*This is the third installment in a series (Begin HERE).
I was gifted the key to a puzzle I had been working on for a few years.
It came after listening to The Chalene Show, “How to manage Negative Influences | A New Twist on Toxic People”. In spite of the awe and mystery of it all, I now had my answer. This was the moment. I felt a clarity and peace that I wasn’t expecting.
I sat behind the wheel, cruising down 1-75 and crossed over the state line from Tennessee into Georgia. The mountains were now in my rear view mirror. That symbolism isn’t lost on me.
The next three hours flew by as my mind went into a simplistic version of a meditative trace.
I was on the other side of Atlanta cruising towards Macon when my phone rang. It was Becky. I instinctively answered it which is saying a lot for the current times we live in. We giggled like girls, already missing each other, each approaching the end of that days journey. Me to my layover in Macon and her arriving back home safe and sound.
I could tell that it was slightly serendipitous that she called. I asked her if I could unpack some things that were on my mind. I can still hear her resounding “YES” while obviously smiling on the other end of the phone.
I took a deep breath and began rambling about the new realizations I acquired after we hugged goodbye in the parking lot a few hours earlier.
I began by telling Becky about the conversation I had with Lena after we finished eating that morning. How I felt confused and uncertain about my takeaways from the weekend. Then I shared how Amy Latta had listened to a podcast, thought of me, and then provided a link to it which I discovered before pulling out of the parking lot.
I felt it was necessary at that point to began recapping the show.
Chalene began the episode by speaking about the word toxic and its oodles of definitions. Poisonous, deadly, dangerous, dramatic, wounded, manipulative, and controlling to name a few.
She told listeners about two friends of hers. She liked them both equally and considered them to be some of her nearest and dearest. The funny thing was those two friends couldn’t stand each other. Both said at separate times that the other was toxic. Concerned, she thought if in fact they were toxic, was she too naive to notice? Or was it possible for them to be toxic for each other, but not for her?
Chalene quickly switched gears. She spoke almost wistfully, recalling a poinsettia plant. She painted a clear picture of the beauty it spreads during the holidays, and the joy it helps add to the season. But, she said, that same plant can be fatal if ingested by your dog or cat. It’s poisonous for them; toxic.
Listening to it initially triggered a PTSD-esque response. An intrusive memory flashed into my minds eye. A brief moment via text messages, two years earlier.
It was a necessary part of the story and I needed to recount it to Becky.
“I wish you were normal, so I would find you boring”, I typed with confusion.
“I wish you were normal, so you would see I was toxic”, showed up in reply.
“Hahaha, ok Mr. Toxic,” I joked, trying to diffuse the tension.
“I don’t think I am toxic, I think I am toxic for you“, he replied almost immediately.
I shared with her how that memory has flashed into my mind countless times since going “no contact”. I couldn’t make sense of it. How can he honestly not see himself as toxic??? He knows who he is. He knows the disorders he has. He knows how much destruction is left in his wake. How can he say he is toxic juuuuuust for little old me?
These were the tapes that played in my head. Tapes that I couldn’t control. Intrusive thoughts, the PTSD gift that keeps on giving.
It was as if my subconscious knew it needed dealing with, but my conscious mind hadn’t quite figured out how. And now, I understood it. I finally had something presented to me that allowed my mind to make sense of and put that memory to rest.
I went back to describing the podcast.
Chalene went on, sharing an idea. A powerful idea. An idea that convicted me to my very core. She explained that to label someones entire being was judgmental and ultimately not our job. Additionally, she said that some of the behaviors that are classified as “toxic”, we may have all displayed at one time or another. So it is possible to be both at once, as she observed with her friends and the poinsettia. She capped off this idea by saying that if we define someone else as toxic, we are giving our power away, saying that their behavior has control over us.
[Tweet “Saying someone is toxic, is judgmental, unfair, and quite honestly unhealthy and untrue.”]
“It’s not that the whole person is toxic. Rather, their behavior is toxic or your relationship with the person is toxic”, said Jodie Gale, MA, a psychotherapist and life coach in Sydney, Australia. Read more here.
A human is more than their behavior. Behavior can absolutely be unhealthy, but we are complex. We are our hopes and dreams, our beliefs and values, our heartbreaks and success stories.
I paused. I could tell Becky was still listening, the background noise of the road and air conditioner was subtle but present in my ear.
The disappointment I had earlier in the day of not having a “specific” takeaway from one speaker at the conference was long gone.
There were little moments in a few keynotes that shot into my minds eye and spoke to me.
In and of themselves, I wasn’t able to see the connection between them at the time. But now, now I could. I rattled them off to Becky like an excited auctioneer.
Kelsey Humphreys, of the traveling talk show, The Pursuit, mentioned that after the inaugural Launch Out Conference, she felt compelled to makes some changes. She knew she needed to change her ways, to give up the unhealthy behaviors in her life, in order to succeed and move forward with the gifts God had given her.
Ronne Rock, spoke about our purpose, who we are and who we are created to be. She reminded us of a line in scripture that says “all things are worked together for good for those that are called according to His purpose”. At the end of the presentation, Ronne asked each of us to stand, hold up the penny we were given at the beginning of her talk and name it. Asking us what part of our life have we wasted, squandered, someone has damaged me, can’t let go, but now we believe this can be redeemed for something bigger (Three things came to mind: Heath, my sleep schedule, and relationship with food. They surprised me because these weren’t new to me at all. They are things I’ve worked on for a whiiiiiile and had hoped were resolved). Then we turned the pennies over and let them fall, giving up that burden.
Matt Lovell spoke to us about the black holes in our life. Asking us a profound question, what are the things sucking the light out of you?
Neighbors Table Founder, Sarah Harmeyer, reminded us that life is seasonal and nurturing is necessary to move forward. The cycle consists of pruning, growing, and blossoming.
Tammy Helfrich provided the reminder that it’s ok to take breaks, or pauses, for self care when we are living our purpose.
The founder of Dothan Ice Cream Company, and my ‘brother’, Brett Smith had one line from his keynote that hit me square between my heart and head. He said, “God isn’t going to supernaturally charge an incompetent, unpleasant, chaotic dreamer”.
And finally, Matt Ham, who continually Redefines RICH, rapped his way onto the stage and declared Truth is transformative and is revealed in you.
What I told Becky next, what I prattled on about for the next 15 minutes, involved humility and forgiveness, fear and hope, but most of all peace.
(Read the final installment HERE)