Day 3: She Used to Be Mine – Sara Bareilles

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Broadway.com

Serendipity is when you find yourself in the right place at exactly the right time. It’s also an incredibly cheesy movie starring John Cusack (worth the watch, though, if you’re alone on a Friday night with pizza and a bottle of wine.)

Allow me to be equally cheesy and say that “song”-endipity is finding a song that encapsulates exactly how you feel at exactly that time. It doesn’t happen often. Oftentimes I force meaning onto a song and make it mine. But sometimes, in those rare beautiful moments, a song comes to you, catches you off guard, and surrenders itself to your soul.

I could pinpoint a few times where that’s happened to me. End of May by Michael Buble came across my earbuds when I’d had my first heartbreak at sixteen. And it was the end of May. The words “Times like these you feel like you are done with feeling, you feel you wanna stop the pain from healing, because you feel like you’re the only one who’s ever felt this way” hit my angsty teenage soul like an atomic bomb. I could talk about that song, but that would just be a lot of sixteen-year-old Audrey crying all summer long over a boy who never noticed her. And who hasn’t gone through that?

Let’s look at this serendipitous song instead:

Day Three: She Used to Be Mine – Sara Bareilles

I listened to this piano ballad for the first time my sophomore year of college, when I was trying to figure out who I was. Sophomore year wasn’t the easiest – the sophomore slump is a real thing, and my depression was hitting me hard. I felt ill-at-ease about everything – my choice of major, my friendships and relationships, everything. On top of that, my grandfather died that winter, about eight months after my other grandfather had passed. Death makes me think about legacy – who am I going to be when I’m older? What choices am I making today that will define me tomorrow?

Sara Bareilles, whose power ballads and crooning vocals have inspired women and men for a little over a decade, wrote the musical Waitress in 2014 based on the 2007 film of the same name. The show made its Broadway debut in 2016 and is going nowhere but up, thanks to Bareilles’ mixture of soulful ballads and poppy tunes. It tells the story of a young waitress, Jenna, at a pie shop. She’s married to a horribly abusive man and is pregnant with his child. (Don’t worry, the ending is a happy one, but I won’t spoil it.)

Jenna’s ballad comes when her life has all but fallen apart and her husband has left her. She sings about her life thus far – her mundane job, her unhappy relationship, and now her baby who’s about to be born. The song’s deeper meaning is that she’s lost herself – to a career, a relationship, and her circumstances.

It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person, and makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest I know, I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two 
For the girl that I knew
Who’ll be reckless just enough
Who’d get hurt, but who learns how to tough it out
When she’s bruised, and gets used 
By a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck
And be scared of the life that’s inside her
Growing stronger each day
Til it finally reminds her 
To fight just a little, to bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone, but used to be mine

“The life that’s inside her” refers to the baby that she’s carrying – which is honestly something she didn’t ask for, at least not with the husband she has. The life could also be something she’s suppressed for a long time – she’s spent so much time giving herself to others that she forgot to look out for herself. Now she’s all used up.

There’s life inside each of us that we sometimes suppress. I remember a time when I gave up a lot of myself for someone. I came really close to losing sight of who I was completely. This song came to me during that time – a time when I was trying to define myself, after a long time of being used and drained. What was I going to let myself be defined by? My loneliness? My neediness? My desire to fit in? Or could I find my inner strength again and let that define me?

The chorus that Jenna sings hit me the hardest. She sings fondly of herself, as though she’s proud of both her vices and virtues. She describes the dichotomy within her that’s relatable for anyone:

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine

If this song was sung by a man, you might think he’s singing about a girl he’s lost – a girl that used to be his. Instead, that typical breakup song is turned on its head, and we’re listening to a young woman who’s lost herself in spite of herself. Jenna is mourning the fact that she’s gone, and only has herself to blame.

Going back to Audrey during her dreary sophomore year of college, I’m glad she didn’t lose herself completely, even though she got pretty darn close. I’m glad that she grew, and she rose up and away from that darkness. She’s still pretty messy now, but she’s kind.

And she’s still mine.

 

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Day 2: Broke – Bear Attack!

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Bandcamp

Summer drives are one of my favorite reasons to be alive. (There are many.) Last year, I drove across town every night for rehearsal for a show I was in. Every night, I’d come around the S-curve through downtown Grand Rapids and come face-to-face with the beauty of our little midwestern city, specifically the huge, reflective Bridgewater place, which sits right on the Grand River. Every night, whether I drove through rain or muggy air or had my windows down, that view would take my breath away.

Last summer for me is highlighted by a lot of ups and downs. I was dating, trying to date, and wanting to fall in love. I was essentially broke, working an unpaid internship, taking a summer class, and working an ill-paying part time job. Those drives through the city were a good way to exhale at the end of the day. I’d listen to a lot of songs that focused on heartbreak and loss (because, brooding) but a few happier tunes snuck their way into my playlists as well. Case in point:

Day Two: Broke by Bear Attack!

I didn’t add that exclamation point for emphasis. That’s part of their band name (think Panic! At the Disco.) Broke is a jaunty tune set to a chugging drum beat and light, breathy vocals. Bear Attack! is a 5-piece rock band based out of California. Their sound evokes everything from The Beach Boys to Fall Out Boy. With their far-reaching influences, you can imagine how universal their sound could be. And it is. When I’m listening to this song in the car with friends, I’ve noticed some of them instinctually start humming along. It’s an easy, catchy tune that could almost be bubblegum pop, if not for its nuance.

While the song highlights the attempts of a young man to win over a girl, its sung by both male and female vocalists. It’s almost like the woman is mocking his attempts with her light voice behind his.

This song makes me think of twilight summer skies and white dashes in the road. It’s hard not to think about – the tune is breezy and the lyrics are fairly simple:

Give me a little time and
take all my money, take all my money
you’ll come around and some day
I’ll be the one you love

While it’s simple, it’s also relatable. We can spend a lot of time waiting for someone to notice us, especially when we’re young. This young man is even claiming he’d let the girl “buy” his love (guess he didn’t listen to the Beatles that much.) He’s not taking no for an answer (consent is sexy, people) and eventually invites her to come to a party with him. She agrees but doesn’t seem to interested. We understand his level of affection in a small bridge that accelerates the song to the end:

And the way you smell like flowers
I could have stared for hours
Three dozen roses sitting in the backseat
couldn’t compare to you

Cute, right? Yesterday our song focused on an infatuation that went wrong. This guy is probably in for the same amount of heartbreak. But for the moment, he’s enjoying a joyride with a pretty girl. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Small moments in life are what keep us living. I’d come around that S-curve at twilight and drive through the city listening to this song, full of hope that someday I’d feel that way. Someday I’d have those moments. But for that moment, I had a beautiful view, and a good song. Even though I was broke, life was pretty good.

Something New, and Day 1: White Night – Hayden Calnin

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Soundcloud

I’ll never write an autobiography. It’s too much work to write about myself. (But Audrey, you have a blog. Yeah yeah. Whatever.) It seems like in order to write an autobiography you have to have an impeccable memory of exactly how things have happened to you and exactly when they happened. I can barely remember what I wore to work last week.

I can’t always remember exact events in my life and how they played out, but I can usually remember how they made me feel. I remember excitement on my first day of school – the smell of the hot pebbles on the early September playground, my kindergarten teacher’s motherly voice, having my very own desk. I remember sadness when my third grade best friend moved away – laying in my mom’s lap crying, the taste of tears on my lips. I remember embarassment when I left a college after staying there a week – that nausea in the pit of my stomach, the heat of August in southern Michigan. Those feelings are still with me, even if the exact details are blurry.

Oftentimes, those feelings and times of my life are attached to songs. Music that’s important to me (and most people) is important because it evokes a feeling. You attach it to something important that’s happened to you. I played with Legos with my brother when I was six while we listened to the Star Wars scores. Those soundtracks bring me right back to our metropolis of Legos that we built on the stairs up to our parents’ bedroom (they didn’t love that.) I played Ben Rector’s music on my first drive by myself with a shiny new license. I attach songs to people, places, and things – who doesn’t? That’s the power of music.

So instead of an autobiography, I have music. It can tell a much richer story than I can through words. It can explain how I feel before I even have to say a word. For the next 30 days, I’m going to be “reading” you different bits of this autobiography, as it were. If you dare venture onto my Spotify playlist, I’ve compiled a huge tome of music that has meant something to me over the years. I’ve whittled it down to the 30 juiciest bits (sorry, shouldn’t have phrased it like that) that hold the most weight to me.

And this is day one. Gather round, children, it’s storytime.

DAY ONE: White Night – Hayden Calnin (Thrupence Remix)
This song contains language.

I normally don’t like remixes. In most instances, they’re obnoxious and contrived. Maybe it’s because I heard Thrupence’s remix before I heard Calnin’s original, but I prefer Thrupence’s subtlety over Calnin’s heavy handed synth bed. Listening to Calnin’s original, you might feel like you’ve landed yourself in an 80s movie. Thrupence’s simple bed of exposed keys lends itself much better to Calnin’s husky vocals. Listening to this version, you can hear how truly raw the lyrics are:

Yeah I’m comin’ out of my cave to find truth
Yeah I’m summin’ up my time in my young youth
And I’m pickin’ up the pace of the thrill
Listening to the emptiness I feel, I feel 

Hayden Calnin and Thrupence (whose real name is Jack Vanzet) both hail from Australia. They’re up and coming electronic artists who are already making waves, at least in their homeland. Thrupence’s symphonic take on Calnin’s truly heart-wrenching piece is evocative of a sumptuous dance – a push and pull, swelling and receding. (Watch this beautiful music video of someone setting this remix to dance.) Calnin croons about his strong feelings toward the one he loved turning into hatred. In the second verse, his protagonist starts to disconnect – he takes to drinking and drugs to ease his pain, and he’s “taking girls home that I think are pretty – I’m no good at being alone.” It’s hard to determine exactly what happened – did she cheat? Did he detach? Was there a fight? You can feel the “falling” sensation in the chorus:

Then we fall to the deep
I’ve lost all my grip on you
We’ve been wrong all along
You know gravity pulls us in
To crawl while we’re weak, a sh*t place to be
And love was all that we’ve known
But the truth it holds us in

In the final chorus, the last line changes, and we know how he feels – she messed up. (He puts it a bit more strongly than that.) He feels wounded by how it ended, so his intensity toward her has turned into animosity.

Both myself and a friend of mine went through pretty rough breakups at the beginning of this year. We both know how quickly love (or rather, infatuation) can turn into dislike or even hatred. This song played on Spotify radio right while I was in the thick of working through everything that happened. Oftentimes, it’s easier to blame the other person for letting a romantic relationship end. Calnin expresses this – he made the decision to leave, and now he “can’t help but” hate his ex-lover. It perfectly encapsulates all of the feelings someone feels right after a breakup. The heartbreak, followed by detachment, followed by hatred. And finally (hopefully) acceptance of what’s happened.

“White night” is a term for a night that never gets properly dark, hence, a sleepless or fitful night. I’d need all my fingers and toes to count how many sleepless nights I’ve had over a rocky relationship. We’ve all been there. It can feel like a dizzying downward spiral. It could also be a play on “white knight,” which is the chivalrous hero who comes to a woman’s aid. Did Calnin believe that he was his lover’s savior? Was he trying to live into some unseen ideal?

But a white night is a night that doesn’t get completely dark. The sun lingers just below the horizon, waiting to spring up and greet the day. So maybe after all that, there is hope after all.

three men.

romance, love, breakup

You have loved three men, my dear.

The first was everything you thought you dreamed of. You met him unexpectedly, and when you saw him for the first time your heart fluttered. You knew he was going to be special – but you didn’t think he’d be special for the wrong reasons.

You saw him across the room and thought and hoped and prayed that maybe he was the one. And it seemed right. For awhile.

When you think of him, you think of late night drives. You think of scary movies and takeout. You think of the skin between his neck and shoulder that you loved to kiss.

You think about those things so you don’t think about the tears. The tears you shed when he didn’t respond. When he said it wasn’t going to work. When he said he missed you. When you found out about her. And finally, when he left. For good.

And when he left, he left you bleeding, didn’t he? He made you forget how to trust. You blame yourself most days for hanging on. But how could you let go? He used you, my dear. He used you for your soft heart, your gentleness, your goodness. He never meant to stay. The first man you loved saw your beauty and made you bleed.

The second was too good to be true. He was gentle and gave you bouquets of promises that you believed he intended to keep. You showed him your wounds. If you were honest, you wanted him to heal them. And he did. But his stitches were clumsy and the bandages fell off. He promised balm, but sometimes he’d rub salt into them instead.

When you think of him, you think of letters and flowers and everything romance should be. You think of long kisses in the hallway. You think of whispered promises and the glow of the dashboard reflecting in his eyes.

You think about those things so you don’t think about the guilt. You don’t think about the questions, the doubt. The inevitable end. You wanted him to heal you, but he saw your wounds and was horrified. So he left.

Don’t blame him, dear. He just doesn’t know how to love something that’s imperfect. He was afraid of your wounds. He wanted a doll, unblemished, unscarred. He was never going to love you enough.

And for awhile, you didn’t think anyone would. Or could. How could someone love you if you didn’t love yourself? You cried, not because of him, because of yourself. You thought of knives, of what life might be like without you. But in the midst of that, you healed. Your gaping wounds became soft, pink scars, mere ripples on your skin. You were no doll, but you were no monster, either.

Darling, I encourage you to love the third man.

The third man isn’t there because you need him. Your wounds have healed. It’s because you saw him and it made sense. He has scars to show you too. He sees yours and isn’t afraid of where you’ve been. He wants to hold your hand and walk with you to where you’re meant to be.

When you think of him, you aren’t worried. You’re not anxious about the future, but you’re thankful for every day you have with him. The third man will hold you when you cry. He’ll listen when you’re angry. He might be unexpected. He might be flawed. But he’ll be yours. He will see where you’ve been without him. He won’t promise life will be perfect, but it will be better.

The first man wounded you and left.

The second man saw your wounds and walked away.

The third man will see your scars and stay.

a. w.

The 4 Steps to Healthier Anger

dealing with anger, anger, rage, bitterness, healthy anger

Everyone has been “mad” before. There are different levels of what being or feeling mad is like. There’s what I like to call “slightly pissy,” which often happens when you’re stuck in traffic. “Highly irritated” is when you’ve been on hold with that dang company for thirty minutes. Downright mad is when you find out someone at the office has been spreading a rumor about you. And full-on, full-blown rage is when you – not your coworker – are fired for that rumor.

There’s justification in most anger. Sure, we could all get over our annoyance at slow drivers on the freeway. But when something happens that our gut tells us is just plain wrong, that anger comes from a place of justice, of a need to change it. Anger is a human being’s reaction to something that adversely affects them. 

However, anger isn’t totally arbitrary. You could see it as a chemical reaction, where you can’t control what will happen when you mix two substances together. But I see it more as a tool. You can choose how to manifest and use it. Oftentimes (regrettably,) my anger manifests itself on the highway as a middle finger. Or a loud, prolonged honk. Anger can quickly become bitter and untamed, causing you to do and say some damaging things.

Several things have happened to me this year that have flown me straight past anger and right into rage. This past winter, a close friend of mine hurt my best friend badly. I saw how it affected her and the term “white with rage” wasn’t enough to describe how angry I was. I lashed out hardcore at that hurtful friend, enough to get me blocked on social media. I regret the things I said to this day and wish I could have thought a bit more before I let my anger get the best of me.

Anger oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with sadness, disappointment, or guilt (all emotions that adversely affect you.) Anger can face inward or outward – it’s probably safe to say that everyone’s experienced both.

It’s not wrong to react angrily to injustice, pain, or unfairness. That’s the kind of anger I’m talking about here – that “pit of your stomach” anger, not just the fleeting annoyance of your fellow drivers, or sigh-inducing hold music on the other end of the phone line. But that real, raw feeling when you know it’s not just going to “pass.” The problem arises when we wield our tool the wrong way. There are two extremes that most people turn to when they’re angry: 

Bottle it up. You might be the kind of person who doesn’t express anger. You just stew in it for awhile until it goes into hiding. But if someone pokes the bear, the claws come out in a nasty way.

Take it out on someone or something. Maybe all of your anger comes out unbridled and untamed – all at once, on whomever happens to be around to bear the brunt of it.

Obviously, neither of these are good ways to work through your anger. But unfortunately, most of us revert to one of these two extremes when we’re angry. So what’s the solution? Is there a sweet spot between the two extremes? How do you communicate and work through your anger healthfully?

It’s sort of like exercise. Doctors don’t recommend that you stay glued to your couch with your eyes on the TV all day. But they also don’t often recommend working out seven days a week every waking hour. They recommend balance between work and rest to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In the same way, we can balance between shutting off and spouting off when we’re angry.

I’ve come up with four steps to release your anger without hurting yourself or others. There are lots of anger management methods out there, but here’s what I came up with after a bit of thought and research.

1. Calm. Think of the last time something made you really angry. Your initial reaction was probably something like clenched teeth or a spike in your blood pressure. You may have been tense and snippy for the rest of that day. The next time something makes you mad, let your gut react. A lot of times we can’t control the physiological, knee-jerk reactions of our body. But once your body has reacted, take three deep breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth, all that.) This will naturally calm the physical effects of your anger. If you’re able to, separate yourself from the person or situation that made you angry. Stay off social media, don’t check your email – do whatever you have to do to make sure you don’t come in contact with the conduit. Do something that makes you feel calm. That might be hard to do in a workplace surrounded by stressors, but even something like squeezing a stress ball or taking a walk on your lunch break can free your mind from whatever is making you angry.

Conversation. Once you’ve cooled your jets, talk to someone about how you feel. You don’t even have to go to a full-blown therapist. Talk to a parent, spouse, roommate – someone who is willing to listen. And I’d encourage you not to merely “vent.” Ask for advice. Ask them what they do when they feel the way you do. And really listen when they respond. Make it a conversation instead of just a therapy session. A lot of times, conversations like these can help you see the situation from a different point of view.

Compassion. When I’m navigating anger, I go back to the wise words of our good friend Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. “You can never understand someone until you consider things from his point of view.” If you’re angry at someone, it might be pertinent to examine why you’re angry (unmet expectations, an insult to your character, etc.) and also why the person acted the way they did. Most people are looking out for their own interests, and that’s usually a good thing to keep in mind. Understanding that can turn your anger into your power to negotiate.
The next time you’re angry at someone and have to talk to them about it, first express how they made you feel. It’s okay to be up front about that. “When you said/did this, it made me feel [blank].” Follow up with your perception of the issue. “I understand that you might see it differently, and I want to talk about it.” This kind of conversation avoids cheap shots and arguments that get nasty fast. Do this after you’ve had time to calm down and think about it. Reacting with your knee-jerk reactions is never a good idea.
Note: Have this conversation with the person you’re upset with, not with anyone else. Gossiping is not a healthy way to express anger! 

Comprimise. When you’re angry, there are two ways to comprimise, depending on who/what you’re angry with. Both of them involve resolving the situation so you can go on with your life feeling good about that situation. You can comprimise:
With the other person. Comprimise is the best part of every conflict. Find a middle ground instead of one or the other (the whole two extremes thing) and resolve the issue. Shake hands and be friends/coworkers/aquaintances again.
With yourself. Sometimes you’re not able to confront the person or even the situation you’re involved with. It may be that the person simply doesn’t want to talk, or it’s a project/issue at work that you simply don’t have the power to address directly. Decide for yourself that you won’t go to the two extremes – shutting down or spouting off. Determine what middle ground you’ll use.

Anger will always be tricky. It tends to catch us off-guard, which is inconvenient and frustrating in and of itself. However, anger isn’t something we should be afraid of. Just because something makes you angry doesn’t mean you’re an uncontrollable rage-monster. It means you have a gut that cues you into what’s right and what’s wrong. And that is a very good thing.

If you know how to use it.

a. w.

Lord, Deliver Me.

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Lord, deliver me.

 

Deliver me from hatred into love.

 

Deliver me from anger into peace.

 

Deliver me from sadness into joy.

Lord,

Deliver me from

silence

when I should

speak

From complacency

when I should be

moved

From guilt

when I should be

grateful.

 

Lord,

Deliver me

 

from my careless tongue

 

my wandering eyes

 

my deaf ears

 

my hesitant feet

 

Deliver me

into love

when I feel

unloving

into mercy

when I feel

unmerciful

into forgiveness

when I feel

unforgiving.

 

Lord, deliver me

 

from

 

self-pity,
self-focus,
self-criticism,
self-harm.

 

Lord,

deliver
me
from

myself.

Lord,

deliver
me
into

You.

I believe.

Deliver me

from my

unbelief.

 

a. w.

 

The Five Habits of Highly Toxic People

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Photo: Hannah VanKampen

It was about a year ago at this time that I decided I was worth more than I let someone treat me. Looking back, I don’t understand why I let it go on that long. I wish I could have sat my slightly younger self down and very gently slapped her upside the head. (Seriously, that’s what I needed.)

What are you thinking? I want to say. Why have you allowed yourself to be a doormat for so long? 

And a doormat was exactly what I was, in a two-ish-year-long “relationship” that I let go on for two years too long. “Relationship” is too strong a word. He got embarrassed when I called him my boyfriend. He never met my friends, barely met my family, and left a pretty big emotional dent in my heart when he left for good. I blame myself first when I think back on that. I hung onto him through all the “yes” and “no” and “I can’t be with you” and “I miss you” and more wishi-washiness than Charlie Brown ever had. Afterwards, I jumped into a relationship I thought would be stable – something that I thought would make me feel whole again. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

This kind of person – whether it be boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, coworker, boss – is what we like to call toxic. When I think of toxic, I think of the radioactive symbol that you sometimes see in alien movies or those OSHA sheets that your employer is required to have. Those symbols and manuals warn the onlooker that whatever chemical they’re looking at can potentially harm them. You want to stay away from them because they might cause bodily, sometimes irreversible harm.

A toxic person can do the same thing. Once you’re “exposed” to them, they can cause irreversible damage to your heart, your other relationships, your faith, even how you feel about yourself. Like the safety data sheets at your workplace or symbols on chemical bottles, it’s good to have warning signs for potentially toxic people.

That’s why I devised this little list. Oftentimes we see articles entitled “5 Habits of Highly Successful/Motivated/Positive People.” But I think it’s healthy to have the opposite too. Not just to recognize the toxic people around us, but also to discern potential toxic habits in our own lives.

So here are five habits that toxic people tend to adopt:

1. People are commodities. Toxic people are always shopping. Not for goods, but for people. They need the next best thing. It’s like they’re watching TV and ordering the next 1-800 product that comes on the screen while the packages pile up unused at their door. For whatever reason (there are many,) toxic people require constant streams of validation, and once they stop getting that from someone, the vein is cut. Then once the toxic person cuts off everyone (which is usually inevitable,) they feel isolated, so they go back to the friends they cut off and make amends. It becomes a cycle. Shop, “buy” the person’s trust, feed off the validation, sense a lack of validation, cut off, repeat. This can happen in any relationship: romantic, friendship, workplace, you name it.

2. Relationships involve latching, not attaching. Although they sound similar (and rhyme,) “latch” and “attach” mean two fairly different things.
Here’s what the definitions of attach are:

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 19.43.00
Source: Dictionary.com

“Attachment” connotes connection. In a sense, it’s becoming part of a unit (like in the military definition.) For the most part, it seems mutually beneficial. You attach a picture to an application because it increases your chance of being hired. You might call a healthy relationship an attachment.

Now here’s latch:

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 19.42.16
Source: Dictionary.com

“Latch” makes you think of a tight grip, almost to the point of complete possession. Instead of connoting a healthy relationship, you might think of a leech latching onto your skin, or a baby latching onto its mother for food – a beautiful relationship, but at the same time, the baby is taking something from the mother.

What I mean when I say a toxic friend forms a relationship on “latching,” I mean that they cling to you with almost a death grip until they’ve been satisfied. A leech will fall off once it’s sucked enough blood, and a baby eventually is weaned. The need is gone, and there’s no more desire to be close to you.

Friendships (and most relationships) do have a level of costs and rewards associated with them, so a little bit of “latching” isn’t a bad thing. But when a toxic friend suddenly feels cheated in the rewards category, they’ll leave the friendship.

3. They put other people, even their closest “friends,” down to feel better about themselves. Toxic people tend to be toxic because they have a lot of baggage. Not to give them excuses, but they’ve probably been through some stuff. A lot of their toxic behavior is them taking it out and relieving that weight or stress. This can come in the form of heavily criticizing others. Usually, they point out their own flaws, but in other people. Oftentimes this comes when the toxic friend no longer feels the constant stream of validation and begins to lash out. But usually, the cycle will continue after this. The toxic person pushes you away, and depending on how forgiving (or, frankly, gullible) you are, you’ll come back and try to make amends, but for the duration of the friendship you’ll be walking on eggshells.

4. They’re a lot of talk but no walk. Toxic people love sharing their tragic backstory (because usually they have one.) Most people respond to this story in the way you respond to a wounded animal on the side of the road – “Aww! Poor thing!” Unless you’re smarter and more emotionally mature then most people, you want to care for the “cute animal” that is your toxic friend. You think you can mentor them, help them, even change them. You might be able to do two of the three of those things, but you definitely can’t change them.

Where the disconnect happens is the toxic person doesn’t do anything to help themself become better. They know and recognize their own flaws but instead of trying to work on it themselves, they “latch” onto other people who might be able to fix them. This is especially dangerous in romantic relationships for obvious reasons. That’s why you hear so many stories of women who think they can fix their boyfriends. “I can make him a better person, I know I can. I can fix him. People just don’t understand him.” It sounds really nice, but soon it gets emotionally draining because the toxic person is taking and taking and taking and never giving or sacrificing.

5. They’ll let you know when they need you, but disappear when you need them. This might be the worst habit. Toxic people acknowledge your existence for their benefit and their benefit only. The minute you need them, they don’t respond to texts or act uninterested. I call this selective attention. A toxic person is “toxic” because they’ve allowed self-centered habits to govern their life, so people only exist to meet a need (see #1.) I also call this a vacillating friendship. The toxic friend goes from extremely kind and affectionate to suddenly cold and temperamental with little to no explanation.

Now to ask the searching question – do any of these habits apply to you? Do you find yourself doing these things? It’s easy to point fingers, but it’s not always easy to look inward. I could probably name a time when I did each of these five things at least once. I’ve gone through seasons of life where I’ve suddenly realized how I’d been treating people and I didn’t like what I found. What about you? Here are some searching questions to help you examine your own life.

  • In the last week, how have I gone out of my way to help my friends? How often do I ask them for help?
  • Where is the first place I go to seek validation? What do I do when that source isn’t there? 
  • What do my friends come to me for? How do I help them? 
  • In this particular relationship, what are the costs and rewards? Does one outweigh the other in an unhealthy way? 
  • In the last week (or even day,) what have I said about someone else that I regret saying? How often do I say these things? 

 

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