or wrong way of doing it. Some write this letter as a suggestion to change or reroute certain life events – I choose not to do this, but instead to write it as a softened forecast of sorts. As raw as it may be, here it is.
I know you aren’t really concerned with anything but partying and having a good time right now. I’m going to ask, if I may, for just ten minutes of your undivided attention without you creating an argument as to why.
Your decision to hang with the ‘cool crowd’ will end up being your demise in school. You’ve traded in your good grades and standards of behavior for a poor attempt at coolness. I see how much you’ve changed from age fifteen to sixteen – so much so that it makes your own head spin to think about it. You hate thinking about it as well – so you reach for those funny cigarettes and a bit of alcohol here and there in order to push the ugly truth further from your head. What you don’t realize, my dear, is that these seemingly simple substances will evolve into a larger abuse more destructive than you’re able to maintain control of. Your downward spiral has only just begun.
Just around the corner, self-destruction awaits you. Over the next few years you’ll continue to feed this destruction, justifying it as ‘having a good time’. There are people in your life who struggle to make you realize what you’re doing to yourself. Your mother, your father, your ever-wise grandmother. Why won’t you ever give them a chance, just open up your mind for once and listen? Newsflash – they really do know what they’re talking about. Years later, your eyes will well up as you wish for this time to be rolled backwards in order to make different choices. Better choices. Trust me on this – though right now, I know you won’t. In later years, you’ll be happy to know that you were one of the ‘lucky ones’ instead of another statistic. I want you to realize how very fortunate you will be to not become a statistic.
Getting pregnant at nineteen years old will not be the end of your world, although you and a few others think so at the time. You will have a little girl who will, in fact, end up being the shining sun of your universe. Do take a little more time and make the memories count… this will be the only child in life that God will entrust in your care. Slow down, savor every minute, every second. Laugh more… a LOT more. Know that your daughter will be successful in life, and will make you and her father extremely proud.
Your daughter’s father. The man you’ve known for a year prior will become your husband just a mere week after you find out you are with child. True, your childhood fairytale dream of getting married and having babies will happen quite backwards. Just like the absence of a real wedding or even a real proposal – you will find many things around this era to be very different than what you dreamed of as a young girl. Do know that you and your husband will have a very loving life together and create many wonderful memories as a family – as well as share hardships. Always remember that life is a constant change of events. In just a few short years, you will actually go to college to learn a new trade in graphic arts, and your employer will fund this tuition. So hold tight and make do with those hardships – it’ll all be worth it.
Oh, if only I could forewarn and perhaps prepare you for the largest and most difficult event in your life so far. Many years down the road, you will find yourself starting completely over from scratch. You will need to learn to live alone, to survive alone, and support yourself – for the very first time in your adult life. You will learn what heartache and heartbreak really is. You must learn this all yourself, as no amount of prep work or advice will guide you through it. If there is one thing I may ask of you for the future, it would be this… remember your own self-worth. Don’t consider your own happiness an extravagance. It’s not.
Your future lies completely in your hands, and in the decisions you make. Learn quickly that your decisions really do impact your future, of who you ultimately become. And guess what? We’re not finished growing yet.
I’ve been going into bloggie DT’s. True I’m sitting underneath a Carolina blue sky on a beautiful day, but the yearn to post something these past few days has more than gotten to me. For some reason on Sundays I always get either really nostalgic or fall into a semi state of depression. It is, after all, the day the weekend ends and I have to go back home to my worklife daily ritual. I’m very thankful for my ritual, my job and the whole nine yards, don’t get me wrong. It just pains me to see Friday into Saturday into Sunday, end.
Short of driving up to the mountains this weekend (we knew better, it’s prime weekend for the season so we’ll just exercise crowd-control) we’re planning to ride 5 minutes past K’s house to a local mountain, not near as high as it’s lofty counterparts but shall satisfy the ole’ mountain yearn nonetheless. It’s a state park called Crowder’s Mountain, and the mountain is only accessible through hiking. The last time I was up there, I was 6 months pregnant. It was me, my husband and another couple, the other lady was almost 9 months pregnant. It doesn’t take a glance backward to see how very stupid we were for attempting to climb a mountain that far into a pregnancy, but we all made it to the very top and came out okay. Twenty-three years later, I shall attempt it again – just not in tiptop shape this time so say a prayer for me.
We covered up K’s pool yesterday, another thing needing done but I think both of us dreaded. He just smiles and says awww every time I look our beyond the patio window and say how sad it is. Soon the trees will be barren, and everything will appear dead for several months. A Spring/Summer person I am. As hot of a Summer as we’ve had… I do try and soak up every little minute we have of the warm feel and look of those seasons.