Parasitic Relationships

Today is a very special day for one of my closest friends.  Her marriage of 24 years ended & her divorce became final today.  As an advocate against divorce, what I’m about to say is the exact opposite, but I have to confess….I don’t know who’s happier, me or her.  Well….I know that answer, but you can tell I’m beyond stoked!   I’ve known & worked closely with her since October 2005.  She is naive is some ways, doesn’t attempt any of the things I do when it comes to DIY stuff, isn’t extremely internet savvy, reads daily devotions, but won’t attend church, wouldn’t stand up to talk to a crowd if her life depended on it, will procrastinate until I’m driven crazy & hates to veer out of her normal comfort zones.  She is, however, one of the kindest, sensitive, loyal, most committed mother, cat lover & human I know.

Before they married, husband had a child & baby mama drama.  Although her grandfather tried to warn her, she loved him & accepted his son. During the marriage, he was unfaithful & this produced another child & yes… another baby mama. My friend is precious & attempted to honor her wedding vows regardless of husband’s infidelity.  They had 2 kids of their own & oops…another one happened.  She worked 3 jobs during her pregnancy to provide for her family.  This is acceptable right?  I mean husband worked one job, paid all his money to baby mama’s for child support & expected to be completely taken care of with designer clothing, new vehicles, toys, etc.  Wait…I had a lapse of sanity for a moment, because in no lifetime is this acceptable.

When things became unbearable they separated.  [Enter humor] While living with his mother, husband got a taste of being responsible for himself. They attempted to reunite & make the marriage work so he moved back home. This is a great option if you’re not dating someone else in the process. During this time, he wrecked his truck & of course he got a brand new one.  She paid the note, so why not right?  It’s OK that she drove the hooptie with no A/C in Texas heat.  The kids are young, they’ll survive.  NOT!  Finally the day came.  July 2013 was the most memorable month for me ever.  Wait….this isn’t about me, but I was rejoicing believe me!

Friend began “going out” with a friend she’d known most of her life.  He had 3 baby mama’s, 7 kids & lived in a garage loft type room at his parents.  Before you judge that she obviously has a problem, stop.  In 20 years of mentoring single women/men, I’ve seen this cyclic behavior pattern a million times.  Remember when I described comfort zone above?  It was just a friend with a history of leaving broken hearts all over town & kids he’ll never contribute in raising.  For 6 years I used to read during my 45 minute lunch break.  I didn’t gossip with anyone, didn’t socialize or even sit in the dining room.  This was my time to invest in my mind through books.  Friend had a bestie that shared lunch with her.  Bestie left & now friend & I began to have lunch together.  I could have been extremely selfish, self-absorbed & genuinely not bothered by what was going on in her life.  Except…..she’s my friend.  I’ve heard every event that has taken place for the past 2 years.  I’ve heard every event that has taken place for the past 2 years.  I’ve heard every event….no this isn’t a typo.  I have literally heard events, repetitively, for the past 2 years.  If you know me, you know this rubs against every fiber of my being. Why did I listen?  She has no one to mentor her in relationships.  I am not the most sensitive, patient, polished, or kind person when it comes to advice sometimes, but I am thankful to say we have worked through many situations, other relationships & she is so much stronger because of it.  Yes it was an extreme sacrifice sometimes, but to see her today is like there is nothing better.  The reward is worth the investment.

My judgmental attitude overruled my best nature sometimes & I would call husband a parasite.  Then lifetime friend became a parasite too.  Having a 25 year background in nursing, I am familiar with what a parasite is. Not only what they are, but what havoc they can wreak on the lives of people or hosts.  While praying for her to have courage & emotional stability today to face the judge, I actually began entertaining what a parasite truly does.  I then had to look up the definition & description.  Looking at pictures grossed me out completely.  I can’t imagine enabling that type of behavior!  Here it is:

parasiteParasite : a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any or proper return, as one who lives on the hospitality of others.

Parasitism is a non-mutual symbiotic relationship between species,  where one species, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host.  Unlike predators,  parasites do not kill their host and will often live in or on their host for an extended period of time. Parasites show a high degree of  specialization, and reproduce  at a faster rate than their hosts. Parasites increase their fitness by exploiting hosts for resources necessary for their survival, e.g. food, water, heat, habitat, and transmission.

Parasitism can take the form of isolated  “cheating”  or exploitation among more generalized mutualistic  interactions. For example, broad classes of plants or fungi exchange carbon and nutrients in common mutualistic mycorrhizal relationships; however, some plant species known as myco-heterotrophs  “cheat” by taking carbon from a fungus rather than donating it.

Synonyms –  sycophant, toady, leech, sponge, hanger-on.

I was surprised at how this identifies to husband & lifetime friend.  How quaint that leech was my other descriptive word.  How many people do you know can be labeled as this?  How many people do you know who are drawn to these types of people?  Before we go further, please understand that co-dependent, manipulative, self-absorbed, ruthless, parasitic behavior patterns are not gender specific.

You can’t change what you tolerate & often we tolerate situations, husbands, wives, lovers, & friends just because we lack the courage to do anything else.  The best thing you can do for someone who lacks the confidence to walk away from these parasitic relationships is to be a friend.  Listen, offer advice & most of all validate their good qualities while constantly & continually building belief that they are much more valuable than this. Please, direct them to a community DivorceCare Group immediately.

Today is a new day in the life of my friend.  I know it wasn’t an easy path to follow, yet there is such a release & relief.  If you read this & think I’ve been stalking you because this is your story, please know there is hope & a cure for tolerating someone, a parasite,  who is literally sucking the life right out of you.

Blessings,

g

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Be, Do, Become

I purpose daily to read several leadership blogs & intentionally post positive quotes.  This morning my chosen quote stirred my thoughts. This is actually the purpose.  Too many times we try to tell people what to think instead of inspiring or empowering them to think on their own.  Here’s the quote:

ImageBeing angry at the mirror won’t change what it is reflecting.
If you want to SEE something different you have to BE something different. – Steve Maraboli

 

A few years ago I learned about three little words that have the potential to create a catalyst for change.  Be, Do, Become.  These can be practically applied in any area in which we desire change. The process is relatively easy.  Begin with a choice of what you want to change or who you would like to be. Now let’s not get crazy & want to become another human!  Perhaps there is someone who is a role model to you.  What is it about them that you want to emulate?  Do they speak well in front of others?  Are they kind, generous & thoughtful?  Are they known for how they serve others?  Do they exude a healthy lifestyle? Are they physically active? Are they disciplined in certain areas of their life that challenges you to raise the standard in your own life?  Are they a great parent? Whatever it is, choose to glean specific info from an area.  This focus will include reading specific subject matter from credible sources.  Exercise discipline regarding this change by putting it into daily or even more incremental practices.  A book that has changed my life in so many areas, The Slight Edge, provides tremendous wisdom in how to implement & enforce this. During your waking hours, purposely think about this change.  One of my favorite Bible scriptures instructs us to call those things that be not as though they were.  I like to refer to it as the Speckled & Spotted Principle!  One of my favorite books, the ant & the ELEPHANT teaches us about the power of the conscious vs the subconscious mind. You have probably read how many world renown athletes see themselves batting that home run, or shooting that winning hoop, etc.  There is something powerful about visualization.

The second step is to Do what it is that you want to change.  If you are following a mentor or role model, do what they’ve done to accomplish their success.  This can start as small as setting the microwave for 5 minutes, look at yourself in the mirror & give a speech. Said speech can be just telling the person in the mirror how wonderful they are!  What if it’s writing a book?  Begin a blog. Becoming healthy?  Cut out fast food except for one day/week.  A marathon?  Start running at the local high school track or park that has a trail. How about a treadmill?  A simple way to begin running if you’ve never done it is to walk 5-10 steps, then run 5-10 steps & increase this, yes, incrementally, until you are running.  There are, of course, amazing apps to help you too.   Whatever it is….DO something!

Finally…..look in the mirror.  Who do you see?  Better still, who have you become?  Confident?  Happy? Healthy?  Competent? Courageous?  Empowered?  Free?  In the process, I can’t promise easy, but I can promise it’s totally worth it.

Blessings,

g

2 simple words….

Happy Valentines Day to YOU!  Reading all the amazing notes revolving around this beautiful day has been so sweet!  I love to see the variety of gifts given as expressions of love & adoration.  During our DivorceCare Connect Group last night I specifically addressed this day with our participants. It can be a painful reminder of what you don’t have, rejection, blame, self-loathing, & even depression.  For many years I would confess, “I’m getting roses this year!”  I’ve only received roses one time in my entire life & that was when my son, Bryce, was born.  Nevertheless, after my divorce, I would say this consistently every year as I worked at the hospital.  On Valentines Day, 1995, I did the same thing.  To my surprise I received a cute basket of mixed flowers from an anonymous admirer!  Who were they from?  Could it be?  There was, Earl, a physical therapist I had grown very close to.  We developed an excellent professional relationship & became friends.  I would have enjoyed going out with him, but at that time, I wouldn’t have dared asked him to join me for coffee!  When I received the flowers his reaction was jealousy, but not to the point of asking me out!  Darn it!  Who then were the flowers from?  Here’s my theory!  I had the best co-workers ever & I believe they pitched in out of pity & respect, mostly pity & purchased them!  I was so excited & appreciated the gesture.   In preparation for today I looked in the eyes of each person in my group last night & told them this.

Happy Valentine’s Day!! 
Please remember……You are so beautiful! You are loved very deeply. 
The Lord, your maker, is your husband & He is an amazing companion, YOU are the apple of His eye & He thinks about you continuously! He loves you beyond words & wrote a book filled with loving thoughts & encouragement for you. He is the lover of your soul!!

valentines day love

Even through reading all the mushy-gushy social media posts, for some reason there have been 2 specific words that have resonated over & over in my heart.  Not sure as to why they are captivating my attention, but in light of seeing all the beautiful relationships being affirmed, I know there are just as many, if not more, that aren’t.  BTW…if you’re an English major, please apply grace to my use of commas!  Here are the 2 words & their meaning:

com·pla·cen·cy – noun \kəm-ˈplā-sən(t)-sē\

a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better : a complacent feeling or condition;  self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies

ap·a·thy – noun \ˈa-pə-thē\

Apathy is most commonly defined as a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, or concern. It is a state of indifference, lethargy, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation and/or passion.

An apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical and/or physical life and the world.

In mentoring single adults, primarily separated or divorced, these words are very applicable.  We sabotage our relationships with actions of any/all of the words above & wonder what went wrong.  My heart is grieved to see this.  One of my favorite sayings is, “What it took to get her/him is what it will take to keep her/him.”  Once the relationship is solidified is not the time to drop our guard, but rather to ramp up & grow in every area possible.  I knew certain skills when I graduated from nursing school & was even licensed to do so.  After 25 years in the field, I gained tremendous wisdom that could never have been taught/learned during the education process.    Learning is a lifetime commitment & should be expected / practiced daily.   If we’re not learning, we’re regressing.  The results gained are worth the investment.

I’m an advocate of performing regular self evaluations.  I encourage you to read the definitions above, search every area of your life & determine if they exist.  IF they do…..please seek guidance in how to flip the coin to become a compassionate, concerned, involved, motivated,  person interested in the well being of others & aware of current situations / circumstances.

I can’t imagine going through life without aspirations, goals, dreams or expectations & you shouldn’t either!!! YOU are a one of a kind masterpiece & deserve to enjoy your life to the fullest. Think of how many others you can help direct along the correct path!  The ripple would be non-existent without the stone!

Happy Valentines Day Blessings,

g

2.17.14 PS….I have to add something!  I received roses!  Well…sort of!  I cooked gumbo during our one day snow blitz last week.  Being from Louisiana, I cook real, authentic Cajun gumbo & usually only cook it traditionally for our family Christmas.  It’s truly a labor of love! Around that time an older gentleman that my daughter, Summer, works with had mentioned the next time I cook gumbo, he would like some.    When it snowed again, I wanted it!  I sent gumbo & rice in my recycled LouAna Coconut Oil & Dukes Mayo jars!  This is what he reciprocated in return!  Such a sweet, pleasant gesture!  Maybe I should upgrade to glass jars next time!  LOLOLOL!

Roses for gumbo!

Roses for gumbo!

Accountability: The 7 Experiment

I disclosed in my last post we are doing a book study as a connect group at my church. Remember?? The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker. I’m even more fond of it knowing she’s an Austinite!! Texas Strong!!

For public acknowledgement & accountability purposes, I would like to list my food choices for our 7 day fast. I realize when I fast, I’m not supposed to announce it like a production, mope & groan over it & certainly not draw attention to myself. I follow discretion & the book itself goes into explicit detail concerning fasting.   It’s not about me!! I did, however, have to determine what this fast represents for me personally. There are 6 biblical choices for fasting–Mourning, Inquiry, Repentance, Preparation, Crisis & Worship. I determined, before I even knew the choices, this fast would help me prepare for the next level of commitment, leadership responsibilities & relationships. Also to worship my Daddy God whose thoughts & ways are stratospherically above mine!  Our food fast challenge meant we were to choose 7 foods & eat only those foods for 7 days. Yes 7. Dairy is a million, so my Greek yogurt would be out. Single ingredients only, except we can have whole grain breads. Well forget that Paleo bread I was going to make!! Here’s why! I had some much-needed & long-awaited dental work done forcing me to adhere to a texturally limited diet for a week. Most all of my choices to sustain me while on this limited menu would have been a fail. This would have posed a problem except…… Jen gave us a list of alternatives to follow. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy! I’m saying that now, but I’ll definitely have to write a survival post next week!!

Image

On my desk today!

The alternatives are –>> eliminating 7 certain ingredients from your food choices; giving up 7 comfort foods; no fast or processed food;eating the simple diet of a country you are burdened for; eating the same thing breakfast, lunch & dinner for 7 days, eating from your pantry, fridge/freezer without purchasing anything for a week; reducing the amount of groceries you purchase in a week, etc. I’ve chosen a few from the alternative list.  First choice is that I’m giving up all pleasant foods.  Ice cream was a multi-meal choice after my dental procedure as it helped reduce swelling.  That’s my story & I’m sticking to it!  Must have worked, b/c I had no swelling!  Don’t think this is hard?  My first day back to work was our quarterly birthday party celebration.  Cupcakes, Fruit filled punch, etc.  Did you notice it’s a big day tomorrow?  Yes….Valentines Day & chocolate candy is floating around the building like butterflies migrating to South America.  This also means I can’t eat my Blueberry Belvita Breakfast Biscuits with whipped cream cheese.  OH &…..tonight begins our new DivorceCare Semester & my amazing co-leader is bringing one of my favorite snacks…..Target Scones!  Just this one choice will be a challenge.

My second choice is zero fast or processed foods.  You may know that only on rare occasions do I eat fast foods & am on an anti-processed food regime as a daily practice.  How can this be a fast then?  This means I can’t purchase a rotisserie chicken or eat any of my healthy, preservative free frozen meals.  I’m looking at them as my “fast food” choices. My co-workers & I are treating each other to lunch tomorrow at our favorite Vietnamese Pho Chau Restaurant. I don’t consider this fast food & instead of chowing down on my favorite seafood deluxe pho, I will eat broth & noodles only.   If I want anything, except a few choice frozen veggies, I have to cook it from scratch.  My time factor will prove this to be yet another challenge!

Third choice is to only eat what is already in my pantry, fridge or freezer. I remember my son, Bryce, would stand at the pantry & say, “There’s nothing to eat!”  I’m the mom who could prepare an entire feast from “nothing” & have leftovers to share!  That was when I purchased for a family.  I am an eat-to-live grocery shopper, not live-to-eat. Trust me……making sure I have things for grands to eat is a mental note!   I try to meal plan so I primarily purchase for that.  Meals may be averted if I eat with my kids, so I may have a few things in reserve, but there’s generally not an abundance. When I purchase fruit, I only buy for 3 days.  This guarantees my fruit isn’t ruined & trashed.   Another note……my last shopping trip was to prepare me for my texturally limited diet, so nothing on my regular list was included & my 3 days of bananas are long gone.  I have one lowly mango!  Remember the Paleo bread recipe I was so excited for?  Unless I have the ingredients in my pantry, that will not happen! In addition to only eating from my reserves or excess, I am not eating certain meats like the delicious nitrate & preservative free, uncured bacon or pecan smoked andouille sausage. It’s chicken & fish only!  My condiments will also be reduced & I should confess something.  I’m a real butter & mayo ‘holic.  Everything is better with tons of both.  Oh my geeeeeeeeeee!  What was I thinking?

Here’s the thing………..The 7 Experiment is to Stage Your Own Mutiny Against Excess!  Had I been able to choose 7 foods to eat, I would have had to purchase enough of them for 7 days without really any limit of how much.  I could have gone out to eat as long as the foods were on my list & the things in my pantry would be sitting there. So……I was forced to finally start drinking the Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness that has been in my fridge at home & at work for a month.  I’m forced to cook that fish I couldn’t pass up.  I’m forced to clean out my pantry.  I’m forced to eat those scrumptious green peas that I purchased to use as ice packs for my mouth! Yes…I do use the frozen veggies for that! Shopping from home & using what I already have ought to be interesting. Wait……isn’t this the reason for the book study?

I’ve heard some of my amazing council members already getting tired of chicken.  I have to eat mashed potatoes & other soft or liquid foods.  Yikes! Talk about getting tired!  It isn’t about my individual tolerance.  It’s about realizing how truly fortunate & blessed I am while learning how to pattern my life after this study.  I’m really grateful for this opportunity!

On the other hand……..I’m also glad I have Apple, my pup.  She eats all natural, preservative free canned dog food.  Her Sunday Brunch, Grandmas Casserole or Moms Turkey Dinner varieties may be tempting in 7 days!  LOLOLOL!

Blessings,

g

The 7 Experiment

Sunday began our new Connect Group Semester & honestly I can’t remember when I’ve been challenged this extensively.  I was feeling guilty/convicted for not doing the Daniel fast for the 12th year. Despite receiving phenomenal, clear-cut, precise directions from God every year, I can’t help but wonder if it had become ritualistic??  This is the fast I also use during the year when I need to make important decisions.  I firmly believe the Elevate Church Girlfriends book study of  “7 : An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” will stretch me beyond my limits & empower me to become who I need to transition into. Initially I just wanted to read the book & not commit to the group. I’m very selfish about my Sunday evenings & wasn’t willing to give them up. I decided at the last-minute on Saturday to do this.  I can already tell relinquishing my next several Sundays will yield an unbelievable reward. The book doesn’t promote the age-old belief that the church needs to operate substandard or in poverty.  It promotes developing a relationship with God that is second to none.  He alone, not our things, will have priority in our lives.  

7What an amazing group we had  & it was only the first night!! Listening to everyone blessed me tremendously!! The study explores  7 areas  & each  requires a fast. Next week we begin the fast involving food. We have to choose 7 single foods & eat only those particular foods for 7 days. We all think we eat the same food over & over until it comes to actually doing so!  What would you choose??  Salt, pepper & olive oil are free!  So far I’m thinking chicken, eggs, spinach, grapefruit, rice, & honey. I’m stuck on #7.  I entertained using bacon for seasoning.  I LOVE bacon & have found some awesome nitrate & preservative free, uncured bacon, but I don’t eat it on a regular basis.  To add this for flavor would almost defeat the purpose of a fast!   I could switch grapefruit for a banana & peanut butter!  I’ve seen some cool recipes for pancakes using bananas & eggs.  Or I could make that Paleo multigrain bread I’ve recently gotten the recipe for &  skip the rice.  Like bacon, I don’t eat bread or rice on a regular basis either!  I can do this!! I’ve done the lemonade fast 3 times!! Decisions!! Decisions!  If these are the type of negotiations I’ll be making with myself over food, can you imagine the clothes fast?  The best part is, within the past several years, I’ve began practicing similar ideas & believe this study will solidify Biblical principles equipping me to more effectively mentor others.

I anticipate the results achieved by a determined group of women intentionally dedicating their minds, bodies, & possessions will be a force to be reckoned with!!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.-Margaret Mead

This experiment, for me as a leader, is to reach the next level of responsibilities.  One of my fav scriptures comes to mind, “To whom much is given, much is required.” As I step into a new role, I believe God is stirring me to sharpen my skills.  I encourage you to read this book & if you conduct small groups, consider using it as a guide.  You will definitely not be disappointed.

Blessings
g