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.

Powerful or Powerless?

“One of the best gifts to give a friend is freedom.”
–James Martin, S.J.


Do you ever wish for freedom from caring about things or from caring about certain people? I’ve learned some very powerful lessons about attachment in the last couple of years. Have you seen someone you love in a frightful act of self-sabotage? And you want to fix him or her? That’s attachment.

Offering help and knowing it’s that person’s choice to take or leave your advice, that’s called detachment. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care, detachment can actually manifest as a powerful act of love.

I have a friend who is an absolute expert at emotionally compartmentalizing people and events. At times I’ve watched him do this to protect his heart. Now though, I see how he uses it to spend his energy on the individuals, causes and moments most important to him. I feel like he has taught me by example. And now, I’m practicing.

You may recall that on December 31st, I created a video invitation to forget resolutions and give yourself a monthly gift. Just pick one word per month, write it on an index card and put each one in a sealed envelope. Last month, my word was TRUST. I watched how that word showed up all month. And it continues to remind me to trust that I’m on the right path, even when I’m feeling pain, it’s part of a formula that gets me to joy.

I opened this month’s envelope on April 2nd and it was POWERFUL. I love that word. Today, I read this excerpt below and it truly made me think about power:

“Admitting powerlessness is not something we love to do and yet, it is the cornerstone of the healing path of recovery. To admit one’s powerlessness is to understand one’s place in the world. For example, we are powerless over the actions of others. We cannot control other people. Simply understanding this can literally change the course of our life. I struggled for many years trying to “fix” my father. He was very sick and was making poor choices. It hurt me to see his pain and to watch the results of his poor choices right in front of my eyes. Truth be told, I became annoying to my father by trying to change him. He needed acceptance and unconditional love, but it was very difficult for me to give these to him. When he died, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I’ve expended all this effort trying to make my dad better. It strained our relationship and he has still died, sick and unhappy.’ That was a hard lesson for me to learn in recovery, but it has been one of the most important of my life.

There is an amazing power in admitting one’s powerlessness. It is counter-intuitive, which is why our logical thinking gets in the way. On your path, you will hopefully come to learn many ways that you are powerful. You will be blessed indeed not to forget the places where you are powerless.” –Tommy Rosen*, Addiction Recovery Expert & Yoga Teacher

Are you saying “wow”? Because I sure did!

So here’s my takeaway, I can be powerfully powerless. I can detach. And in so doing, I am free. This has allowed me to experience an incredible sense of joy, even in the face of some recent conflicts, that have nothing to do with me. I just watched them occur without any emotional attachment to the words and energy emanating from those creating conflict. This state of being is also possible when you perceive stresses, dramas and tensions are connected to you. While you may have obligations to take actions to move forward through those moments (at work, with family, in traffic), you are powerless in terms of controlling them, so why carry all of the emotional garbage that piles up? Why not let it fall in a dumpster, stay detached and put your power in what you can affect: your own reaction, your own heart.

Here’s one more nugget that helped me to understand the dance of being simultaneously detached, powerful and powerless:

In some of the most painful moments in the lives of friends and families—illness, divorce, death, worries about their children, financial problems—we usually cannot work miracles…Paradoxically, admitting your own powerlessness can free you from the need to fix everything and allow us to be truly present for the other person and to listen…This is when we are called not to do, but to be.”

–James Martin, S.J., The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything

Rock on my friends, flow and just be. It’s much easier.

*Tommy Rosen  is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in yoga, recovery and wellness. He holds advanced certifications in both Hatha and Kundalini Yoga and has 20 years of recovery from acute drug addiction. You can register for Tommy’s free online conference “Recovery 2.0 Beyond Addiction” May 3-7, 2014 through:

With thanks to for sharing Rosen’s work.