Shine the Pot: When to let go of friends (and family)


You can Google “how to let go of toxic relationships” and find plenty of advice. But what about the kerfluffle, the cotton candy relationships that peck away at your energy? Or the people you love who either don’t have the time and energy for you or choose to spend it elsewhere.

Like everyone, I’ve received a lot of advice over the years about friendships, family and staying healthy. One of my favorites after I was hospitalized for a stress-induced “heart incident” was this:

Only give energy to relationships in which the other person is also giving energy.”

He went even further to tell me, it doesn’t matter if that person is a member of your family.


I know. Here’s the thing: you deserve love. If you find yourself pouring love, caring and energy into a bottomless pot, what happens? You get exhausted. You are not getting anything back.

If you can take some time to get quiet, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day to breathe without doing anything, you’ll get some clarity on who you want in your life.

When my mother cleaned the kitchen, she would periodically give our stainless steel teapot a really good scrub so it shined. It made the rest of the kitchen look extra clean. Recently, my husband scrubbed our Revere Ware pot (Mom’s brand). It looked like new even though it’s twenty years old!

I started thinking about how good it would feel to be shiny and new after all that time. Cleaning away the relationships whose seasons have expired is one way to get there.

This doesn’t mean you need to hurt people. Or yourself. It also doesn’t mean you’re cutting people out for life. It’s just an intention to spend your energy on relationships that give back.

Some folks won’t even notice when you fade from their radar.

When I left the pot crusty

I let a nearly 20-year friendship go too long. I became a “fixer” in the relationship. I wanted her to be someone else: she needed to fit my vision of healthy and whole. I thought I was doing it because I loved her. That may be partly true. I also think I held on to that friendship because I wanted her to be there for me in a certain way. She couldn’t. My actions were hurting her. I’m deep in my heart sorry for that. She ended the friendship in a grateful handwritten letter. It was the best gift. A space opened up inside me. Not surprisingly, my energy cleared, and within a few weeks, I met a new friend who is absolutely lovely. And it made me recognize my own unhealthy behavior of attachment. I wrote about expectations and attachment in a past post you may want to read if this resonates with you.

When I started scrubbing

That growth experience also allowed me to tell another friend, “I get why you choose not to put energy into our friendship. And it’s okay. I’m not a priority. These other things are more important in your life right now. I recognize that we won’t get together unless I initiate it.” She thanked me for understanding and being supportive of her life choices. She said she wished others saw her that way so she didn’t feel like people were upset or disappointed with her so often. She says she loves and misses me and doesn’t put any action behind her words. I realized she can have those feelings even if she doesn’t take action.

In our relationship, I employ a loving detachment, which I read about in Father James Martin’s Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything.

So I put my energies into relationships where the feelings and actions are reciprocal.

It’s keeping my pot shiny and full.

Shine your pot, fill it up and let the most important folks in your life fill it too.

Superpower Unveiled: Contentment

#WDS Rebecca Villarreal in a cape

This is not my first, nor my last post about superpowers. Or being a superhero.

It is the first time I’m writing about contentment and sharing some steps as to how I got there. The photo above was taken after an elated moment at the World Domination Summit, a gathering of people dedicated to adventure, service and community. Together we dared to answer the question, “How do I live an unconventional life in a conventional world?”

Clearly, donning a cape in public is the first step. I was inspired by Dee Williams who created her cape out of an airplane blanket during her speech about her life’s journey to building her own tiny house. (Read a perfect tiny blog post about this speech by Tiny House builder Ethan here.) Dee asked us to stand up and tie an imaginary cape around our necks. It may not surprise you that I used my wrap as a real cape in that moment. And that I walked out of the theater and down to the waterfront wearing said cape.

Try it. Right now. Stand up, shake your cape out in front of you, like you’re shaking out a sheet or towel before you fold it. Only this time, flip it around and over your head. You walk taller with a cape. You have to thrust your shoulders back to keep it in alignment. And you are driven by a strong desire to plant your feet firmly in an open stance with your balled up fists resting on your hips.

Try walking outside with your imaginary cape. No one has to know but you. You’ll notice that you have better posture and that your confidence experiences a little lift.

All that superhero set up is to tell you that recently, I went through an all-time low. Sad, dejected, I can’t quite say hopeless, but I was in the swamp. I saw it for what it was, some things happening in my life, some in my heart and some in the world.

I asked friends for help. They gave it to me with supportive words, hugs and perspective.

I also reached deep into my bucket of resources and remained open to the ones that fell in my lap. Here’s what I found

  1. Core Desired Feelings: Many of you know that I’m a believer in the Desire Map approach by Danielle LaPorte. It’s very simple. You figure out how you want to feel every day and you keep those same feelings front of mind, and heart. My Core Desired Feelings for the last few months have been Olympic Free Trusting Joy. (Note: you can change your Core Desired Feelings when the time is right for you.) I actually analyzed what in my life was lending itself to fulfilling those feelings. And I found one thing that was completely jacking it up: JEALOUSY. I thought I wasn’t one of those people that experiences jealousy, you know, those human people.  Then I realized I wanted someone else’s freedom. Freedom of time. And that was making me angry. I know, I know, be grateful, grass isn’t greener and all that. Come on, Rebecca, INSPIRE NOW! I couldn’t, until I zeroed in on the areas of my life where I’m free. So I took a five-hour semi-spontaneous bike ride along the lake and even went swimming in my biking clothes.


I looked for other smaller windows of freedom like the quiet moment of reflection over my favorite Assam tea. Then I looked at areas of my job where I’m so free to create new tools to help the folks I love and adore. And the list kept expanding until I forgot about looking at someone else’s freedoms and I couldn’t find my jealousy because I was too busy being content and noticing miracles around me…like the tree pictured below on my bike path to work. If you want to play with generating your own Core Desired Feelings, visit this groovy graphic maker where you can plug in your favorite words to make your own electronic or printable visual reminder.


  1. Tapping: I had heard about the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) from two of my most trusted advisors over the last few years and had dabbled, but not really tried. Tapping or EFT, is a blend of acupressure and talk therapy that has been scientifically proven to alter your brain chemistry. And here’s the kicker, you do it on yourself! I took a free webinar from Jessica Ortner to use tapping for weight loss, but really, I have used it to deal with anxiety, anger or sadness (in the form of disappointment mostly). It has been one of the most powerful paths to letting go of those feelings. It’s so simple, this short video is my go-to right now just to remind myself how to do it. The best part of tapping has been that it allows the “negative” feeling to bubble up and move through me,  then allows me to still love and accept myself. (As opposed to that internal script, “You shouldn’t feel this way! Look how fortunate you are!) This is particularly helpful to those of us who focus so much on gratitude that sometimes we smush down the negative feelings deeper and deeper so they have no where to go but in our guts, or to manifest in other physical triggers of stress. You can also just search EFT on YouTube and find a range of videos.
  1. The No-Diet: If you’re a faithful reader, you know I’ve spent time green juicing and being a vegan and a vegetarian as well as thriving with Weight Watchers. I loved those moments and I loved how I felt. Here’s the kicker: I’m done. I’m done with those rules and that rigor. I love food. I love exercise—fun stuff like biking, walking, swimming, yoga, soccer and dancing. So that’s it. I’m just eating real food. And drinking real wine. Mostly Pinot Noir and Rioja. No more rules. Just paying attention to what I eat, keeping it mostly whole organic non-GMO. And I’m so content.

There are more things I’ve been doing, like binge TV watching on the Kindle while doing dishes and working out (Scandal, Modern Family, Green Arrow). That’s been another outlet when I’m jonesin’ for freedom because it’s simple fun. I’ve made dates with my husband and with friends. I’ve laughed a lot with my kid. And I’ve prayed to God, my guardian angels and my guides to just help me be a vessel and make things easy. Mostly, I haven’t overdone anything. And for me, that’s revolutionary. That’s contentment.

I’m sending you a cape, some good posture and a superhero hug from me. Just be. You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough. And if you have any doubt, click on this Kid President video or watch it below. To quote him, “You have everything right now to change the world. If you want to be awesome, treat people awesome. I’m talking about compassion.” Sometimes, you have to treat yourself with compassion. Sometimes you have to see yourself as awesome, just the way you are.