Twice in the past week or so, I’ve engaged in thoughtful conversations with colleagues about relationship issues. The first was in regard to her ex-boyfriend, and the other was about the individual’s general disappointment with a couple of friends.
I’m not sure how either of these folks came to pick me to ask for advice – and maybe the second one didn’t actually ask. We were talking generally about mental health, and taking care of our own needs, and wandered onto the topic of friends. He expressed annoyance with someone who had repeatedly not responded to dinner invitations.
The gal with the “mostly ex” boyfriend asked for womanly wisdom about putting up with his erratic behavior. “One day he can’t be friends, the next, he’s declaring we were meant to be,” she wrote.
She also said they had been through this dance about seven times before, much to her distress and embarrassment.
My advice, given that I don’t really know either of them, was simply to take care of herself. “You owe it to yourself to be happy and healthy … mentally, physically and spiritually,” I replied. “If this guy is throwing roadblocks on your journey to your best self, go around and past him. … Continue forward on your own path, confident that you are worth it!”
With the other individual, I shared something I had recently seen in a comedy video of Madea, the irreverent grandmotherly character created by Hollywood actor and director Tyler Perry. Her words, though humorously delivered, struck me as absolutely relevant to most of us.
In the video, Madea compared people to parts of a tree. “Some people are like leaves on a tree,” she said. “When the wind blows, they’re over there … wind blow that way, they over here … they’re unstable. When the seasons change they wither and die, they’re gone.”
Her best advice is “let them go.” (But don’t get mad at them, she says. That’s all they were put in your life to be – a leaf.)
It seems Madea and I have a lot in common. We both believe there are just some people who come into our lives for a season, or maybe for a reason.
There might come a time when there is no need to try to maintain that relationship that isn’t working, whether it’s a friend, a lover, a neighbor – even a family member. Sometimes the best thing, though maybe the hardest thing, is to just let them go.
Plenty of us have friends that we believe will always support us, who will be there for us no matter what – and we would do the same for them. We reciprocate and nurture these friendships – we help them, they help us. We share our very lives with these friends.
But in some cases, the relationship devolves, for whatever reason – distance, disagreement, boredom. Then comes a time to “let them go.” And that’s okay.
In Madea’s tree analogy, it’s the root people that offer the best support. All we need are just one or two of those in our lives. “Those are the kind of people that aren’t going nowhere,” Madea says. “They aren’t worried about being seen, nobody has to know that they know you, they don’t have to know what they’re doing for you, but if those roots weren’t there, that tree couldn’t live.”
There are plenty of leaves on the trees surrounding us. As Madea says, we just need to be careful not to confuse them with the roots.