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Toxici-Tea (tox·ic·i·ty)

Let me tell you; there are things that ex-beaus have said to me that I won't soon forget. Words that at first listen left me salty. But now I can appreciate them as a reality I was once unprepared to hear or willing to admit about myself.

Throughout my relationship career ('cause trust me, that's a job), I've learned that just because something was said in anger or the heat of a moment doesn't make it less true. Some of us have built up such a strong immunity to the truth that we reject it to the detriment of our own growth.

Whew, chile, Whats-his-face told me the only thing I was consistent at was being inconsistent. Tingum said he deserved better. Which, by the way, was on the heels of him cheating on me. (Baby, it's the audacity.) Anyhoo, Whacha-ma-call-him told me to get to stepping by showing me 'the door,' literally! He wasn't trying to be subliminal either. The only thing left for a dude to say was, "Don't let it hit ya where the good lord split ya!"

And last but not least, one homo sapien commented that my big brain (whatever that means) was overrated. Man, if I were a lesser person, I'd have recurring payment type therapy. Now don't sleep; I sho'nuff said a plethora of savage things too. Maybe not in those moments, but trust and believe ya girl was a bullet, and condescension was my weapon of choice.

So, yes, I still remember not because I refuse to let go. But I remember because those words serve as reminders not to be so hard and fast that I can't take criticism or correction. I often reminisce because at no point do I want to be so stoic that I can't be softened enough to see when I'm the issue.

Suffice it to say, none of these dudes was speaking in code. This retrospective review of all my experiences reminds me that men are often very clear about their position. But could it be that we women, well, not women; just me. Maybe I wasn't listening. Perhaps I refused to adjust and pivot where necessary.

I'll tell ya, I've been cheated on twice. Each time I missed all the signals. As brilliant as I am, when it came to love, I was pretty dense (and that's me putting it mildly). When I reviewed my relationship history, it was like the who's who of misfits and rejects. And I'm not talking about the dudes either.

My first relationship showed me I was uber-selfish. The second taught me I needed to pay closer attention. The third revealed that I really hadn't learned anything. Then the fourth highlighted a shocking truth: you can be perfect and still not get chosen. Regardless of how 'fly' I thought I was or what buffet I had spread on my table, each potential in-betweener made it pretty clear that he was just not into me.

Even after previous failures, I lived in this bubble where I assumed it couldn't and wouldn't happen to me. Why? Because I was out there serving fellas caviar meals on a ramen budget and Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, was Lovin' It (thanks McDonald's). Sure, it worked for some women; I just wasn't one of 'em.

So, what were my toxic traits? ('cause yea, I had more than one) I had those qualities we skip over and don't consider harmful. First, it was my sense of entitlement—hidden behind the guise that I was often a victim. Of course, let's not forget how I was steeped in perfectionism but was an expert at covering my wrongs.

Lastly, I could sulk for days. I mean wearing it like SPF-40 in the summer. All while saddling dudes with the responsibility of my happiness. The cherry on top had to be my sticktoitiveness, staying even when it was to my own detriment. Now, had I invested that same energy in my goals, I could be out here acting like my album just went double platinum by now.

I learned the hard way that no one owes me anything—and folks will let you know that regardless of your feelings. Even if you take out your kidneys and a part of your liver and give it to dudes, they are not obligated to reciprocate. Yes, it would be nice, but it's not mandatory. So do yourself a favour and adjust your expectation. If you're only 'doing' with the motive to receive, you'll forever be disappointed and left feeling used.

Go figure; my well-organized drawers and colour-coordinated closet didn't give me the power to arrange feelings in my direction. Nor did my knack to keep inanimate objects in a straight line. The tough pill was I couldn't organize anybody's emotions into doing right by me. I could not sway anyone's right to chose in my favour. Shoot, I couldn't even buy a vowel. No matter how well one can keep a house, no man, woman or beast will be kept unless they truly want to be.

You'll already know my life is colourful, and I've had my share of dramatic and traumatic events, but can I tell you the truth? No one cares. Beyond the "Ooh, so sorry to hear that!" exclamation, empathy in these here streets is like an endangered species. Most times, it appears that people only care that you don't bring your drama to their doorstep. So either you fake it 'til you make it or get help—but just not from them.

With that said, know that toxicity is gender-neutral, although we usually like to anchor that trait on the necks of men. But let's be honest, we women are more crafty at, what I call, functional dysfunction. We know how to tape and glue it together just long enough to reel 'em in. Then as Sisqo says, we unleash the dragon.

By no means am I saying there aren't some trifling dudes out there, but come on, women, we gamey too. Toxicity is one of those labels that we're just now calling it by its government name. We're finally having the tough conversations and not referring to these issues as mere terms of endearment. Sadly, the downside is no one wants to be associated with negative connotations. We canoodle people into thinking we're mature enough to handle conflict. Next thing you know, BAM, contamination!

I'm not telling you anything I've read somewhere on google. I've walked this thing out in totality. Check it, I've been in church all my life, and I mean all my life. Yet and still, I somehow blocked out all the fundamental tools that should have kept me on the straight and narrow.

Ya girl sat there, week after week, sermon after sermon and walked right out the door to my next fornication appointment. Service after service, yet I had issues being honest. Altar call after altar call, cry after cry, guilt-ridden episode after distraught wave, yet no experience dire enough to force me to change. Never mind, that same person, me, had the audacity to require total honesty, transparency and commitment from another human.

Repeat after me, "That's toxic!" Nothing will ever change until you make the decision to do so.

According to one online dictionary, there are 13 definitions for the word toxic. Most of which are derivatives of poison. So essentially, what we're doing when we hold on to our unhealthy traits is the equivalent of scattering droplets of contaminants as we do when setting traps for rodents. We are purposefully and intentionally (whether you admit it or not) destroying whatever we come in contact with. So if you are out here staying toxic even after being told, then fam, you're selfish, trapsy, and must simply hate people.

To not seek help means you choose to remain poisonous, even when you know where to get the cure. It means you've put your needs above someone else's, which is a direct violation of the laws that govern love.

The thing about poison is some can be deadly on impact. But then again, some are colourless, odourless, tasteless and slow-acting. By the time you know you've been poisoned, it's too late. Toxins in relationships are like that and are often laced with oxytocin (the love hormone) and dopamine (the feel-good hormone). It's only when you're ready to move you find you've gone into septic shock and have slipped into an emotional coma.

Toxicity is not a shield to hide behind because you've been through something. The excuse can no longer be that I was wronged or I had some shoddy childhood. No, when you come into contact with truth, you move accordingly. No, you didn't hurt yourself, but it becomes your responsibility to heal.

Your mate shouldn't have to wear a hazmat suit over their emotions to be with you. They shouldn't be in recovery after an experience with you like they've been exposed to SARS. They should not have to quarantine after contact with you. Persons should be free to be naked around you and not need to be vaccinated before they can attempt to love you.

Exposure to a chemical like poison doesn't mean you'll die, though it is a possibility. However, exposure to a toxin can cause life-altering deficits that lead to lifetime disabilities. Do you really want to be out here with that kind of track record?

The Bible is not void of toxic characters. I suppose chicks like Jezebel, Delilah or Lot's trapsy daughters who slept with him intentionally could quickly come to mind. Each of whom I'm sure will think their reasoning could conjure up a solid argument. But isn't that what we all think? That our harmful actions and damaging words were warranted?

Believe me; I can find scriptures for days on people with iffy behaviour. But Timothy says it perfectly and warns against such actions: Don't be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They'll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes, they're animals. Stay clear of these people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 MSG) Wow!

Hear me: Pause, take a moment and evaluate your life. Think about your actions—do any of these warning labels need to be plastered across your forehead? Proceed with extreme caution. Health hazard and flammable when hot! Danger, self-reactive and contains explosives. Warning, this area holds chemicals that can cause birth defects and reproductive harm.

Translation: nothing that comes in contact with you will grow.

I said all that to say this—if you know you are toxic, then please, for the love of God, pursue help like it's your stimulus check! If you are not at all sure that you're the problem, go get a diagnosis. The saying then remains true, hurting people hurt people, and if you don't heal what hurts you, you'll bleed on people who didn't cut you. —Marcie Lyons.

My friend, be not deceived; toxicity doesn't make you one of the cool kids. I've tried it, and it's deadly, zero stars, do not recommend!

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