(Too) close to home

The neighbors live in chaos. I grew up in chaos.

I’ve had two years to think about this. A lot.

In a way, that adage about not ever really getting away from your past is true. You don’t. It shows up in other people, in other situations. This time I’m a witness. No – that’s not right to say “this time.” The FIRST time I was a witness too. Not a participant.

(I see grown children who continue their parents’ legacy all the time; participating in the chaos they learned on the home front. That is, they never rejected it in the first place. It was normal and it stayed normal. That was never me. I rejected it very young.)

I am the kind of person who has to find meaning in my experiences. I am compelled. In the neighbors I see what I rejected as toxic in my own family a long time ago. Oh, it’s not exactly the same and the differences initially kept me from seeing the parallels. But – people who live in chaos, who thrive on drama, who have shitty coping skills – they’re more or less the same. The specific details are usually interchangeable and not all that significant.

It might be all well and good to just say “So what, go ahead and live like that, who cares; just stay in your four walls and ‘kill’ each other.” But it doesn’t work that way does it? Other people, bystanders, invariably get dragged in, by choice and not. Other people are affected. Toxicity has tentacles.

Also, people who live in chaos recruit new cast members for their ongoing dramas because old ones get burnt out or move on, and besides, a big dramatic production can always use more players and audience members. And again, even if they don’t actively recruit, the mess such people make is not tidy and contained in those metaphorical four walls. It seeps out and contaminates whatever it touches.

People choose drama and chaos to fill emptiness in their lives. It keeps them busy. It keeps them from thinking too much, from real reflection and introspection. Nothing like a good scene, a knock-down-drag-out fight, shallow distractions, an addictive habit or three, or constantly “helping” somebody else with their “problems” to keep a person busy, no? It’s so transparent to me now.

I wholesally reject everything about this. Decency can trump toxicity. It has too. Decency springs of a better place, it has deeper roots. I chose a long time ago to live in decency not in chaos. It is a choice. It’s one I made with my own original family and it’s one that I continue to make throughout my life.

People whose lives are filled with meaningful pursuits and positive activities to occupy their waking hours are not attracted to and do not thrive on toxic chaos. That is the challenge isn’t it? For everybody. Everybody who gives a damn about how they conduct their lives.

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16 thoughts on “(Too) close to home

  1. Kate Crimmins

    Well said. I recently let go of a long-term friendship because there was too much drama. We would get together once or twice a year and it was a full 2 to 3 hours about whatever was going on in her life. She’s close to 70 now but nothing is different than when she was 50. Her husband with COPD is still an active alcoholic who sneaks cigarettes. Her life decisions are iffy at best and she sees others as the source of her problems. Why did I stay friends so long? On very rare occasions, she almost normal. She’s smart and witty. I don’t understand why she didn’t make changes long ago. Then again, I don’t like chaos. Some people thrive on it.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Oh, I get it. We see sparks in other people (the ones we care about anyway, not the full-on toxic jackasses to be avoided as much as doable) of what they could be and we want more of that or hope it will win out.

      Yeah, what you say about your friend more or less being no different at 70 than 50 sounds right. If anything things (the unchecked problems) tend to get worse with age. I work on the assumption that people I meet who are middle aged and older are not going to change and I should take them or reject them accordingly. Thanks for commenting Kate.

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  2. Ron Walker

    Your last sentence explains the stress it causes for us that watch the toxic party. It is so hard sometimes to grasp why people want to throw away their lives following drama. I married into it once for 3 years. It was like living a Jerry Springer episode, every, single, day. We can thank reality shows for the dumbing down of our last generation. Hollywood has shown it so much for entertainment, that many weak minded come to accept it as normal, and mimic the shows.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I think we learn “how people live” from our parents, often at a deep, subliminal level. You really have to think about it consciously to decide if it’s what you want, and many people don’t do this. The culture has made emotional outbursts and “doing whatever you feel” more acceptable, as well as quick fixes. Maybe you had those three years of marriage to learn what you DON’T want.

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          Like you, I’ve jettisoned the people who thrive on a chaotic life. But I had the neighbors foisted on me. It’s a constant reminder of what I don’t want in my life – and who I don’t want to be.

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  3. Ally Bean

    I agree with all that you’ve said here. I don’t do drama. It took me years to realize that extending helpfulness to toxic people always backfired on me. They don’t want solutions and calm, they want the chaos. And I just won’t do it any longer.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I unfortunately have a front row seat to a very bad drama. I want no part of it whatsoever but to them – and many people who live like that – it’s “normal.” I think you’re absolutely right; chaos is what people want (even at an unconscious level).

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks Barb, I’ve been thinking about this a lot and have concluded that people like this don’t even know they’re living in chaos; to them it’s just “living.” I wish I could tune more out but it’s just not how I’m wired.

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