My Toxic Friendship

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On Wednesday, July 29th, I was hit a devastating blow that really made me reexamine how I want to live my life.

On Wednesday, July 29th, I got Facebook message from one of my close classmates telling me that our beloved Randy was murdered.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 was the beginning of many discoveries for me.

I met Randall in 5th grade. I remember we started talking and ever since, we were friends. After we graduated high school, we lost touch with one another. I was extremely focused on reinventing myself. When I attended college, I did just that. Yet, I left behind a lot of my classmates because I did not think that they cared about me. The way that they treated me in high school…I wanted to forget about it. I was starting all over again by attending college. When I attended Middle Georgia College, I finally felt like I belonged.

When I attended Georgia College & State University, one of my Middle Georgia College acquaintances actually sent me an invitation to Facebook. Facebook, in those days, was an social media network only for college students. Several years later, Mark Zuckerberg made Facebook accessible by inviting anyone from the public to join it. Randall was able to find me on there, and one of his first messages to me was that he missed me.

I never realized how much Randall admired and respected me until I had a phone conversation with him several months ago before he was murdered. When he told me that he noticed me…that I worked so hard…that I came from a poor family and worked so hard to make a life for myself, I was breathless. I realized that I was the wallflower nerd. I was the black female nerd in the background where I did not feel like I belonged. All I wanted was for all my classmates to treat me with respect. However, from my point of view, I did not receive that respect.

Yet, Randall made me realized that he looked up to me all along. However, I was a very depressed teenager that I did not see how much he admired me. When you are young, you truly don’t know much. Even though I was in the back of the classroom writing, he noticed it. He noticed it all when I did not think no one was watching.

To be honest, life is a little more challenging now since he is not physically here anymore. But the days after July 29th, those days were rough. His death affected me so much. I remember keeping the light on while I drifted off to sleep because I did not want to feel alone. I remember the great anxiety blooming from my chest. I remember walking around with only telling certain people what transpired. People that I trusted. Looking back at that time, which has not been long, I kept it together for everyone like I usually do. However, when I got home, anxiety washed over me. One minute, I would be fine, going on with my life. The next minute, panic seized me.

Randall’s death made me question so many things. It made me question my own morality. It made me realize that time is fleeting, a fast flurry of moments. Most of all, it made me ask why would someone do something so cruel…to take away someone with such bright light.

Looking back at that time, it was slow motion. The first week, I was religiously checking Randall’s Facebook page…looking at all the goodbyes. There were so many of us in such pain. Seeing how many people’s lives he touched…seeing how he was such a good boy. He was a great son, great brother, a great uncle, and a great friend.

As each week went by, my anxiety grew worse. I decided to take action right away. Randall’s death made me realize that I do not handle people’s deaths well. It also forced me to start examining my life and what kind of decisions that I wanted to make concerning my life going forward.

On Wednesday, August 5th, I decided to take a leave of absence from social media. I realized that I was not handling my close friend’s death well. I needed to shut off the noise, and by doing that, I needed to get away from it.

Several people I knew appeared not to take this well. What happened after I posted the message will stay with me for a long while.

This friend, who I’ve been friends with since college, decided to Facebook message me. She did not say hello. She did not say how I was doing. She messaged me with “You have to let people in, Sophia.”

I begin to explain to her over Facebook messenger my reasons for taking off. However, the conversation took a very negative turn.

After I explain my reasoning, she continued to come after me with how I shut her out—how our friendship was on the rocks. I told her several times the conversation she wanted to have was inappropriate. The pinnacle of the conversation turned dark when she told me that it was not inappropriate that she talk about her feelings…it was very much appropriate.

I got so upset, so angry…that my adrenaline went through the roof…and I had to leave the space I was in to calm down. At the end of the conversation, which I ended, I wrote to her that what she did was inappropriate, and all I wanted was time to heal, but she took it to another level. I also told her that she made my grief about her.

In the days after, which such clarity after I shut out a lot of the noise, it took my breath away… It dawned what kind of relationship this friend and I had. We had a fourteen year toxic friendship.

This fourteen year toxic friendship came to a head. And I almost paid a hefty price for it.

This person is not a bad, cruel, or evil person. She is actually a very smart individual. She is a diligent worker. She is great financial saver. She loved her mother greatly. When I write about her, I do not want anyone thinking that she is a horrible person. She has issues like you and me. We all have skeletons in our closet. I still do, and I have learned to pull them out so I can make choices to live a better existence. Yet, as I dealt with Randall’s death, I discovered that our friendship ended up not being a good friendship.

Toxic means dangerous. It means hazardous.

I admit my part in it. I enabled this friend by listening to her about her toxic friendship/relationship with a man that she was in loved with. A man who pretty much choose to marry another woman several years ago. The ongoing drama between them has lasted as long as the friendship that she and I was in.

Looking back on it, I did try to establish some boundaries concerning this individual. I told her let’s not talk about him. I didn’t want to talk about him because it caused me great distressed. Looking back over our fourteen year old friendship, all we discussed is her men problems. We discussed those at link more than any type of discussion we ever had. Over time, I had to distance myself from her in order to continue to be her friend. I started realizing that spending so much time trying to make her see what she was doing was not in her best interest. What I started to see was that I enabled the drama by not putting up distinctive boundaries for myself. So, I decided to distance myself a little from her, so I could breathe.

As for her accusing me of not letting her in (which comes from the August 5th Facebook messenger conversation)? I did not feel like she really was interested in my life. She accused me of being very private when we tried to discuss an author I was reading who wrote about why women were not married. I was talking about how the book helped me a lot, but she felt so uneasy about discussing this author’s point of view, the conversation turned from the author’s work towards me. She said that when I attended graduate school…that she felt like she was not good enough to be my friend. When she dumped all her feelings on me, it hurt me because I had made significant changes to make sure that she did not feel that way. That she felt securer.

Looking back on it, I compromised and tried to become a more of an empathetic and a sympathetic friend. I knew she was going through a lot. Her mother passed away. I made sure to watch what I said and to be extra sensitive to her.

As I reflect, I did a lot right. I comforted her and listened to her when she told me about how kind the married friend was. He, too, returned in her life. What I see now is…the situation never really changing.

What I see now is…it appeared that he was the more important one than me. I feel like he still is. She continued to put him above any of her friends. Even when he was abusive towards her, she continued to put him above any of us. Even when he was being nice to her, I saw the writing on the wall and told her louder and clearer that him helping her…it was to benefit him. What was different then, after her mom passed away, I was a lot more sensitive about it. I choose my words better. I watched what I said—not to coddle her. I did it so I would not hurt her. So, I would not be insensitive to her.

What is sad is that what she did to me….he did to her. He has been cruel to her as such. He came at her about several choices she made concerning him…those situations were not even bad. It is really unfortunate that the more I am seeing this…in many ways, she behaved towards me with the coming at me verbally like he did at her. In a way, her verbal communications were abusive. Because of the state of mind I was in—not being myself because of Randall’s death—she provoked me, and I responded.

Whether or not it was intentional, what she did to me was quite cruel. She knew that I had lost a friend. She knew Randall was murdered. And still, she could not stop herself for making that entire day about her. She made Wednesday, August 5th about her. I had to deal with my close friend’s murdered and the best way I knew how was to get away from as many distractions as I could so I could feel my pain. So, I could become in tune with it and learn how to better deal with it.

When she made that day about her, not only did I have to deal with Randall’s death, but I had to deal with her insecurities. When I told her that she made it about her, what I really meant was as well…

This was about me. Leaving…was about me. I used Facebook as the same tool as I use with everyone. I left that message for everyone on Facebook because all those people who are on Facebook…all of them are actually really my friends or people I care about.

She singled herself out and asked me why I did not contact her. I did not contact any other friends on text/phone to tell them that I was leaving. I also suspect that she projected qualities on to me as she did with the married friend that she had been friends with for the same amount of time that she had been friends with me. I know that there is one instance where she accused me of being like the married friend because I am a private person. Just because I am private about certain matters with certain people, it is hardly a comparison to someone who is self-involved, self-centered, and selfish.

And this is why our friendship was toxic. It was toxic because it has always been one sided. I realized that I spend so many years taking care of others. And the one person who does not get taken care of is me. I do not take care of me.

Leaving social media for a while was about taking care of my feelings. It was about sorting through how I want to live my life. I suspect that Randall did not live his life behind a computer…he was actually living his life. His death made me realize I want to live more of my life. I want to live over a 100 years old. I want to become an influential writer. The only way I can do that is to look at life for what it is. To see what it is…because I am the only one who has the power to change my life by the decisions I make. I am the one who is in control in empowering my life.

This weekend, as I went through my Facebook posts because I am saving them, I looked at all of his posts and his likes…and I looked at my fourteen year old friend’s posts and likes, too.

It is sad. It is sad that she could not give me the respect and space I needed to cope with Randall’s death.

It also made me realize that she truly does not know me…and that’s why what she did was disrespectful. If you know someone and how decent that they are, you would not hurt them that way.

What I have learned from this? I have learned that there are some people in my life that I let take advantage of me. I let them take advantage of me by not setting any firm boundaries. Now, I realized that we both need to time to ourselves. There is a lot about myself I need to work on. There is a lot about herself that she needs to work on. I don’t know if we can ever be friends again. What I do know is that I hope that she realizes that it is okay to get help and work on her issues. Trust me, I am getting the help I need now by using the tools that I am learning. People say life is short. I say that life is a precious gift, and now, I believe to truly live it, you have to do all you can not only to survive it but to adapt and appreciate it. Most of all, you have to realize that a higher power has gifted us this life. I am very grateful for it.

Cheers,

S

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Ungrateful Children

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I just read an article about a mom whose son disrespected her by questioning her trade as a writer (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcia-kester-doyle-/rude-children-_b_5589057.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000039). He made jabs at her such as her not contributing to the household—asking her when she was going to get a real job. The mother delve into the younger generations being spoiled. That these youngsters were impatient to what they wanted because a part of it was that we live in a social media driven society now where it aids young people to have an entitlement attitude.

I do not have children, but I have always worked around young people. More than now, I really think about…how much spoiled are younger children than when I was a child? How much more ungrateful they are? I always wonder if my measurements are too harsh because of how I grew up.

I grew up in a welfare black family where the odds were tenth fold against me. When I look at my entire family dynamic, I see a lot of my family members make choices that have continued to keep up the impoverished cycle within my family.

My mom finished high school, but like a lot of black women of her generation, she did not attend college. Growing up, my mom always said that she was not smart enough to advance in school. As a youngster, I thought that was quite contradictory because her actions showed otherwise. She could have been an English professor, an archival specialist, or an archeologist. My mom is a quite talented researcher. However, she thought that what she was doing was not something you could make money off of. What she also thought that you could not get formal education with those talents. Due to having others in my family and outside of my family tell her that she was “dumb” and “weird” took a hit on her self-esteem. And the way my grandmother treated her—having her and my Aunt Di do all the household chores while the other children did not do much but get cared for by my mother and Aunt Di…or get into a lot of trouble, definitely took a hit on my mother’s self-esteem.

Yet, at age four or five, I knew I wanted more than my mother wanted. I looked around my entire environment, and I never felt like I belonged. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like…I wasn’t quite born into the right family? Now, I know I was born into the family I was meant to be in because I know more about my family history. I also am grateful that I was born into those circumstances. Yes, growing up in my family was worth it. Being in my family helped me become the person that I am right now.

There were many times when I was a teenager that I cried and cried…and begged God for mercy. Beg him to get me out of the hole because that’s what it felt like. When you are that destitute and when you are living in the beginnings of a culture where commercialism and consumerism are on the verge of blowing up bigger than any of your wildest dream, it almost swallow many of us growing up whole. Now, it much worse than it was when I was growing up. Yes, not just young folks, but a lot of folks I’ve met act quite entitled.

What I am saying is that I did not have a chance to be ungrateful. There wasn’t much time to become ungrateful brat. The more knowledge I gain when I grew up going through school, the harder I worked to become different than my family. Yet, now, I smile because I was always different. I accept it now.

When I look at young people today complain, I look at their complaining with such disdain. I think…what you lack is emotional empathy. You are complaining to all your friends about not getting the latest phone or your mom and dad are losers because they don’t make enough money. I am here to tell you kids that real struggle and suffering…you have not had to go through it because your parents did. For that, they thought about you, the future, and how they would keep you from suffering from it. I hope when you become maturer, you will realize why they gave you the very best so you would not have to go through the very worse.

I remember a time where I thought my mom was putting us through the fire as well. That she could have become a better parent. In that way, I was an ingrate even though I came from a welfare family! Well, I have discovered now that it is complicated. I understand why mom behaved the way she did. She did not have friends who really got her or understood her. She did not think that she was liked well, and we lived in a small town where everyone knew your business. Well, not only that, all these folks my mom was around, she grew up with them as well. I can see why she did not utilize her potential. It was because she was in the same environment all her life and could not believe she could exist outside of that environment. But as her oldest daughter, I could see myself outside of that environment. Despite all the verbal showdowns we would have and despite all the teenage angst animosity I had, I still wanted my mom to feel like she was deserving of the type of life that I wanted to live. A life of success. Not having to worry scraping. Having enough money not to worry about scraping. Having a partner that was loyal to me. Having a successful professional career.

But now, as I am moving on into my late thirties, I know better. I know why. What she wanted for herself is not the same for what I wanted for myself. Each individual makes choices that determine their own fate. Several years ago, I learned to forgive my mother for her trespasses against me because I finally understood why she did what she did…because I realized, I too, had the choice to make the same decisions she made. That’s what makes us alike. I took the road that she decided not travel on. It does not make her less, or it does not make me better. It just makes us different….and it also shows that even though we made different choices, I still had to go through hardships and struggles, but I recognize that I had it a bit better than her. And for that, I am grateful.

It is easy for younger children to treat their parent, parents, or guardians with disrespect because the majority of younger people are shallow. I was shallow in ways growing up even though I had to grow up fast in my family. Now, as become an older adult, I realize that my mom did sacrifice a lot even though she struggled to believe in herself. Of course, when you are a kid, you don’t realize that parents are still going through their own battles and struggles that are remnant from familial issues that they were exposed to growing up. I know. I was a kid who thought my mother was not good enough to be my mom because she always ragged on me about being like my “no good father” when I would not support some of her not so good choices she would make. Yet, I have also realized as I have gotten older that my father hurt my mother something terrible. And my grandmother hurt my mom something terrible. To sum it up, there are a lot of people who my mom expected to be loyal to her…who hurt her. That’s a hard thing to carry. It is hard to carry all the pain of people who you love and who are supposed to love you.

So, the kid who disrespected his mom in the Huffpost article. Son, you have to realize, like your mom pointed out, that she has taken great care of you. She gave up her writing career just so you could have a CHANCE at growing into an adaptable adult. Your mom is not perfect, but you will thank her one day for all she has done for you. I know my mom wasn’t perfect when I was growing up, but if it was not for her, I would not be here. She didn’t do a lot of things right, but she did a lot of things right. She taught me how to survive in this world. She taught me about class and self-respect. Things I rather have than all the money and material belongings in the world. I just hope that you thank you mom and look back as you being an ungrateful kid as a stage in your life–that, indeed, it was growing pains.

Cheers,
S