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?

I am sorry about the wings

I am sorry about the wings

During the massage today
my poor back aches so
where my wings should be

Guilt

If the Beloved gives me wings
I should fly

but I would rather be in the water
I feel so much safer here

and then I think
maybe I should stop
jumping off of cliffs…..

I should stop jumping off of cliffs….

I follow that thought
I should stay in the water
keep my tail and scales

I have come out so many times

lately only for you

you will not come in the water

you don’t want to hear me sing

you want me to be silent and listen

you want me to agree about the past

and collapse

I say here

here is the future

I can see it
and you don’t answer

you don’t listen
when I return to the sea

you call me
and you come to the edge of the sea
to call me
but you won’t come in

I have come out to you
on those painful legs
for which I sacrifice my voice

you would have scales and a tail
if you came to me
come to the future with me

we will meet at the edge of the sea
me in the sea
you on the beach
and talk

but this is goodbye
I won’t come out again

and I say to the Beloved
I am sorry about the wings
I will use the wings

my back was so sore
where the wings were

the wings are back

I still have my scales and tail

I rise to the surface of the sea
I spread my wings
scales, tail and wings

I begin

now I will fly

8/3/16

Another fog photograph from last Saturday. Why don’t we spell it phog?

Unconditional 2

I think the hardest thing in the world is to love unconditionally. And we can’t love unconditionally unless we love ourselves in that too. Including our faults, our mistakes, our dark corners, our anger and grief, pettiness, unkindness, stupidity, jealousy, greed lust… if we only love our “good” side then we will attack others when they show the same weakness and faults that we know, deep inside, that we are capable of or have acted on. If we cannot love someone who is a sinner, we cannot love anyone, because we are all guilty. Love people anyhow and wholly and yourself too.

I went through a period after my mother died, where I felt I’d entirely failed. My marriage was disintegrating, and I was looking at myself very carefully. How had I gotten here? What mistakes had I made? I felt unlovable and stupid.

I found a letter from my mother written to herself when my father asked me to clean out her clothes. It was two or three years after she died. Here is the letter, with a few things left out for the privacy of the living:

____________________

Sept 18, Friday
1987
Seattle

I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here in Seattle. With the mountains that lift my heart. And clear air and only good memories. What is there to go home to? Struggling with X and his alcohol. I don’t want to try to do something about it. I don’t think it will work if I do. I think will only go on as it is and trying to get help will only lead to fight. I don’t think I have the strength, the courage or the wisdom to help myself or him.

What else am I going to? A house that needs a great deal of work that I only moderately like. A climate I loath. A landscape I find boring. I’m tired of living in a crowded suburb. And that house needs so much work.

People. What people do I go home to? Nearly all have problems. Y, wounded bird, so foolishly enamored of Z or thinks he is. And I have little sympathy or patience with it. And his propensity to failure which I’m tired of also.

A who I dearly love but her household is such chaos with those ill-behaved children and one crisis after another.

B who I like very much but really have so little in common with. I fear all that spiritual stuff may eventually bore me. Maybe not.

C. Another wounded bird, really. And not dependable.

D, barely around, anymore.

Mother, older and frailer. Who needs my care and patience.

E. There is one person to go home to. Thank God she’s there. Not wounded anymore. But so busy and it isn’t fair or wise to dump my troubles on her.

Who else? Why don’t I know any successful (in the best sense) sane people. People who are intellectuals, interested in ideas. F is. But not a fully successful human being and not when G is with him. Ugh. Besides he lives far away and he and X don’t like each other.

I don’t really want to have that show at H’s Church. I don’t like H very well. Oh dear.

I maybe have a job which if I get will be very hard work and if I don’t will be a great disappointment.

Winter’s coming and things cost more and we don’t have quite enough to live on. So that means digging into my inheritance.

I am sick of D.C. I am sick of being a struggling, unsuccessful artist. I am sick of worrying about X, about his moods, his acting the fool when half drunk and acting cruel and crazy when fully drunk. I’m sick of being afraid, of his depression, of his refusal to talk to me about anything of importance.

Of doing dishing. Of all the mess in our house. The mess on my desk, the mud room, the kitchen, the study, the basement. The dirty paint. The back yard. Oh God! How can I change things? Well there are a lot of bad things.

Oh, & I’m sick of being anxious, 10 lbs overweight, biting my nails, having bad teeth/gums. Life get tedjous, don’t it?

Any good stuff?

____________________________

For me, this letter was the key to finding myself lovable. My mother wrote to herself because she felt that she could not share these feelings with anyone. Terrible feelings. And I thought about it for a long time: I thought: my mother was charming, loved and an entertainer. But a child knows the parents’ hidden feelings. So I knew about my mother’s darkness and the letter confirmed it. And I thought, my mother didn’t need to hide that because I knew about it and I loved her anyhow. I love her more knowing that she was human too.

And if she is lovable whole, so am I. So are you. We all are. And we all make mistakes and are guilty of anger (sometimes appropriate but sometimes not!) jealousy, greed, lust, sloth and pride. Love people anyway and wholly and yourself too.

 

I have a view of Puget Sound if I stand in the road in front of my house. I took this with a zoom lens on solstice morning at sunrise.