Want to walk away from drama? Here’s how.

here's how to walk away from dramaLook.  I get it.  You’re a grown-up.  And so am I, but sometimes things have a way of following us around. As the mother of two teenage girls, I want to practice what I preach.  A few years ago, I was suffering from friendships that seemed to belong back in high school, and to be honest, I kept letting them happen.

I never saw it coming.  I always thought of myself as a strong person, but somewhere deep down inside, I knew I just wanted to be like “everyone else”.  I had convinced myself that other adults were having these fabulous girl’s nights out, and going off with other couples and even going on vacation together (did I like someone enough for that??).

So at one of my many “this is the year I am going to…” moments, I decided to reach out and make a new friend.  The problem was and still is, things come with warning signs.  Many, many, many warning signs.  And if you are so desperate for friendship that you ignore some of your own standards, it goes to hell in a handbag really quickly.  << Southernism.

You see, the toxic, drama-filled friendship was full of stop signs, skull and crossbones type warnings, and red flags.  I ignored them all.  I honestly looked for the good in the friendship and for whatever reason, thought this person couldn’t help it (note, that is bullshit).  So I had attracted a narcissistic type relationship yet again.

What’s the good news in this?

I recognized the signs one day when I realized my friend wasn’t happy about the success I was having in healing, moving on, and getting better in my life.  Want to learn more?  Check this out later: Coping when a Dysfunctional Friendship Ends

How to walk away from drama:

  1. Acknowledge that you deserve better.  This is a huge step.  You are a magnificent human being.  Say that out loud.  Your past does not define you, and your past mistakes do not mean that you are no longer worthy and deserving of a great friendship, job, partner, or whatever it is that is causing you drama.
  2. Stop creating it if it’s you.  So this part might be difficult, but acknowledge your part.  Are you poking the bear?  Do you just love arguing?  Notice and reflect on areas where you might be the catalyst and start to step away from people and situations that feel like you are deliberately needing the attention or the last word.  Yes.  This is hard advice, but truly notice that having the last word with someone who loves drama will not change their mind…nor will it change yours.
  3. Gossip needs legs.  I worked with this woman once who would literally grab anyone who walked by her room, pull them inside and show them someone’s FB page just to joke on their recent photos.  It was like a Venus Fly Trap of gossip up in there.  Don’t be fooled.  Avoid, if at all possible, the water cooler type conversations where people can and will overhear.  Where Venus can run on back and grab more people saying that you, yes you, were the one that started this rumor knowing all along it’s not true.  However, people did see the two of you talking.  The perfect set-up.
  4. Set the boundaries.  I waited too long to tell someone I wished she hadn’t told me about all the back-stabbing and sleeping around every time I met one of her “friends”.  Because guess what?  If she’s ready to tell all about their business, she certainly will talk about mine.  You better believe this fact.  I didn’t want to be in that type of friendship.  It was draining to hide what I knew and draining to listen to it.  It was a loop.
  5. Accept it, learn from it, and go on with life. ~Vincent Neerings
    I could also quote good ole’ Kenny rogers and so I shall: You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.  Know when to walk away, and know when to run.  I learned a hard lesson.  And for a long time, I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself to make new friends.  Then one evening, I met a new person who was so full of life she was a joy to be around.  She only saw the best in other people and we talked about everything, and never once has the conversation veered into any areas that made me feel awful, drained, or lowered in any way.

I started surrounding myself with only people who lifted me up, and I continued to heal.  I felt better about myself and life and knew that there were actually people out there who were meant to stay in my life.  I also started teaching others how to attract the types of relationship into their lives that were good for them, and how to work on healing their own lives through my journal therapy, yoga, and affirmation exercises.  If you’d like to learn more, we’d love to have you.  >> I need support. <<

3 Reasons You Don’t Trust.

 “Every time I’ve trusted people in the past I’ve been let down, so now it’s easier and less painful to just rely on myself.”  as this thought floats across your subconscious, you begin to feel lonely again, and then angry.  It shouldn’t have to be this hard in relationships, any relationship which includes friendship, to let your guard down without getting hurt.  Sadly, it is a work in progress and you’re about to give up.

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Why is it difficult to trust?

Sometimes, we hold onto anger like a hot coal.  Yes, I got that from Buddha, but he goes on to say that you are the one who gets burned.  You.  Think about it.  You are mad at your spouse.  You have been mad at your spouse for years.  He/she probably doesn’t even know why you are angry anymore.  All you do is constantly talk about it with your friends.  You have not left the spouse yet, instead you stay behind your wall of resentment letting it spill out into all others areas of your life.  Work.  Friendships.  Children.  And finally, your mind.  It’s all-consuming to the point that no matter what anyone does to help you, you cling to that grievance and bitterness until you look up one day and you are all alone.

You have to decide how to get your life back and ask yourself some hard questions.

  1. Is the past holding you back?  I know that people in pain lash out.  But sometimes, enough is enough.  Are you trapped in a victim mentality?  Do you lash out at others and operate on low self-esteem all the time?  Your past experience with broken trust might stem as far back as childhood and you are dragging it around daily.  It is weighing you down.  You have become almost unrecognizable to your friends and they are desperately trying to lighten the load you carry, but you won’t let them.  You are the victim here and unfortunately, your past hurts are now dictating your present and maybe even your future.  Only you can control what is happening within you.  No one else.
  2. Are you harboring unrealistic expectations?  Here’s an interesting thought…do you have unclear expectations and perhaps have not ever voiced them?  Unspoken expectations in any relationship will likely not be heard.  Hmmm.  Think about that.  Trust is huge in a relationship whether or not you realize it and it has to be addressed openly and calmly.  However, oftentimes people don’t try to address it until it is way too late.  For example, I would have rather have had an awkward conversation than be at the front desk checking in when someone said “Sorry I missed your party last night.  We couldn’t make it over.”  And yet my friend had told me she was going to bed when I asked her what she was doing that night as I was trying to make plans with her.  I felt shame wash over me in that moment…my face actually got hot.  She was standing right beside me and lied to me.  I was not worthy of the truth?  That hurts.
  3. Are you defensive instead of honest?  Do you still harbor some resentment from childhood that makes you feel you have to come up with elaborate stories?  Look back at your role models, the people around you, your beliefs…were you lied to as a norm and so have come to accept that you can’t trust people?  If you constantly think you can’t trust people, anyone actually, and are always holding part of you back for fear of getting hurt, you will not experience fulfillment in any of your relationships.  They will feel slightly empty and the only thing to do about it is to finally trust someone with your biggest fears no matter how scary they are.  We can only love someone we trust and trust is actually one of the building blocks to any relationship.  All your interactions with people in life use trust as a foundation.  Think about your performance at work.  If you don’t trust your boss and you think he’s got dirty unethical business practices, are you more likely to work harder?  No you’re not.  You are going to leave work every chance you get.

The people who cannot trust are architects of their own misery.  They begin to see fault where there is none…even if they know you are an honest person.  Part of that is because they don’t know how to be truly honest with themselves.  It is very difficult, but not impossible, to rebuild a relationship after trust is broken; however, one thing is clear.  It takes both parties and you cannot continue to go down the same path.  You have to reign in your old actions, your old ways, your old responses that might be vague.  You have to be clear and have honest expectations.  You have to build your friendship or relationship up, and use good energy because trust me when I say this, the other person knows when you are lying or hiding something from them and it starts to wear down any good relationship.  For more help, see the tab Head|Heart|Health Club for a supportive group.

Escape PlanLike this post?  Feel free to tell me how you have handled a similar experience in a positive way.  ~Aimee

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3 ways to build a strong friendship.

3 ways to build a strong friendship

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.   ~C. S. Lewis

Do you ever meet someone and things just instantly click?  How about over time, you come to realize someone you weren’t quite sure about at first, has crept into your heart and you realize that you would miss them if they weren’t in your life?  However your friendship starts, it takes lots and lots of nourishment to keep it going.  Just like any relationship worth having.

One of the hardest things when you get older, is to keep friendships alive that might seem to be dying off.  I know that when I was growing up, we’d call each other on the phone and make plans all the time.  But once you are not in close proximity anymore, it really takes a more proactive approach that some people just don’t seem to have time for.  The truth is, we are all busy so that’s just an excuse…it’s time to call friends, on the phone, and not just message or text them.  I know that seems quick and easy, but there’s something about hearing your friend’s voice even a few times a month that can really make a difference.

3 ways to build strong..er friendships

  1. Talk it out.  Even if you don’t always agree, arguments can be a sign that you still care enough about the other person to be concerned about a certain behavior.  If you didn’t care, you might not bring it up.  If they care about you, they will make time to listen to what you have to say and hear you out.  Not just jumping to the worst conclusion.  If they do that, well, it might be a sign that even when you talk, they only hear what they want to hear.
  2. They make time for you…face time.  I know that we have all had those friends who couldn’t get together unless they needed something.  If you want to get together, they have x, y, and z to do.  But if the latest band is in town and they want to go, they text you.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  Proactive friendships are different.  You enjoy spending time together and there doesn’t have to be an event, reason, or purpose.  As a matter of fact, before you leave that outing/meeting/movie or whatever, you make time in your calendar right then for the next meeting.  You are truly glad to get together…and it doesn’t feel like the other person is hiding anything or just making excuses when you ask what they are doing on a certain night.
  3. Seek balance in the friendship.  Sometimes, it seems you are the only one putting in all the effort.  At other times, you might be the only one making all the plans…asking when you can get together or even being the first one to text…without much response if any.  During those times, it can be easy to assume that perhaps the friendship is not working out.  Maybe the other person is truly not aware they are constantly giving you the brush off, or maybe they are.  But at a certain point, it’s time to realize that you are carrying the friendship alone.  There is no balance.  A proactive friendship is one that really makes you feel good about your friend.  You get together, you call, you actually carry out plans that you make.  You don’t feel let down by constant broken plans, or empty promises.  A balanced friendship makes you feel great.  You have someone who you can count on no matter what.

I saw something on Facebook last week that made me think of writing this post.  A person said she knew her “friends” had read the message she sent them as it said so, and they just didn’t respond.  Not only that, but she was liking and commenting on things her “friends” did, but no one seemed to do the same for her.  I understand how once in a while, messages can get missed.  But if you rely solely on messages as a form of communication with a friend, well, that might be a problem as well.  It’s time to look at your friendships closely.  Are you being proactive and sharing the responsibilities or are you just too “busy” to keep up?   Want more tips that you can use and a real support group?  Read more here >> The Club with Soul <<

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Don’t stop…believing

If life were a person, I would slap him or her.  Hard.  So let me back up.  Friday night I went out to chat with some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.  My buddy is an awesome photographer and has worked on some pretty cool things out west and was in town.  I’d put his link here except for the fact that he is super private, and I didn’t tell him I was writing this.  Ha.  Anyway, the night before I was talking about all my old friends and it occurred to me that most of them were guys.  We were like Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch…and we rode our bikes around, well bicycles, but still.  Later on, in high school, some had cars and perhaps one in particular was old enough to pass for 21 at the 7-11.

Everyone has that one friend, ha, who perhaps buys things like ohhh I don’t know, Boone’s Farm maybe.  Not judging the 80’s or 90’s are you?  No.   Anyway, so we were sitting around telling stories and it was nice.  It was nice to see how we can change, but remain the same at heart.  I always knew they were good guys and so when I heard one of them was coming into town, I knew I couldn’t wait until the next time.  A lot can happen through the years.  As we got a round of beverages, we raised our pints to a friend who was no longer with us.  We talked a bit about how we were still kind of mad at him for not reaching out (I actually wrote about this when it happened last year).  We lost a good man to a fight he could have beat…depression was the enemy and if we had known, surely we could have changed the tide on that battlefield.

Don’t stop believing that other people care about you.

So this year my brother’s circle of friends have learned about that as well.  Yesterday, my brother lost a friend to hopelessness and surely her friends are saying the same thing.  It’s too fresh right now, but in a year her friends will probably still be mad.  Her friends will be telling the stories of things they did.  And her friends will look at each other and make the kind of eye contact that says, I’m glad you’re here friend to talk about this with me.  Don’t hide how you feel when this happens.  Get it out.  Reach out to who is left behind.  And don’t stop believing that your life is worth fighting for at all costs.  Don’t end your chapter right as your luck was about to change.  DON’T.  Because your friends will be lifting a pint to you after all and saying how much they miss you.  Instead of that, be there with them.  Clinking the glass and saying I am so glad I have you all.  I am glad I called you that day.

Cherish

Armor of Love–My Messy Beautiful

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Please don’t look at my cuticles.  They are jagged and bleeding from being picked apart.  Eventually, they start to look better, and when they do, it never fails, I pick at them again.  The polish is worn down in places.  It was green and sparkly at first.  I have a hangnail that always needs to be cut and my skin is somewhat scaly on the back of my hands. Occasionally, if I think I need to appear “together”, I’ll go get a mani/pedi, but for the most part, I can’t be bothered with it.  I used to be a teacher.  I have been told I was a good teacher…even a great teacher.  But the fatigue of my everyday life was too much to bear so I am now on “sabbatical”.  What that really means is I am still trying to find my way at 39 years old.

Do you remember those days before responsibilities?  When you were young and fresh looking all the time? Before the dark circles, stress, anxiety and problems of life started to weigh you down?  Well, I almost have no memory of those days anymore.  I was a vibrant college student one day, heading for my happily ever after, and the next day the phone call came in.  First, it was a cervical dysplasia issue that was scary enough in a time before I had children.  Then my skin became as thin as paper, and I would find cuts along my arm that first year in the classroom. Blood would be dripping down my arm and I couldn’t even remember hitting my hand.  Then my urine darkened to the color of port wine.  I went back to my gynecologist thinking it was something else horrible.  He could not help me. By the time I made it in to see a specialist, the blisters had come out.  They were huge and full of liquid that felt like burning fire.  When they popped, my skin burned.  It literally felt like my arms were on fire.

The caustic bubbles started appearing on my hands and some grew to be the size of a dime.  The welts would pop open and leave painful scars for weeks and the skin would be tight and itchy where the blisters had been.  Did I mention I was getting married?  Think wedding portraits.  My life was falling apart and I was only 23 years old at the time.

I remember the crinkly paper and waiting for a doctor who I hoped had answers.  She appeared worried as she looked at my face, arms, hands, and then asked me if her colleague could pop in.  Sure, the more the merrier.  He comes in and mentioned he is also her husband.  They haven’t seen a case like this…well, maybe ever.  The good news is that they happened to write a paper on it in medical school.  They whispered in undertones and I heard all kinds of strange-sounding words.  Latin or something I remember thinking.  Great.  Just great.  This can’t be good news.  They seemed to remember I was still in the room.  Since I asked a lot of questions, I got right to the point.  Please tell me what I have.  They appeared calm as they mention I might have Porphyria Cutanea Tarda, but don’t look it up.  Famous last words…don’t look it up.  They didn’t know who they were dealing with here.  Never tell me what I should not do. 

So as I went home and read about this strange new disease, I realized 2 things. One of them was I knew immediately I had it.  The other was that my life was about to change in ways I could not ever begin to imagine.  I would give pints of blood for the rest of my life also known as “phlebotomies”.  I would end up with unique friends who are part of my life forever because I would later find out that I also carried a special gene called the c282y gene for hereditary hemochromatosis, and that was also treated/managed the same exact way.  Pints of blood being taken forever…

I decided I was not going down without a fight. I didn’t care how long that fight lasted, but a fight was called for.  My friends seem to all feel the same way. Every single one of them…even the ones fighting other battles.  We are all warriors, fighting for the things in life that are worth living for.

Diana, you amaze and inspire me daily as you fight to get your life back from cancer…not just any cancer, but the kind no one expects to have at our age, stage 4 colo-rectal. Living your life as a military wife with 3 beautiful girls, thinking about mundane day-to-day tasks and then all of a sudden, your life was turned upside-down. Being half-way across the country away from your family and friends at a time like that was so hard.  I am so glad you messaged your team…your own personal band of warriors fighting alongside of you.  From my beautiful friend “Illness is part of our journey. That can’t be denied, but we are still Aimee and Diana. They don’t define us. We define ourselves by how we deal with it. You learn and help others while doing it. I fight and try to have a positive attitude even when I just want to scream. We both live to show our illnesses that they may be part of our path, but we choose where we travel.”

When you sat in a room by yourself, just as I did, you were told something even scarier to imagine…something you were not prepared for.  Doctor tactless said “Well, you don’t have pulmonary emboli, but you know you have metastasis on your liver right?” And you had been told they were benign cysts.  So you get told they have grown, get handed a box of tissues as if that solves everything, and she walks out. Just like that. The nurse who cried with you has the heart of a warrior.  We don’t leave our people behind.  I am so glad you had a good doctor after that horrible experience.  So glad you have hope.  Cancer is a cruel opponent, but you have taken on the armor of love.  Your loved ones support you and will do anything for you and I am blessed by knowing you.

So our conversation turned to getting angry about this, and Diana said “Our families are the ones we can do that with though.  We know they will still be there after we get the anger out.  And boy do I get mad sometimes.” I thought I was the only one.  The only thing I ever saw Diana get mad at was a soccer ball.  The best part of re-connecting with Diana was when we were talking about a summer school class we took together in junior high.  It was on oceanography and basically being around water and we were at the “awkward” stage.  I don’t remember the details, but apparently a boy said something to Diana on the bus to one of our field trip sites.  She said I stood up and defended her…probably all 5 feet of me back then, I grew a whole 2 more inches, but anyway I guess I let him have it. I’ve always been a bit erm, feisty.  Here’s to you my Messy Beautiful Warrior.  Our lives might be messy and complicated, but it shows a side of us that was always there.  The warrior.

diana & aimeeDiana on left and Aimee on right