I'm wondering if part of what we carry around under the category we label as stress might be easily disposed of by simply letting go of some people, things, tasks, and situations. When we can let go of whatever is no longer a positive influence, we make our lives easier.
I'm one of those people who is reluctant to let go of people. Some-times, of course, that is a good thing. Just last month, while on vacation in New England, I visited my best friend from high school. We have missed a few years off and on, but, whenever we are together, it is as if time has stood still for us. I should never, will never, let her go. At the same time, one of my college roommates reconnected with me by discovering www.theshopper.com. What a thrill to find e-mail from her 17 years after losing touch. I count relationships with these and other dear old friends as great blessings. But not every relationship, old or new, retains value.
I know that I used to keep too many people in my life for far too long. Casual acquaintances from decades past remained on my Christmas card list when I could barely remember their names. I haven't sent cards to anyone for several years now, but, if and when I do again, the list will reflect only those whom I hold in both my memory and my heart.
As I mature, I am finally able to let go of some people whom I once thought of as friends, but turned out not to be. Once upon a time, I made excuses for others' ill manners, even intentional insults. 'He had a bad childhood' or 'she is stressed,' I might reason, or 'she just sees the situation differently.' While those excuses may be true, I no longer grant them the power of absolution for boorish behavior. I think coming to grips with this is progress for me.
It is painful to let go of those who were once close, but far better than to remain vulnerable to someone who does not have our best interest at heart. I liken it to living in a toxic environment, breathing unsafe air, or drinking contaminated water. Air and water that once served life can, when polluted, drain it away. What we are unable to restore, we must abandon.
I know people, divorced for 5, 10, even 20 years, who remain fixated on what the ex 'did to' or is still 'doing to' them. Let it go! It takes a long time to come to terms with a marriage gone awry, but while we're doing it we need to avoid or at least shed the victim mode as soon as humanly possible. Just letting go of victimhood goes a long way toward relieving stress.
Thankfully, I do not harbor ill will toward those who have treated me poorly. I grew up in a religion that prays, 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others. . . .' and I believed, still believe, in that concept. The grace that allows me to be forgiven and to forgive genuinely also allows me to remove myself from harm's way. I love the adage, fool me once, fie on thee; fool me twice, fie on me. It is painful to let go of those who were once close, but far better than to remain vulnerable to someone who does not have our best interest at heart.
Some people are unable to make changes consistent with other changing life circumstances. When a child goes off to college, it is certainly reasonable to leave her room as is, reflecting the fact that she will return for holidays and summers. But should the room become a shrine to a child long since married and moved away? Empty nest syndrome is a very real sorrow for many parents, but when let go can be replaced with a new focus. Many rewarding, even joyous activities requiring time and freedom can be pursued once parents are released from the daily responsibilities of children in the home.
My friend Lin Olsen, who is our Public Relations Director, has enjoyed parenting as much as anyone I've known. Her sons are great guys who are still living at home attending high school and college but do not need as much of her time as they once did. Lin now serves on the CHIP board, a group of unselfish individuals committed to the well being of children who are in need of many necessities previously denied them due to their poverty. Rather than bemoan the loss of her little boys, Lin celebrates the men her sons are becoming and now uses some of the energy she once devoted to them to help underprivileged children.
Then there's 'things' to be let go. I'm in the midst of this kind of letting go. I've long had a 'purple room' - a spare room with purple carpet where things get stored. But I also have a full third floor attic and a shed outside . . . For years I have enjoyed buying antiques and in the last several years have reactivated an old business to buy and sell antiques again. Thank-fully, I have sold large items this year and have begun to sell the smaller 'collectibles' as well. I tell you this to let you know that I am the pot calling the kettle black when it comes to letting go of things. But, letting go feels good. Once started, it's easier to keep going, or rather - to keep 'letting go.'
Clutter is not the sign of a healthy mind regardless of what the cute sayings are about messy desks. I also think the opposite is true. Overly neat and organized homes make me wonder if anyone lives there. I think moderation in all things is still the answer. A collection of photographs arranged in albums and framed for tables and walls can be very interesting. But a room full of piles of photos is simply treasured clutter that no one wants to see.
Another thing needing letting go of for me involved my business. I became overburdened with 'too much to do' and wondered if I were capable of running a business that had grown so much over 2 decades. From printing 3,000 copies of one Shopper with 12 pages to printing 90,000 papers for 8 editions of 20 to 40 pages in each involved a lot of growth in technology, staff, facilities, etc. After a lot of changes and soul searching, I found the answer where it always was - in front of my eyes.
The time came this year when I realized something very important. 'I can do anything,' I said one day, 'but I can't do everything.' I took a look at my staff and it was clear to me that I didn't need to do everything. I have a loyal and dedicated staff who are fully capable of doing what needs to be done each and every month. It had finally dawned on me that, not only could they do the job, but that they had been doing it for years! What a surprise. Finally, I was fully aware that I no longer needed to proofread every ad, approve every contract, recycle every left over paper. I have staff for that.
What I need to do is oversee the whole operation, keep us on the same ethical track that has always been our direction, and say thank you to a staff of people who are exceptionally good at what they do. I can do that.
There is another thing that only I can do, write my columns that I have always thought of as letters to you individually. It pleases me when you tell me that a thought I share with you sometimes makes a difference. How lucky I am.
How very easy it is to write about letting go after we become aware of the need to do it and then actually follow through. But I know, and I'm sure you know, it's not easy when it's right ahead of us. Nothing worth while seems easy until it's over. Ready? Let go.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.
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