Saturday, July 4, 2009

Having a Happy Life

My sister in law is here visiting and shared a great story with me this morning that I want to pass along. We were talking about how wonderfully happy life is when you surround yourself with positive and happy people. Likewise, you may not realize what a downer it is when some of your friends and family are negative, pessimistic, whiny, and even make a regular habit of insulting you. Some days we just know we are in a bad mood after being in certain company, or we aren't looking forward to spending time with a particular person, but can't put our finger on why. Maybe we know a person makes us miserable but feel obligated to spend time with them because they are a friend or family member.

I mentioned to my sister-in-law how coaching teaches us to identify toxic relationships and remove these people from our lives, or at least let them know that we will not tolerate certain behavior from them. So she told me the story of The Black Walnut Tree.

"Several years back I had a little garden I tended in my back yard," she told me. "I wanted to grow some herbs and vegetables, but I was not successful with the plants. Every year the plants wouldn't survive. Every new year I resolved to try again; to figure out what I was doing wrong and find new ways to be successful in my gardening endeavors. But it never worked. I was frustrated year after year at my failure to grow these plants and see them through the season.

"One day someone pointed out to me that above the garden plot there was a large black walnut tree. 'Did you know that nothing will grow under a black walnut tree?' they asked me. 'There are toxins from the tree that will kill the plants'.

"All these years I wondered why I couldn't get the herbs to grow. I thought it was something I was doing, some way that I had failed them. But it was the black walnut tree that was poisoning their environment.
[this is really true: see more info at

"I had an epiphany then: The same thing was going on in some of the relationships I was trying to cultivate. I didn't enjoy how I felt around certain people and kept wondering what I was doing wrong and what I could do differently. I suddenly realized that in many of these cases there was a toxic environment and it was not coming from me. I was putting forth an effort to nourish and tend and give love, but without the proper atmosphere and climate, my efforts would not matter.

"Now my friends and I recognize there are people we come across who are negative forces in our lives. We call them Black Walnuts and we realize they are literally toxic to us. If people in our lives bring us down despite our attempts to communicate positively with them, it is time to free ourselves from the relationship".

This holiday weekend, take an assessment of the friends and family your are spending time with. Are you having a fabulous weekend like I am with my loving friends and family? Or are you dreading having to go through with your dinner plans this evening because of the people in whose company you will be? Consider that you are not obligated to be in the presence of people who are offensive and insulting. Think about how pleasant your life might be if you decided to avoid certain people (after letting them know what behaviors you are not willing to tolerate).

Know how happy your life can be if you make a conscious effort to seek the company of those who are positive, optimistic, giving, and caring. Please share with us your stories about someone in your life who makes you happy, or how much better your life is after having cut off a toxic relationship.
And be sure to stop by my sister-in-law's great blog Sophie, seriously; she's really smart and introspective and you can spend all day reading her stuff!


DS said...

What a nice story & a good way to make a point.

MyDailyQuestion said...

I know some black walnut folks, and I have learned to stay away from them. Good story! Thanks.