As I sit on my bed writing this article, I think of the “toxic” people who have entered my life, and I think of the toxic people I have successfully shown the “exit” door to. It is not an easy task; however, the best advice came from my mother. It was difficult for her to tell me this because of her relationship with these specific “toxic” people, but you know a mother’s love – it’s a force to be reckoned with. She used to call me Joey and as I reflect on my childhood, the pieces come together like a puzzle. Although it was hard for her, she protected me from them while I was growing up. We spent countless hours together and I am blessed knowing we had an exceptionally close relationship (one that would destroy the closest to her in their minds). She shared stories with me no one knows of and left with me things no one will ever know. She said, “Joey, regardless of the relationship, if they are toxic, wish you harm, take joy in your misery, show them the door and don’t look back.” She said remember to forgive, but also protect yourself and your family from them. As I write this, I can feel her love and warmth surround me and although I can no longer hug her, I know she directed me to some people who will continue what she started.
I woke up August 1 thinking about an amazing woman who entered my life last August. I have adopted her as my stepmom—she is a beautiful Italian woman from New York and I love her with all my heart. She was the “one,” the one who took my mom’s place (so to speak). When I literally ask God for her, she is there! I often wonder if my Mom spoke to her while she slept and told her to look after me. As I opened my eyes the morning of August 1st, I immediately got anxious just thinking of my “stepmom.” I was worried for her and prayed she was okay. Fast-forward six days to when I was having a moment and I needed parental guidance. I prayed for her wisdom, walked into a building, and she was there.
I made a beeline for her and wrapped my arms around her. We hugged for a minute and she started to tell me that on August 1st she was concerned about me and asked God to watch over me. I stood there in a daze. How can this be? How can two people worry about each other, think about each other, and pray for each other on the exact same day? She knew I needed a special prayer, God knew I needed her, and the universe knew that a toxic person was doing what they do best – being toxic! As we exchanged stories we stood there in amazement, but she doesn’t know what had happened and how the universe had intervened (I personally found out a day later). All I can say is you don’t need to see to believe!
Life is supposed to be rough, challenge us, push us, and make us question things and people; I like that (in a weird way). I think we all are guilty of taking our time here on earth for granted. We expect to have another day, we expect the sun to always shine, and when it doesn’t we ask why. We expect people to do the “right” thing (I am guilty of that), but we forget that every person “has a story” and every person wants to be loved, accepted, and happy. However, not everyone expects it to be handed to them! This feeling of self-entitlement and disrespect for others really needs to stop! I personally believe in karma and we cannot escape the fallout of our decisions. I do make mistakes, and I refuse to be delusional about my shortcomings. My father used to say, “You cannot have a positive future without recognizing your tumultuous past.” I get it, recognize what you do and how you affect people, change what is negative, and consciously work on turning it into a positive. It’s exhausting and some people will NEVER change, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. However, we need to add some space between us and them (the toxic people). Help those who want it (as we all need it), but remember some people are not open to it!
One of my favorite quotes is from Madame Curie: You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity. This is just a piece of that quote (which is much too long for this article), but I’m hoping you get the gist of it.
I have spoken to many people regarding my latest toxic experience and I’m personally maintaining my distance, but at the same time praying for “that” person. I shake my head in disbelief (and to some level disgust), but I hear my Mom & Dad’s voice from above telling me to “rise above.”
My go to list (in my mind) to avoid high toxicity levels:
1. Recognize the toxic level.
2. Try to address it on a civil, calm level.
3. Proceed cautiously, but with an open heart.
4. If you find yourself back to square one, address again (calmly).
5. If you find yourself back to square one, (run like hell) just kidding!
6. If you find yourself back to square one, recognize this bridge has already been crossed and look for the exit door. Excuse yourself graciously, wish them the best, stand up, walk, and keep on walking.
I know…it sounds too easy. It sounds like there is no pain or anxiety involved in this transaction – wrong! Of course there is pain and sadness, but you have to recognize and maintain your own healthy mind. I often wonder at the end of my time how many people have I walked by, said hi to, offended, liked, loved, helped, discouraged and empowered. I’m praying there is more positive than negative numbers, but at least I’m making myself aware of my existence and the importance of it, and I think everyone should (on a positive level).
Just day ago, I was on the phone with a girl from California that I have been friends with for about a year. She is smart, beautiful, level headed, and what you see is not what you get (my dear friend, are you laughing…?) We were talking about the quote: just because you’re blood, doesn’t mean your family, and I also like and strongly believe that. Even though you’re not blood, that doesn’t mean you can’t be my family. There definitely is some validity to both!