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September 25, 2009

Time to Weed The Garden (or, how to rid yourself of Toxic People)

Time to Weed the Garden (or, how to rid yourself of Toxic People)

by Kathy Sweeney

Blog weed garden

The older I get, the less willing I am to spend time or energy on people I don't like.  In some ways, I'm mellowing out - I don't yell as much, and I am able to control my temper to the point that I no longer tell people to go to hell, even when they deserve it.  If someone needs that message, I can deliver it more artfully.

But wasting precious time and emotion?  Done with that.  I used to think I was being nice - or charitable, by putting up with bullshit from people who are jerks.  I blame the Guilt. Guilt, as you know, has deep roots.  Doesn't matter if you are Catholic or Jewish (the reigning champs of Guilt via Religion) or Irish (oh, how we love the misery) or Italian (oh, how we love the drama) or anything else.  We're all born with a nice slab of guilt to carry around. 

The problem with spending time on people who are crazy-makers is that it can be toxic.  Toxic is bad.  See, it's not just that you spend time surrounded by negativity.  It's that some people simply bring out the worst in others just by being mean as snakes, or ignorant as a box of hammers. When I say ignorant, I make no reference to IQ or education.  There are smart people who never finished high school.  And there are morons with every graduate degree on the planet.  Ignorance - the kind that makes me feel like throwing up - is the kind that comes from people believing and spouting nonsense when a simple, factual reference tells them it is simply not true.

Blog toxic barrell

I used to waste time trying to inform these ignoramuses.  No more.  Because it's not about teaching or enlightening these people.  They don't want to know the truth.  They are much more comfortable with whatever fiction they've woven into their crazy quilts of nastiness.  They think it protects them from the evil ones, where evil is defined as anyone different.

So - as my friend Thommie used to say, you need to weed the garden.  You need to get rid of the toxic people before they over-run the good ones, including yourself.  Here are a few tips:

1.  Check your e-mail lists and address books.  If there are people there who make you cringe, delete them. That's right, hit the button.  The world will not stop turning.  In fact, many of them will continue to bug you because they are not aware enough to realize you're not contacting them any more.  You can respond politely without encouraging further contact.  Then at some point, you just stop responding.  Is this rude?  Only if you think politesse requires that you be miserable.

2.  Don't say yes to everything.  We're all busy.  We can't possibly do everything everyone asks us to do.  If someone invites you somewhere, or wants you to volunteer for something, tell them you have to check your calendar first and you'll have to get back to them.  If you decide to decline, you don't need elaborate explanations.  A simple:  'I'm not available' or the nicer 'I'm sorry, but I already have plans' is enough.  Prepare yourself to repeat this exercise with the most obnoxious of your Toxic Contacts.  Don't cave.

3.  Stop feeling like it's your job to fix everything.  You have enough to fix in your own house, family and career. You are not the only resource available.   Those of you who know me can stop laughing now because this one is my biggest challenge.  And knowing many of you - it's also yours.  Here is the thing, though.  If you give too much of yourself to things that don't really matter, you may not have enough left for the things that really do matter.  Control issues?  One or more of the Deadly Sins at play?  No shit, Sherlock.  I didn't say it was easy.

It's officially autumn this week.  And if you've ever gardened, you know you have to clean up if you want things to bloom in the spring.  Trees don't shed their leaves just to create work for rakes, y'know.  

So - what say you?  What's your advice?


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Truer words were never written.

I weeded my garden several years ago and I can't tell you what a load off my shoulders it was. I had enough stress in my life I didn't need their toxins poisoning my health and mental well-being.

I didn't just remove these toxic weeds from my life, E-mail lists, and address books, I blocked them.

Saying 'no' becomes easier after you do it a few times.

I have my priorities straight. What people think about me doesn't matter one bit.

I love this topic, Kathy, and you nailed the top three pieces of advice I would give.

What I would add is that being nice or kind does not require you be a sap. Meaning, if there are times when you want to go out of your way to help someone, or you want to volunteer, that's fine. Great, even, and the world could stand a little more kindness. If, however, someone is always coming to you and imposing on your time without any respect for what you need to do for yourself and/or your family, and you do it anyway, you are falling into the "sap" category.

Respect yourself first. Then act on that respect.

Oh, why could I not have read this before going to Back to School Night and signing that volunteer sheet? Damn, damn, damn.

Thanks for the validation, Kathy. A situation recently arose in which I felt I was being taken advantage of, and I "just said no", rather than allow it to happen again.

Harley, they always get you with the guilt. Be strong. You have a long way to go before those kids go to college.

And Kathy, I was thinking of you last night. First because of Rachel--was that your friend who ended up with a minus? I missed all but the very end, darn it. And then secondly because there was a woman on our news who looked just like you. Weird.


Harley - just because you signed the sheet doesn't mean you have to say yes to everything. Seriously.

Karen - Rachel is in the Jeopardy Teen Tournament, which isn't on until the first two weeks of November. Stay tuned for further details.

In other news, last night, my daughter Rick Rolled Cape May County on the same stage that launched Taylor Swift. Best. Gift. Ever.

Well, I just hit "Hide Mafia Wars" (sorry, Nancie et al.) and "Hide Vampire Wars" on my FaceBook page, because all those updates, which I can't even paraphrase because I didn't read any, were filling up the page and moving "real news," which is what FaceBook is full of, off the bottom.

That's about as close to clearing weeds in my life as I can get. Otherwise, I'm the weed being cleared from other people's lives.

Happy Birthday Kathy!

Did you get your Rick Roller on tape? Sounds like a hoot.

I agree about pruning out the weedy people of life, but I still have this need to see everyone as children of God. One thing I try to do is at least pray for those I cannot stand being around. Sometimes prayer changes me, or the person, or at least the situation between us. Sometimes, the toxic relationship or person remains just that -- toxic -- but I haven't dehumanized the other person.

Ah, Kathy, is this why you aren't answering my emails anymore?

JK. But Josh made a good point--what if you are the weed? Interesting thought.

Harley, as I'm sure everyone here knows, school volunteerism is a best of times/worst of times thing. During the elementary years, I swear I had "sucker" tattooed on my forehead. By middle school, I was learning to be proactive. I befriended the school librarian and offered to go in once a week and be an unofficial (aka unpaid) assistant. Any special events in the library, I was there. By high school, I was running a book group and having a blast with the students. Best of all, I put in enough time doing what I liked, and what I could do that best served the kids, that I felt absolved from what I hated (like fundraising).

It's your birthday? Happy, happy BD!


Happy Birthday!

Great blog. So much to think about and work on. I've gotten better at weeding the garden, but get stumped when the weeds are family!

This is all great . . . and Josh, I had no idea you could block certain activities . . . I thought you could only block people. Thanks!

I guess the only thing I'd add is to Get Over It: So, you are mad at your parents? For something from 50 years ago? Get over it. That person got the job/book deal/guy and you didn't? Get over it.

Happy Friday, everybody!

Yep, it's my Birthday and thanks for the good wishes.

To paraphrase my sister's BDay greeting - "It's a miracle you've lived almost 50 years and not committed murder."

My response is my standard to these kinds of statements: "Never convicted."

Happy Birthday, Kathy! About your sister's comments, remember, never leave a trail.

Today is also International Hug A Vegetarian Day. (((( Harley ))))

I always tell Facebook not to publish my accomplishments (certain scores, found items, etc) for that reason. My page is full of quiz results and high scores and ponies fed.

I love this blog, Kathy. It sure speaks to me. I am the queen of guilt, make sure everyone else is happy, say yes to everything asked of me. My whole life has been a long line of seeking approval - I'm assuming a result of being the baby of the family. In recent years, I've gotten better. And like Peg said, care much less what people think.

But I'm still paranoid, and will probably now think that everyone is avoiding me because I'm a "weed". ;)

Happiest of birthdays, Kathy. I have 4 more years to get as smart as you. Don't think it will happen in 40 more.

Excellent advice. I recall the year, when my kids were still in grade school, when I finally found the gumption to say "No" to all the 'will you help us with...." requests.

I've learned to pick and choose more carefully.

Great blog! Just the other day I omitted people from my facebook page because they only added negativity. It's also a good reminder to weed my actual garden this weekend. Thanks!

Truer words have never been said.

Josh, you are a lifesaver! I had no idea you could hide all those game updates.

Off to hide. Yoohoo!

Amen to every bit of your advice...and it isn't easy to follow. I don't make friends easily so it's hard to admit I made a bad choice and 'unfriend'...although I've been better at it these last few years. Like you, I think the wisdom comes with age and the realization that time is too precious to waste on people who depress or demean or otherwise negatively impact our lives. And I've learned to say 'no' when I don't want to do something...and 'yes' only when it makes sense to do so.
Have a great birthday! Enjoy good friends, good family, good food and have a glass of whatever on me :o)

Happy birthday, Kathy.
I've weeded out most of the toxic people about 10 years ago. Don't miss them a bit.
Josh, I'm off to hide the game updates, if I can figure out how.

I call these folks Black Holes because if you let them, they suck away all your good energy and leave you circling like a dead planet.

It took me years to figure out I didn't have to suffer these fools. One of the great things about getting old is you learn it's not only okay to rid yourself of these folks, it is NECESSARY! And you know what happens if you do this? You make room and time for good people, and you have energy to be good to them in turn.

This rule also applies to relatives.

Happy birthday, Kathy. And thanks for the reminder. I am going to Facebook now and de-friend some arses.

Elaine, let me know if you can't figure it out. I finally found the hidden "hide" button--which pops up when you hold your mouse over the update.

I was listening to Terry Gross on Fresh Air yesterday. She had cast members from The Office on her show, which was interesting, even though I've watched it maybe four times. The guy who plays Dwight said you either know someone like Michael Scott (the obnoxious boss), or you are one. There's your food for thought, right there.

Unfortunately, I have found myself to be that "weed" lately & I must change it.

I had a good friend in high school tell me that no one liked a whiner and she was right. I just have to find a way not to be so cranky, lol.

I have been 'weeding' alot the past year.
My niece is a waste of space. Her mother (my former s-i-l) was in the hosp a month & dead a week before she called, 2 hrs before the service, to let our side of the family know! I have deleted her phone#. She's dead to me.
Yesterday was a good day for hiding messages on facebook. Yes, they were entertaining and supported good causes, BUT, they overdo it & I can't find messages from my real friends. (no TLCer's were harmed! LOL)

Kathy, great post.

I recently had to get rid of a Toxic friend and the air is fresher every morning now.

As I get older, my "friends" list is much shorter nowadays.

Pam, this too shall pass, honey. We all love you.

A weed is anything growing where it's not wanted -- which means the clover in my yard is NOT a weed! (and neither are any of y'all ;-)
One can hide apps and people on FB, and one can set e-mail "rules" to shunt certain people straight to the trash . . . used appropriately, it can save much angst.
This is "good news" time for me: there is an offer on the condo and it passed inspection (rightly so, I even fixed the screens)!! Also, I've sent the Frog and Friends CD to Oasis for duplicating.
Life is grand!!

Brava, Mary!

Thanks, Karen! Loved the H.P. movie -- and then stopped by the condo to retrieve accessories --rented "staging" furniture will be picked up Monday!

Kathy, I'm so glad you wrote on this subject.

In 1998, I told a guy not to call me again until he'd gone an entire year without lying. It had gotten to be too much work to figure out what was the truth and what was a lie, and I didn't have time to mess with him. Well, you guessed it. I never heard from him after that. But hey, my instincts were on point. The Texas Rangers just opened two suspicious death cases on his last 2 wives. And that's why you weed your people-garden of toxic waste.

I'm not kidding.

Rita Scott: "She's dead to me."
You must be Italian...

Laurie, very good instincts indeed! This story sent shivers up my spine.

I hope you had a happy birthday. I am chiming in late, but I just wanted to say thank you for this. A lot to ponder.
I wonder if there is such thing as being mutual weeds? I have a friend of longstanding and lately we are like itchy sweaters with each other. Just different people, different lives, different opinions.
I think we would like each other a lot better if we put more distance between us. I guess it was naive to express that opinion to my friend, even though she had already 'fessed up to not feeling comfortable around me.
She feels like you either cut people off entirely or you work to keep a friendship.
The last couple of months with her have already felt a lot like work to me and not fun work either. I keep trying to express this gracefully, but I keep stepping in emotional flypaper. I can't cut her out entirely (as tempting as that sounds), I have borrowed 3 books from her. I've resigned myself to the fact she thinks I'm horrible friend, but I refuse to be a book thief!

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