Monday, May 31

Pruning toxic relationships

For me personally, cutting ties from relationships that are one-sided and draining is strangely difficult. I'm a nurturer by nature, and I tend to want to "fix" everything and everyone. If I come across a flea-infested, three-legged dog who bites, rest assured I'll end up having to flea-bomb my house and get a tetanus shot. Same thing with people, the more dysfunctional they are, the more drawn to me they seem to be --or is it me drawn to them? Haven't figured that part out yet. I have my own homeless guy. When I see him, I say to my husband, "pull over, it's my homeless guy!" I hand him a little money, ask him if he needs something to eat, how he's doing, etc...he's always incredibly thankful and kind. He doesn't want to go to a shelter, he's a nomadic sort of man who seems to survive, if not thrive, on the fringes of society, but something about him draws me in every time I see him...I want to bring him home and prepare him a meal, make him take a bath, put on clean clothes, and comb his hair, then I'd fix up a soft, fluffy bed on the couch and pop in a DVD for him to watch.
Alternately, there's another homeless person in our city we call "Dan Dan the homeless man." He's a little on the mean side...enough for me to know to 'mostly' keep my distance. I once saw him sitting just inside a clump of shrubs on the side of a convenience store parking lot, so I got my husband to "accidentally" dropped a $20 bill while COUGHING loudly enough to get his attention. While we were driving away, we saw him emerge from the bushes and snatch the bill. I was warmed a little inside. Not too long after that, he showed up at the Humane Society where I was volunteering, and began throwing old pizza over the kennel fence, shouting that we were killing the dogs with the dog food. He was enraged and police had to be called, and I was told by an officer friend, in no uncertain terms, that Dan Dan was dangerous. I've completely avoided him from then on, but I did notice he'd befriended a dog. Maybe he's just not a people person.

Why, then, with my more personal acquaintances, can I not just walk away when I see that they're energy vampires? One of my goals for this summer is to not only keep my garden pruned of weeds, but my life pruned of toxic relationships.
As I began to cultivate this plan for a weed-free life, I questioned my own ability to be a good friend. Was I being cold by contemplating writing off people who may consider me a friend? Is it right to just begin cutting people out of our lives? How did I decide who should stay and who should go? Surely something so delicate should not just be based on a mood, which in me, changes more frequently than I care to admit. So I figured I would use the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson - "A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud." as a means of whether someone was truly my "friend" or not.
When I began going through the list in my head of people I was questionable about, it became clear that I really already knew...but I mentally put each to the test anyway, just to be fair.
If you can't speak openly and honestly with someone, sharing how you truly feel, they're probably just an acquaintance, not a friend. Of course I don't mean that because you can't tell your BFF that she looks fat in those pink capri pants, you should cut ties. Honesty and tact should always go hand in hand, in my humble opinion. Yet when it comes to genuine feelings, opinions, thoughts, etc... I mean the substantive meat of who we are, how we feel and think...those deep topics that, sure, can promote heated debates, but not change the love and respect that true friends feel for one another. If someone is offended by who I am on the inside then I don't want them as a friend, and vice versa.
Hanging onto unhealthy relationships is draining and promotes negativity in our lives, and life is too short, sweet, and precious for that.

Thursday, May 27

The Power of Predicaments

Obviously, we love it when life is surrounding us with flowers and rainbows, but the reality is that crises will come, and usually at the most inopportune times (as if there's ever really an 'opportune' time for crises.) To tell ourselves to 'be prepared' for the rough-and-tumble ride Life occasionally places us on, is kind of unrealistic. Sure, it might work concerning financial dry spells; saving for a rainy day and all that, but serious problems often seem to jump out at us like a street mugger, catching us completely off guard. How does one prepare for something they never see coming, like an accident, serious injury or illness, loss of a loved one, etc...? While we can't prepare specifically for unforeseen events, we can learn to ride the waves of rough seas rather than pointlessly fighting against rip tides.
First and foremost when you find yourself in an overwhelming situation, breathe... sometimes bad things can suck the air right out of us, and it's important to stop, take a deep breath, pray, meditate, or whatever it is that helps you find that inner calm, even if that calm is momentary, it's a moment to gather yourself and realize you just made it through a difficult time - the realization of a big problem or out of control situation.
Don't assume the worst...and seriously, look back over your life, and if you're like the average person, I bet you'll be able to recall at least a few incredibly trying times, and guess what, if you're doing that, it means you made it through...yay for you! So assume you will make it through this one as well. Do your best to realistically handle your predicaments a step at a time, and not get bogged down in focusing on worst-case scenarios that can end up shutting you down.
With each difficult obstacle we overcome, we can build a sort of resume of our ability to withstand hardship. Like all good professionals, build on that resume, and remember that it's there, holding you up with your credentials.
Have you ever known a really good guitarist? Chances are he or she will tell you that when they were learning to play, their fingers got sore and raw, but that as they persevered, a callous replaced the once tender skin, toughening it up, making it easier for them to make beautiful music.
You can make it through most of what life throws your way, and come out stronger.

Tuesday, May 25

Where I am now...

On March 15 I was about to drive home from the gym, like I'd done so many times, but you know how every now and then you get a weird feeling, but you just can't put your finger on why you have a weird feeling? That was happening with me, so much so that before I started my car, I called my husband to tell him how much I loved him and how I couldn't wait to see him when I got home. This is really not so strange as we're a pretty 'lovey-dovey' couple, but I had some sense of urgency to get home this day.
Our neighborhood is right off of a major highway in the Myrtle Beach area, so I often end up sitting at a red light about 200 yards from my house, and then if I'm lucky, I get a green arrow so I can go before the other side can...and this is what happened that day. Sometimes, we get so accustomed to things and make assumptions based on past experiences; one of them for me was assuming I could safely "go" on a green arrow and no one from the opposite side would be texting, not paying attention while driving, run a red light, and crash into me.
Needless to say, it sucked to be me on March 15, 2010. It was surreal to say the least. I never lost consciousness and at first, I didn't understand what was happening. I just knew that I had shifted into some alternate universe where blurs of black, white, and gray flashed in front of me and horrible sounds were stabbing my ears. Then I got it...I'd been hit and was spinning and then finally, I came to a crashing halt, and the real world grabbed me by the throat and slammed me back into reality...hard. Hissing, smoke, an air bag in my face, my heart racing...I grabbed for my door, but it was wedged closed and wouldn't budge. I felt panic rising when thankfully - there was a voice, and I saw a man bracing his foot against the side of my car and yanking the door open.
Don't try this at home, but he picked me up out of the car and laid me on the grass. (You shouldn't move an accident victim in case there's neck or back injuries that could lead to spinal cord damage...but because of the smoke, we both thought my car might catch fire.)
I'll cut to the chase - shattered femur, lacerated liver and kidney with internal bleeding requiring 2 blood transfusions, 2 fractured transverse processes (never knew what those were before) and a myriad of bumps, bruises, and scrapes.
Petey (my PT Cruiser) did not survive the accident. He was totaled and is probably in junkyard heaven as I type this.
I realize people are in car accidents all the time, but this threw me for a serious loop and tested my strength in a huge way.
Time travel back for a sec with me to 1987 -- a hot August night and I'm on the back of a motorcycle that my then boyfriend was driving when he hit a curve going a little too fast, ///alternate universe, blur blur, slam/// ...and then waking up in a trauma unit to a voice saying, "You've suffered a spinal cord injury."
I've been a paraplegic even since. BUT...I've been the best darn paraplegic I could have, productive, 'do everything but walk' kind of paraplegic, super healthy, the kind of healthy where for 23 years the only time I was hospitalized was in 1991 to give birth to my son.
I guess I thought the first accident in 1987 was in some way enough for one lifetime and that surely the powers that be wouldn't let something like this happen to me again.
Unfortunately, we're not guaranteed an easy life. Bad things will happen, even if you feel as though your 'bad stuff' quota has already been filled. 'The sweet is never as sweet without the bitter.' What's important...what makes these instances 'make or break' experiences is how we deal with them.
I learned a long time ago that whether I was happy or sad, upbeat or downtrodden, I was still going to be in a what's the logical conclusion? Might just as well make the best of it, right? Right!
There's so much more to say and share, but I think I'll break here.

Monday, May 24

In the beginning (that felt like the end...)

There was a time in my life when I uttered the words, "I don't think I can make it through this." At that moment, I absolutely meant it. The future that lay before me was daunting, especially considering I had no strong foundation in my past with which to rest upon...

This is the beginning of my story, which occurred at a time in my life that I believed was the end. It's been a long haul, and looking in my rear-view mirror, I'm amazed at some of the rough roads I've navigated. I believe we all have a wellspring of strength in us, it may be buried deeper in some than in others, but nevertheless, it's there, and not so difficult to tap once you've found it.