50 Days Happier: Day 5 – Pre-Vacation Clear Out

For the next eight or nine days I’ll be “off the grid.”  I’ll be spending Friday and Saturday on the road because of an unexpected death in my stepson’s family.  On Sunday, the family leaves  for a camping vacation that will have me traipsing around the  woods, under rocks, and through lakes until Friday morning.  On Friday afternoon, I head directly from the campsite to Chapel Hill, NC to attend the retirement party of a dear friend and mentor.  With everything that is in the works, all the packing and preparations still in front of me, I have decided to give myself a bit of a break with regard to the challenge.  Thus, I’ve resolved to keep my eye out for any impromptu opportunities to organize or dump some trash while I sift through closets and the basement to collect all our camping gear, but no major new projects.

While I did manage to do a little clearing out while I was packing, an entirely different, and far more difficult, challenge dropped into my lap.  Most of my efforts in this challenge have been focused on my physical environment, but today I was confronted with the need to do a bit of emotional purging, prioritizing, and simplifying.

I’ve always believed that “toxic relationships” were a product of bad or mean or broken people.  I realized today that this isn’t necessarily true.  Good people with good intentions, who (at least in theory) genuinely like each other, can simply be ill-suited to maintain a healthy and functioning friendship.  The ironic part is that such friendships are in some ways even more dysfunctional than those with known assholes.  After all, you can generally tell when an asshole is going to strike.  People with bad intentions throw up warning signals like beacons.  But people who genuinely care for you, who have no intention of inflicting harm, who are good people, seem to be the ones with the ability to cut the deepest.  And when those woundings aren’t isolated incidents, but come over and over, maintaining such a friendship is like a roller coaster ride–simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.  Perhaps when I was younger, I was able to manage these kinds of relationship.  Who I am I kidding, I was actually attracted to these kinds of relationships.  They are exciting, intoxicating.  But now, I am just too old for roller coasters and if I ask myself the question, mantra, I have adopted for these 50 days–Does this relationship make me happy?–my most honest self does not want to say ‘no’, and cannot, no matter which way I spin it, say ‘yes’.

Such is life, I suppose.

I am relieved that I’ll have a few days in the wilderness to process these first five days of the challenge–this last one especially.  Though in some ways, I feel like I haven’t really done that much, in others I feel like the ground underneath my feet has shifted just enough to make me a little disoriented.  When I return, I hope to be recharged and ready to rock!


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