Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Uninvited: Letting Go of Toxic Relationships

It was almost as if she held vigil for when it would happen.

With the hypervigilance of a craned neck, she anticipated that pendulum to swing in life's unfortunate directions.

My unfortunate direction, that is.

And just like that, she would be there.  Always eager when my life hinged on a downswing.  Happy, even. Downright perky.  There was always that sudden spring in her step whenever I got an emotional flat tire.

I refer to her as the queen of schadenfreude--defined as someone who takes pleasure in your pain.
And the one who is almost never happy when you are.

You know that person--whether it is a relative, sorority sister or Facebook friend.  When the sun shines in your universe, she rain dances below the aberrant cloud.  And in your private downpour, she shows up with her Crest White-Strip grin and rattles on about how many storms she weathered herself.

You cannot tell her about that new relationship or personal goal or an exciting job opportunity without her siphoning out every joyful morsel:

"He sounds shady--you're probably his transitional girlfriend."
"Running a marathon will only kill your knees."
"That job will be outsourced within a year. Don't get your hopes up."

In the past, I have let those toxic queens hang around like the last lingering guests at a party, almost always freshening their cocktail glasses and making more spinach dip.

In recent years, their overstayed welcomes had frayed along every tired edge--resulting in an eviction from my A-list.

I hate making spinach dip anyway.

There was no dramatic confrontation or meticulous surgical excision from my life--but instead a subtle, deliberate shift of who to invite to the innermost nooks of my life.

While it is complicated to delve into the psychological underpinnings of why this dynamic exists, I knew the time had come to "un-invite" when I began to withhold any good news from them.  I dreaded the Debbie Downer retort every time I shared something positive and questioned the relationship's health.  Womp Womp Woooommmmpppp...

All relationships have their natural ebbs and flows, but some are downright septic--particularly when there is minimal support or resonance. Good friends may not always agree with our choices or may sometimes secretly resent our small victories, but it becomes detrimental when they perpetually delight in our pimply, bad-hair days and epic unravellings in school parking lots.

Shouldn't we surround ourselves with those who lift, catch and celebrate us?

The kings and queens of schadenfreude often hurt us most by the unsaid and unacknowledged in our most joyful moments.  Great relationships should not have recurrent sins of omission--where we are continually deprived of positive feedback, driving encouragement and applause.  At this stage of my life, I have little patience for the tides and even less time to swim--so when I do, I owe it to myself to swim with those who I can laugh and cry with together--and who don't delight in my cellulite stashed under a Lands' End bathing suit.

I cherish those who I can't wait to meet again for breakfast or a spontaneous latte at Starbucks.  It is their nurturing energy and positive spirits that I love--and should--bask in.

The Devil Wears Prada--and delights
in your misfortune too.
Silver studded ankle-wrap sandal by Prada.
Admittedly, that initial cross-off from my list twinged with guilt, especially when there is a long, shared history and boxes of past-life photos that should never be uploaded to Facebook.  Some relationships have their rightful place in our histories, but must be delicately shelved as a snapshot of our larger evolution.  As I let go, I realize how much lighter and unburdened I feel. No guilt, no regrets, no hard feelings.

Unlike a kindergarten birthday party, I've learned that you don't have to invite everyone to your shindig--especially those who have a chronic history of sabotaging your happiness.

They would probably be the ones to throw up in the Bouncy House anyway.

It's our party, baby.  And we'll smile if we want to.