March 23, 2020
Before I get into today’s Seedlings—Are You Sick and Tired of Hearing, “Just Let it Go?”—I acknowledge that we are in what is one of the most challenging times of our lives.
We are all first responders.
We have to be vigilant in taking care of ourselves to have something of value to offer. Otherwise, we may provide less than what is needed. So I offer just a few short thoughts on self-care.
We can pay special attention to what we are reading and sharing with others, particularly at this time. We can each amplify what is useful, kind, and true in our world. Let’s use this ability wisely, particularly today.
Move, move, move! Be creative about it all day long. While washing the dishes, do heel to toe lifts. If you’re binge-watching your favorite show, set a timer to get up every hour and get in 250 running-in-place steps. Do wall push-ups as you pass by open wall space.
If you’ve never meditated, there’s never been a better time to learn. There are countless apps and on-line resources to get the basics for free. Try Headspace or Calm.
If you’re sheltering in place, stay connected with your community of family, friends, and neighbors through phone, face-time, Skype, or Zoom. Check up on each other.
If you’re anxious, try to keep your attention on what you will do for the next hour, not the next day or week. If the next hour is too much, focus on the next five minutes. Use those minutes to strengthen yourself or help someone else.
“Imagine yourself not as vulnerable or scared, but as indispensable. Because you are. We all are.“—Maria Schriver
We will get through this together.
Back to today’s Seedlings.
“Are You Sick and Tired of Hearing, “Just Let it Go?”
Trying to let something go when it’s not ready to leave is, trust me, impossible.
The next time you hear someone, or yourself, say, “Just let it go,” please remember there’s a better way to manage discomfort.
And by the way, starting any thought with, “You should just…” is almost a surefire indicator that your listening and relational skills need work. Because when we’re struggling, all we want is to be heard, not fixed.
When someone is sharing a challenge that seems to be keeping them stuck, and they say to me, “I just need to let it go,” the irreverent thought I keep to myself is, “Good luck with that!” What comes out of my mouth is, “Would you consider another possibility?”
What makes sense, what allows us to work through uncomfortable feelings rather than resist or run away from them, is to “let them be.”
I had to do that this morning as I was writing my comments about the Coronavirus pandemic. I was aware of feeling anxious and depressed. I acknowledged it to myself and a loved one. And then I came back to writing.
Letting it be means we stop arguing with reality. We don’t ignore things we don’t like or want to have. We face them. We feel bad. That’s real. We don’t have to fight with or try to get rid of what we’re feeling.
Your response to that might be, “***?! Are you saying we should lay down and take whatever comes, like doormats, and just let it be?”
Well, yes, sort of. Except for the doormat part.
When we let it be, we see the reality of what life has handed us. And then, instead of sitting and stewing in it, waiting for it to leave, or using up all our energy trying to get rid of it, we acknowledge we’ve got it. And then, if there’s something to be done about it, we do that. But if we wait to get on with our lives until we can “Let it go,” we might be sitting in the same spot for years.
You know it’s true! We all know someone who has stayed stuck in a situation they hate, and they keep repeating, “I should just let it go.” Maybe you’ve experienced yourself doing the same thing?
Here’s what “just letting it go” can look like for me:
I argue with a friend. I notice I’m miserable. My body is tight and tense, and I am engaged in a monologue in my head — repetitive ruminations about what they said or did.
I keep telling myself I should just let it go, but crap! It’s not going anywhere.
My resentment is growing, and the next time this friend says something even remotely off-putting, I slap that on top of the last thing I couldn’t let go of.
Before I know it, after I’ve piled on a third or fourth transgression and attempted to let my discomfort go by resisting feeling my feelings or avoiding the whole thing, I’m seething and viewing my friend through a distorted lens.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling nothing but love for them and their kind heart. Today, they look like an uncaring monster.
The visual I have when I try to “just let it go” is a massive billboard at the front of my mind, distorting my vision, screaming for my attention, relentlessly holding me in its grip while I’m trying to run away from it, or ignore it.
Finally, sometimes when we focus on “just letting it go,” we end relationships that we could have saved, or that at least deserved another chance.
Here’s what can happen if I Let it be.
I notice my friend said something that hurt my feelings. But I don’t resist or avoid the discomfort I feel.
I pay attention to my body, softening into the sensations I feel so they can have their organic life and then leave.
Once I experience the actual sensations in my body, allowing them to naturally go the way of all feelings — out into the ether to be replaced by the next ones — I can acknowledge that my feelings were hurt. Then I can ask myself if there’s anything I want or need to do about it.
With unclouded vision, I can see I might have misunderstood. I can ask my friend to explain what they meant. Or maybe I’ll realize that, unconsciously, I was feeling particularly sensitive and was looking for something to get upset about to explain my discomfort. I can give my friend a heads up that I’m feeling a little fragile and might need some extra tender care for a day or two.
Either way, when I let it be, it is no longer at the forefront of my mind. I’ve experienced the feelings, so my vision is clear. Resistance is no longer in the way, distorting my perspective.
It’s a little like the Chinese toy, where you stick your fingers in each end. It gets tighter with every attempt to let it go by pulling your fingers out. But if you let it be, exactly as it is, you can gently extract one finger and then the other and move on. As soon as you apply force, you’re stuck more and more firmly.
The visual I carry in my head of “letting it be” is a ticker tape at the back of my mind, very faint, almost indiscernible, that organically leaves once I’ve allowed it to have its life.
Often, letting it be is where emotionally intimate relationships begin.
So next time you think you can’t stand something, acknowledge your reaction, give it the respect it deserves, and move forward even if you’re still carrying a bit of it with you. Let it be, an almost indiscernible ticker tape at the back of your mind, not getting in the way of anything. You don’t need to wait to act or take care of yourself until you’ve let it go. Life is too short and too precious to waste a moment, resisting or avoiding any of it.