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When You Find Patient Zero

“Don’t invite him on your train wreck.”

-My therapist

So I have been writing about my life as a mid-lifer going through the mid-life crisis. They have gone unpublished so far – it was more for my therapy than anything else. I may chose to revisit them and publish later, not sure. When I turned 46 last year, my therapist said it would be cathartic to burn my journal of this journey so far – to start fresh and anew. It was actually an amazing experience! I took the ashes, mixed them with the beer I was half drinking, and spread the nasty mess over myself life warrior paint. I was going to go through the next year like a warrior and let my pain and mistakes grow me into a new person, like a phoenix rises from the ashes.

Let’s just say that did not happen.

Even though I continued to make mistakes, mostly on purpose to see how far I could push the limits on my 15 year-old psyche and my 46 year old body, I did learn many lessons. Today, two days after my 47th birthday, I feel like many of those lessons cultivated themselves into the biggest lesson yet: I am a toxic person.

You know how self-righteous you feel when someone hurts you? I do. THEY did this and THEY did that and it made me FEEL bad. Well, I felt totally woke when I added to that sentence: But I LEARNED something from it and now I’m a better person. *face palm*

Today I felt like I was being a better person when I messaged a former person in my life something that showed I had really grown. I truly did it with no maleficence behind it. I wanted him to know that I understood my role in the situation, even though he had done faaaaaaaar worse things to me. Like, if a friend, even an acquaintance, had told me the stories about him, I would say, “Girl, you need to walk AWAY! Do NOT pass Go! You deserve better than this!!” I would probably even say that to an enemy.

A few months ago, Cash (his nickname), politely asked me to never speak to him again. Right after he ASKED ME TO DO HIM A HUGE FAVOR! I couldn’t do it right then, and when I asked to reschedule, he told me I was bad for him and to never contact him again. WTF?!? I was bad for HIM?? He did some of the worst things (I let him) and put me in the scariest positions (ditto). Now, through all of this, I realized I was enabling him to do some seriously bad shit to himself, but I enabled him because if I didn’t, he may not want me to be in his life. Listen, if you EVER think that sentence to yourself, please excuse yourself from that relationship. If someone wants you to be in his/her life, they will do it with open arms. Not because of what you do.

I came to the conclusion that I really was not the most hurt person in this situation after I read an amazing book I finished the other day. So, I send this message because I seriously wanted to show remorse for my part in the shit show, wish him well, and hope that he was happy. Once you’re in my life and I see some good in you, I start to care, no matter what (serious character flaw). Not 60 seconds later, he called me over the message app. I was getting my oil changed. In public. I answered because I was so shocked. It was weird to hear his voice. We exchanged pleasantries and he said he really wanted to talk to me. Then he said he really wanted to see me. You know the phrase Curiosity killed the cat?

I really did want closure to this situation. The pleaser in me dies a little when I feel like I’ve hurt someone, no matter what they do to me (several character flaws). So I met him. We had a very honest and open discussion – I always could tell him whatever thought was in my mind. He’s very non-judgmental like that. So I got everything off my chest, including my transgressions and he gave me some very honest answers that I was looking for. However, we were driving in the same car we always drove in (mine), he was driving it like he always did, we were driving the same back country roads. The same. The same. The same.

Once I dug myself out of the hole of this relationship, I sometimes would worry that if I ever saw him again (sometimes afraid that he would just show up at my house one day), that I would be triggered back into those same feelings and habits. For some stupid reason, he was very hard to let go of. So here I am afraid of being triggered. What I did not realize was that he was afraid of the same thing. And he got triggered. And that’s when I realized: I am his trigger. This is why he cut me out of his life. He knew I would do anything for him, no matter how bad it was for me or him. But it was always worse for him. Like, life and death worse. Granted, he was the one who wanted to see me, but because I am in a good place doesn’t mean he is. I mean, he is, he was. He described it by saying he had gone to the depths of hell (before me, which I didn’t know because he was good at hiding it; during me, which I kinda knew, there were signs, but I don’t see what I don’t want to look at; and after me, which I had no idea about) and pulled himself out and found a safe space. Today he was brought out of that safe space too early.

That is a heavy thing to carry. I can point the finger at so many toxic people that have been in my life. But I never saw myself as one. Never. I guess that shows you that maybe toxic people aren’t bad people and probably never meant to be toxic. Maybe they don’t do it with intention. I know I didn’t. I thought I was hurting myself in this relationship; it never crossed my mind that I was hurting him. Enabling, yes. Are those the same thing??

Today I got closure. I think I already had it, because everything he said, I had already come to that conclusion. The old me would have taken everything that happened so personally. The new-ish me knew that it wasn’t personal. The new-er me now knows that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And that toxicity can live in the most well-intentioned person.

After Thoughts

“What if in skipping the pain, I was missing my lessons?”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

Yesterday I wrote about the realization that I am a toxic person. That does not mean I feel like I am bad, want to treat others badly, or have any negative feelings about myself. What it does mean is that I have finally realized that I am not always the victim in situations and me trying to get what I need out of any relationship could be hurtful to others.

This was a very heavy feeling to carry. I am still feeling it today, just a little bit lighter. I think every day, the heaviness will continue to feel less. The weird thing about this heaviness is that it does not feel like a burden. It feels like a reminder. Like, after you go to the gym and workout. The day of the workout, you can feel your muscles and they feel good, like they’ve been put to use. The second day, you feel the stiffness but you can function and go about your day. The third day, it hits you like a ton of bricks. Your muscles are super sore and the thought of working out makes you want to throw up in your mouth a little. But the best thing for that soreness? Work out again. Your muscles are being used and they will grow.

Here are some thoughts and realizations I had over the past 18 hours:

  • I have been focused on myself too much – how am I a trigger for others?
  • Sitting with heavy things aren’t painful. They are working into my muscle memory to be a more permanent thing in my life.
  • Here is how I learn things – I learn it, think I am an expert, then forget. I remember it, gain back my expert status, and fail. I feel it, then it becomes a part of my life.
  • It’s not only that I am not ready for a relationship, It’s that others aren’t ready for me. Do I want to inadvertently hurt someone for my benefit?
  • Pain is where most growth and healing come from.
  • This has not been a painful event, but an emotional one. Tears do not always mean sadness and grief.
  • My co-dependence is not only bad for me, it is bad for others. They will heal in their own time, just like I will.
  • Do not suggest things I can do to fix other people’s situations; ask “What can I do to help?”. If they say “nothing”, let it go.
  • When he cut me out of his life, he was trying to save himself. He was showing strength.
  • He doesn’t blame me, so I shouldn’t blame myself.

As I was thinking about all this, I was sitting on my front porch, listening and watching all the nature around me. This metaphor came to me:

I am like a seed: my outer layers are being split open and can be painful at times; my roots are desperately trying to find some stable ground to take hold; my shoots are searching through the darkness and dirt trying to find a way out; my leaves are looking for light to fill me with energy; my stem is weathering the storm, trying not to break; then one day, I have fully bloomed in the sun and people are wanting to be in my presence and enjoying what I have to offer.

Corny? Most likely. But it makes sense to me. I have yet to fully bloom. In His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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