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FTSB – Living in a world of toxicity

“Now, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder? Now somewhere between the sacred silence, sacred silence and sleep. Somewhere, between the sacred silence and sleep. Disorder, disorder, disorder”
Toxicity – System of a Down

1700754 300x225 FTSB   Living in a world of toxicityThe phone rang and the chords of Sonic Youth’s “Titanium Expose” – my default ringtone – went off. I looked down to see who was calling and my stomach did a back flip.

“Fuck,” I thought to myself. “I really don’t want to talk to you.”

That number, that person – feeling all of the energy drain out of me.

It has never gone well, no phone conversation, ever, in the history of our phone conversations has ever ended with either one of us in a happy place. On my prior phone they had their own ringtone to alert me to the danger ahead, but with the new phone, I have yet to make many individualized ring tones.

Soul sucking, psychic vampires.

Ringtones and phone calls aside … a different place, different situation, different people and the same thing. Sitting in a circle with my friends, laughing, joking, carrying on, everything was going smashingly well. Then he walked in, he sat down and the vibrant major chords recently ringing throughout the air shifted to a dreadful, minor pitch. Seriously, it was like Darth Vader had just walked on the set and his theme music was playing at earth-shattering levels.

Making all the wrong choices for all the right reasons.

Toxic People. As I grow, as I spend another day walking this Earth, one thing has become absolutely clear to me – I’m not always the best judge of character. I could probably tick off the laundry list of reasons – low self-esteem, Superman-syndrome, shit, just wanting to get laid, lack of self control, blah, blah, blah. It all adds up to the same shit – poor decisions on my part.

But that too isn’t the whole answer.

How to walk the line? How to realize the people you are around are so toxic they are fundamentally changing who you are, the person you are becoming? And this is important shit, because if you do ever find yourself able to get away from the toxic influence, guess what?! You are going to have to deprogram yourself. You are going to have to unlearn those responses and actions that have been a part of your life for however many years you allowed it to continue. I’m here to tell you, its not easy.

I should have seen it coming when the guitar shattered.

We all have our reasons for holding in there too long with the wrong people. Whether its family or friends, neither situation is easy to navigate. I want to be more like Charles Bukowski.

But Buck isn’t the right answer either. Not completely. He’s got some really good thoughts on how to handle certain people, but I’m fairly certain the overwhelming majority of us have not the character to be such an asshole.

While I may not be the best judge of character, I’m learning a metric fuck-ton about how to extricate myself from these toxic situations. Make no mistake, the learning curve is steep, the pitfalls many and the outcome is very rarely nowhere near as I’ve hoped.

I would argue friends are the more difficult of these two situations to navigate. Ten-fold increase when said friends become lovers. Everyone puts on their best face, their best appearance in the waltz we like to think of as taking friends … taking lovers.

The dance metaphor is so inappropriate. Perhaps it is best used to describe the opening gambit, but a dance is too short – relatively speaking – has prescribed moves and comes with a built in timeline. One can only dance so long as the music plays and when it comes to the people you meet – it’s a short tune on a very limited jukebox. And they are learned moves — left-right, cha-cha-cha. We’re not acting with any bit of authenticity, we’re not putting our real self out there, we’re moving through maneuvers someone taught us long ago.

And yet, too often, the song is enticing. Much like that pop music song you fucking despise that’s yet noodled its way into your brain, into your every waking moment to the point that you find yourself with it in your head when you first wake up in the morning; you’re hooked long before you realize what the hell even happened. Getting yourself out of it just became that much more difficult.

I wish I had some answers. I wish I knew the secret to successfully getting away from those around you who are poison. All I can say is for myself. I’m trying very hard to slow down. I’m trying very hard not to be bewitched by exciting personalities nor drawn, like a moth to light, into the trap.

If a dance is my initial metaphor, perhaps – as I am want to do – it would be more appropriate to call it all a chess game. Not a game as in I’m actually toying with people’s lives, but the idea of looking out ahead, seeing where all of this is going and actually hearing that inner voice that screams at you to slow down or out-and-out STOP.

To be sure, I can think of at least a few occasions where I ignored what my internal warning systems were telling me or I made all the wrong choices regardless of the reasons. Life is too damn short to fill it with people who are poison.

I just hope I have enough time.

 FTSB   Living in a world of toxicity

Ben Cossel

An award winning journalist, Benjamin currently serves as public affairs representative for a large department of the state of California. His travels have taken him across his home country and around the globe trying to see what he can see.

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One Response to “FTSB – Living in a world of toxicity”

  1. Hmmm, seems to me I have said, on numerous occasions, “You are two different people when you are around so-and-so.”

    Posted by Patrick Cossel | August 3, 2012, 7:40 am

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