“Run away from toxic people. Instead, surround yourself with others who are positive, who support you and want you to succeed.” – Tererai Trent
I first learned about Ms. Trent from a program on Oprah Winfrey’s satellite radio station. Ms. Trent is a Zimbabwean-born woman who was pulled out of school to marry at age eleven, birthed three children by age eighteen, suffered abuse at the hands of her husband, moved to America, and later divorced said husband. Trent caught the attention of Ms. Winfrey after being featured in the book Half the Sky, written by Nicholas Kristof and co-authored by his wife Sheryl WuDunn. Trent was honored by Oprah as an example of a person who wrote down goals and later realized each of those goals. Trent’s goals were to: earn her bachelor’s degree, then her master’s, and eventually graduate with a PhD.
It is early January, the beginning of a new year, and with it comes the need for many of us to focus on our goals. To acknowledge our past failures, regrets, and dalliances with one too many potato chips then reconcile our hearts, minds, and waistline with what needs to be done moving forward.
I have never been a person that puts much stock in resolutions as the ugly little cynic that wears a red dress and sits on my shoulder believes that resolutions just set a person up for failure. But I have to acknowledge that maybe because I have been listening to a little too much Oprah radio, or because I just finished her always inspiring January issue of “O” Magazine, I feel a bit of a hankering — to be resolute. To write things down, to firm them up in my mind as an affirmation or reminder as to the life direction I would like to steer myself. I’ve even considered Post-it notes on the bathroom mirror! This is getting serious, my friends.
Having experienced some personal setbacks in December at the hands of someone who played an important role in my life in 2011, I find myself trying to shake free of their hold over my psyche as I begin 2012. Aphorisms like Ms. Trent’s remind me that I need to be resolute in my resolve to banish toxic people from my life, but there’s a soft part of me that still wants to figure out why things unfold the way they do. What motivates people to be cruel? As a friend and I were commiserating over our past year and experiences with unkind people in recent months, we wondered, was it because those people were not hugged enough as children? Ah, if only it was that easy. Though, that does lead me down a whole other rabbit hole of thought regarding attachment theory, but I will save that for another post.
Another friend, in an attempt to make me feel better about December’s happenings, reminded me that all we can do is be kind and do our best with the information we have at our disposal at any given time. We never know the paradigms that motivate others to be insensitive, self-involved, or disrespectful of others. We can only project our hope for them that they one day can evolve to a higher place. Perhaps it’s a place where they are spiritually healthier and kinder – to themselves and those with whom they come in contact.
As I closed the January issue of “O” Magazine last night, I marked the page with Oprah’s interview of Dr. Mehmet Oz where she reminded him of Maya Angelou’s belief “that when you know better, you do better.” I just turned off Oprah’s interview with rock legend Steven Tyler, front man for the band Aerosmith, and she closed out the final moments of his interview with Ms. Angelou’s same words.
I get it. This is the message I am meant to receive as we begin these nascent hours of 2012. It is my sincere hope that person who was unkind to me in recent weeks one day learns to “know better.” And, as for myself, I hope that as I mature, my radar for toxic people becomes more finely attuned as I begin to “know better” and avoid emotional entanglement with such persons as I continually strive to “do better.”
I heard somewhere, in the cacophony of chatter surrounding this new year, that it helps to be as public as possible in your resolutions. Therefore, in an effort to bolster my efforts, I will list three of my goals here. If someone reading would like to share their own, that would be welcome inspiration.
Drum roll, please:
1) Take daily notes or audio reminders on my iPhone when something sparks an idea for a post. Then … actually write about it.
2) “Detox” on people and influences in life that don’t support me being my best self.
3) Lose ten pounds. Because what New Year’s resolution list would be complete without the expressed desire to shed a couple love handles?
Thanks for reading, folks. As we begin 2012, I greatly look forward to the things we will explore together in this space.