toxic people

Are there toxic people?

No, I do not believe so….

I think there are toxic interactions.

Toxic behavior. And it takes two to tango, really.

Do I have to stay away from someone who behaves badly? Do they set me off? Well, that’s about me, isn’t it? I need to go look in the mirror and see what is bothering me. What does this remind me of? Are they getting under my skin? So what part of my skin needs better boundaries?

I realized that my father drank too much when I was in college. I read about it and went home, ready to intervene. My mother and my sister refused, much to my surprise. And slowly I realized that my mother was enabling the drinking.

I set boundaries with my father. I said that he could not come to my house drunk and he could not drink at my house. I refused to sleep in my parents’ house because he was falling asleep and there were cigarette burns in the floor and an 8 inch diameter one between the couch cushions. I told my mother I was having nightmares about fires. She joked that she would be mad if he burned a hole in the waterbed. I told my father I was afraid to sleep upstairs and moved to my grandmother’s, two doors away. I was lucky that I had that option.

My father stopped drinking a decade later. I took my young son to visit, and found that my father had started again. I asked my mother, “Why didn’t you tell me?” She replied, “I told you I would leave if he drank, but I am not going to leave.” I said, “We are not staying with you.” and we moved to my mother-in-law’s house.

As a family doctor, I try to help each person. My clinic and I do have boundaries. If they no show for three visits within one year, we ask them to change to another doctor. People call for referrals often. I can’t do a referral without documenting a diagnosis and doing an examination, so they need a visit. “But you’ve seen me for hip pain!” “Yes, and that was a year ago. Time to reevaluate, right?” And all doctors here are swamped: they want to save their over busy time for people who truly need them. The orthopedist does not want to see that hip unless I agree that they need to: if physical therapy and discussion can fix it, one less person that they don’t get to operate on.

I recently had calls for an emergency referral. I left a message with both the patient and the specialist. I had not seen the person for five months. I have no idea what is happening. If it’s an emergency, they need to contact the insurance, not me, because I have not seen the person: no diagnosis. And insurance should cover if it is an emergency. If it is not an emergency, well…

There is behavior that I prefer not to be around. There is behavior I will tolerate in clinic but not my personal life, since I get paid in clinic. There is behavior I won’t tolerate in clinic. But think of the great ones that are still spoken of: the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas, Jesus. They had boundaries to where any person was allowed to approach them and was received and was sometimes changed by that reception. When I say “I can’t be around him or her,” how do I need to change? Ok, not the crazy person shooting into crowds, no tolerance. But day to day, the things that get under our skin, it’s our skin that is fallible.

I do not want to label anyone toxic. I hope to make a small difference in the world through my clinic. And add to the joy in the world.

For the Daily Prompt: saintly. I am not there. 

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Would you harbor me?


Blogging from A to Z, the letter Z.

Virtues and views and changes in the definition of feelings over time.

Yesterday we hiked from North Beach towards Cape George and walked 2/3 of the way. My phone welcomed me to Canada! We were not in Canada, but I think the Vancouver Island cell towers took over.

We were paralleled by a sailboat race. The very low tide was at 1:00 pm, so there were other hikers, picking up the beach glass. I found my first marble! There was a marble factory and you can still find the marbles, some perfect, on glass beach. I gave mine to my friend and then he found a cat’s eye and gave it to me.

The sailboats were going with the tide with the wind behind them and spinnakers up! Not in my photograph, at that point they were dipping south of Protection Island. We started back a little before 1:00 and watched the tide turn. The sailboats returned as well.

What does zoned mean to you? The sailboats were in the zone, with the wind behind and the tide helping. A long race and beautiful…..and this is my last letter for the A to Z.


Y for yielding in Blogging from A to Z.

Again, the definition changes, from Webster 1913 to the present.

Webster 1913: yielding

Inclined to give way, or comply; flexible; compliant; accommodating; as, a yielding temper.

Yielding and paying Law, the initial words of that clause in leases in which the rent to be paid by the lessee is mentioned and reserved. Burrill.

Syn. — Obsequious; attentive. — Yielding, Obsequious, Attentive. In many cases a man may be attentive or yielding in a high degree without any sacrifice of his dignity; but he who is obsequious seeks to gain favor by excessive and mean compliances for some selfish end.

— Yield”ing*ly, adv. — Yield”ing*ness, n. is different:


1. inclined to give in; submissive; compliant:
a timid, yielding man.

2. tending to give way, especially under pressure; flexible; supple; pliable:
a yielding mattress.

3. (of a crop, soil, etc.) producing a yield; productive.

Crop yields are important! But is compliance or giving in, a feeling of yielding, something I am comfortable with? What about yielding to love or to grief or to joy?

Today’s poem:


I am yielding to my family
to no more contact

though I think they see me
as stubborn angry argumentative

they do not love me as I am
they want a different person

who acceeds and yields to their ideals
I am the villain who won’t yield

and yet I yield
I send them love

I send them joy and peace
one said if you make me choose

I won’t choose you
pressure, sorrow, grief

acceptance: I will miss them
I do not know if they

miss me


I took the photograph at the Women’s March in Port Townsend. When should we yield? When should we fight? When should we reach out for mutual understanding?




The letter X in Blogging from A to Z.

X for xerotic, which means x-rated erotic…

No, just kidding. Xerotic means very very dry skin or dry eyes and it’s a medical term. We do have xerosis as a medical term. As we get older our skin gets drier. One of my dermatologist friends says that we lose our bubble wrap: the layer of fat padding the skin thins until our hands bruise with normal daily activity.

Have you felt xerotic? This has been a long week in clinic and I am feeling tired and sad for some of my patients. My spring of ideas for healing is dry at the moment and I need to rest. I am going on a beach walk today. I need healing too, to be at an oasis, to be nurtured and cared for. Maybe xerotic is not used that way but it could be.

Two more letters and one more day.

I took the photograph on a hike at Joshua Tree in 2009.