Toxic.

Less than two weeks into the new year and I am still going strong on my resolutions to:

  1. Be kinder and
  2. Take steps to create a more purposeful life.

In order to have a more meaningful life sometimes you add things to it and sometimes you take things away. This includes: people. You can still love and care about someone, even if they are toxic. Just because someone hurt you or does not add value to your life, does not mean you cannot care about what happens to them. In order to grow we need to let go of what is stunting us. Some relationships fill us up and some drain us. In the recent years for me, letting go of toxic relationships has pertained to friendships.

In all honesty, there are times I have been the toxic friend. The friend that is super negative, co-dependent, or too self-involved, even the friend that ditches out on their friends when they get into a romantic relationship. I have been the bad friend, the one who did not really listen when my friend needed me or did not stand up for them when I should have or even talked badly about them behind their backs. I wish I could say that I have never been a bad friend, but that would be a lie.

People have kicked me out of their lives, and rightfully so. I have gone through many phases in my almost thirty years on the planet and not all of them were good ones. The way I learned how to be a good friend was when I lost nearly all of them in High School and did not have any for a time. I learned to build friendships from the ground up. I have had many years to reflect and learn how to be a good friend as well as when to recognize when someone is not being one.

More recently, I had the unfortunate task of telling a friend that I was distancing myself from them because I felt their actions were hurtful, inappropriate, and overall toxic. As a lot of women I am sure, I was taught to “be nice”; To “play along”, “not make waves”, and not hurt people’s feelings- even if meant they trampled all over mine. This was grilled into my brain from a young age and is still ingrained into American society. Society sees a woman who stands up for herself as a bitch. When really standing up for yourself and others is the opposite of being a bitch, it is being kind. The truth can be hard to speak, but when we are honest with ourselves and honest with others it lifts this invisible weight from our shoulders.

As much as I love the idea of honesty, I hate the idea of confrontation. Confrontation is like a pap smear: really uncomfortable, but necessary. Also, once it is over it gives you a peace of mind. There is nothing I worry more about than hurting people I love, which is why I do not want to have to tell them the things they are doing are affecting me negatively. On the flip side, if I was hurting my friend and I did not know because they did not tell me then I would feel worse.

Being vulnerable and bringing up uncomfortable topics is hard. Staying quiet and being treated poorly is also hard. Sometimes we have to make a choice of which hard we are going to deal with. We should always be honest, but let us not interchange being honest with being cruel.

There is never an excuse to be cruel, even if the person “deserves it”. When opting out of a relationship that is depleting, telling a person how you feel should be well-intended. Nothing is more hurtful when someone says a cruel comment and then follows it up with “I am just being honest.” The person you may be revealing your feelings to may not even know that what they are doing is affecting you, so why be a dick about it? If you are a good friend then you should be able to reveal your feelings from a place of love. Being able to say honestly what and why something is bothering you with intention instead of frustration will clear the way for either a relationship to be mended or for a clean break. If the response to your heartfelt feelings is silence, defensiveness, or continued bad behavior then it is your cue to walk away and move on without that person.

I am done apologizing or making excuses for people’s poor behavior. The fear of toxic relationships in my life outweighs my fear of confrontation. If someone is doing something to harm me or others, I am going to speak up. If nothing comes from me revealing my feelings in a heartfelt way then I do not need to feel guilty for not bringing that person into the next chapter of my life. There is the cliche saying that “Life is too short.” Well it is. It is too short, too wild, and too damn precious to waste on someone who drains the joy out of it.

Sometimes working on the relationship is what is best and sometimes letting go is. Minimalism is about rigorously selecting what we take into our future to create a better life. This includes shedding the things and people who create a negative environment instead of a supportive one. Friends are of the few choices in life we get to make, so let us choose wisely.


Gratitude.

Advertisements use trendy words to help market things that will supposedly improve our lives. Some of the words are: “minimalism”, “mindfulness”, “happiness”, “wanderlust”. Not that this is a bad thing-hello, the title of my blog is one of those words. What I mean is that the intention of the word gets diluted and is used as a marketing ploy. How many advertisements have I seen with the word “minimalist” to describe their product or design. How many apps and classes are marketed to help people become more mindful? Answer: Too many to choose from.

One word that I do not usually see advertised is: Gratitude. Being grateful for what we have and not buying stuff we do not need is the opposite of what advertisers want someone to choose. How will they make money if people appreciate what they have and stop buying what they do not need?

For me, being mindful and being grateful for what I already have takes effort. I have to force myself to pause and be in the present and to stop and think about what I have already before buying something that will make me “happy”. As embarrassing as it is, advertisements have a way of persuading me that I need more “stuff” to feel fulfilled. It is funny that I find myself trying to justify buying things to make me more of a minimalist or tell myself that I will start being grateful and will not need anything more if I just get that one item.

If you grew up in a Christian household in the 90’s-early 00’s then you may be familiar with the Veggie Tales movies. If you grew up in a household that allowed you to watch other videos that did not include singing vegetables, then you may have no idea what I am referring to. Veggie Tales were a series of 30-minute movies that had talking vegetables (and some fruits) that sang songs, quoted bible verses, and every story taught a moral lesson.

In one movie, there was a blueberry that lived in a tree house (why she lived in a tree house is beyond me-as blueberries grow on bushes, but whatever) and she tried to buy happiness with stuff. She bought so much stuff that it started to weigh her tree house down and the tree finally bent over and ended up dumping all her stuff into the river and then ruining her house. Before her house incident, she walked by a little green bean who was poor and only had a piece of apple pie (which is basically a form of cannibalism, but whatever) and was singing a song about how grateful she was for her apple pie (still after 20 years I remember that damn song. You can listen for yourself: here). Madame Blueberry (the blueberry’s name) realized after her house was destroyed that she had a lot to be grateful for without all the stuff and joined the little girl in singing the song.

Why did I just ramble on about a materialistic blueberry? Because like the blueberry, I get obsessed with buying happiness that I forget to be grateful for what I have. I get so focused on the future-wanting an immaculately decorated Hygge-like condo instead of the house I have, not realizing that some people are wishing right now that they have a house like I already do. Unfortunately, being grateful does not come easy, especially when we are groomed by society to want more, bigger, better.

Sometimes I do not have a grateful heart. A lot of the time I get something I want and then almost immediately upon receiving it I move on to pining over the next thing I want. I get on the hamster wheel of chasing my wants instead of stopping to appreciate my privileged life. I was born middle-class, white, American, and into a loving family. Right there I started the race of life with more of a leg up than most people in the world. Yet, I still catch my thoughts telling me that I need more.

This holiday season I did not ask for gifts, but I still received one from a very thoughtful friend: a gratitude journal. While I do not recommend going out and buying something to help you be more grateful (oh, the irony), I have found so much value in taking the time each day to write down the things that I am grateful for. This journal has helped me spend a part of the day reflecting on the wonderful things in my life instead of focusing on what is lacking in it. Instead of buying a journal, just writing down on a notepad three things a day that you are grateful for will have the same effect.

With the new year approaching, I intend to keep journaling and focusing on the positive and daily working towards giving the advertisers that say I do not have and am not enough the middle finger. Enough is enough and I definitely have more than enough.