Nostalgia can whitewash a lot of things
We forget why we left an area. Or how glad we were when we left a job. Soldiers forget how happy they were the first day they put on their official uniform, or how relieved they were to take that uniform off. Mothers “forget” the 28 hours of labor, and focus instead on the joy of bringing another life into the world, until child number 2 is a month late & it’s August and 104F in the shade; Then it’s “what was I thinking?”
Divorcees sometimes forget the reason they got divorced until they wake up in bed together and all the old patterns start re-asserting themselves.
I have a friend who had a rough breakup with a long term lover, many years ago. I cared about both of them and considered them both my friends.
The guy in this couple has been and still is my friend and for that I’m grateful beyond words.
While I’d known my male friend the longest, nonetheless I reached out to the female half of the couple in friendship, and pulled back a stump where my hand had been. Then I remembered that I’d always thought she was a bit toxic. I realized that her toxicity level had gotten out of control and that was probably why they broke up.
I sometimes wonder how she’s doing but it’s not important enough for me to track her down. Given her toxicity, it’s probably not worth my effort. I remember the good times, hope she’s well, appreciate the years of kindness and laughs prior to their breakup. My mind automatically glosses over the bad spots.
Generally, when we meet people who are toxic to us, we don’t hang around them. Sometimes we allow them in our lives because of others who are important to us. The toxic wife, or husband of a family member or best friend for example.
Sometimes people we love aren’t toxic when we meet them. Then we fall in love, or build a friendship and that person becomes toxic to us or we to them. That’s the hardest situation. We can choose not to see an aunt that’s a bitch, the people we’ve purposefully allowed to get close to us on the other hand are far more difficult to deal with.
Our emotions are confused and we think about the effort and time we have invested and we think, “Maybe it’s something that will pass.” Often the toxic behavior does pass and things go back to a comfortable loving supportive relationship.
Other times, acceptance of the toxicity is treated as “Signing up for a full seven courses.”
Either the other person thinks you’re saying they’re right, or they give it no thought at all and continue using you as a punching bag. It’s a no win situation, and once that behavior becomes the norm, no amount of love, correction, resistance, disagreement or all of the above is going to change it. The path from there on is simply pain and more pain. It’s possible to love and care for someone but be unable to take the pain.
I’ve found myself in that situation several times in my life and I’m always slow to let go. I keep hoping for things to get better. The reality is that they don’t.
I’ve recently re-evaluated several relationships and have concluded that they’re toxic to me.
This re-evaluation was funny (in a gallows humor way) because I floated what I was thinking by a couple of friends who said, “OH THANK GOD!”
They didn’t want to interfere in my business because they knew I had a great deal of love for these toxic people but as outside observers they could always tell when I’d had toxic contact because I wasn’t myself. One friend suggested that over the years I’d given these relationships too much weight and spent way too much time trying to win approval. “Approval,” they added, “that would NEVER be forthcoming.”
As an example, they asked, “When have you been complimented on, congratulated about, or encouraged in, any of your successes or endeavors by these people? If they’re just tearing you down or making you feel bad about yourself, they’re bad to have in your life.”
It’s a valid point.
“What about love?” I asked.
“Love is encouragement and validation. Love is someone caring about you and liking you for who you are right this moment and also who you were in the past and seeing the difference. Love is someone telling you you’re wrong and forgiving you in the same moment for your mistake. Love is empathy, compassion, joy, and happiness when the phone rings, or an email arrives showing that person’s ID”
“Love is not dread, or always being made to feel like there’s something wrong with you.”
We forget why we distanced ourselves from certain people too.
I’d purposefully kept these toxic folks at arms length because I’m pretty generally happy with who I am, and they in the past have tended to bring me down. Finally, after many years and a lot of patience and soul searching, I’m letting go of the toxic people in my life. I realize that toxicity runs both ways. I may be toxic to some people but not others, I’ll understand if you don’t have me on your holiday card list. It’s Okay I get it, no hard feelings.
We should surround ourselves with people that bring out the best in us, and in whom we bring out the best.
That’s what I’m going to do from here on out.