Let It Go

IMG_1848I think all of us have times when we feel as if we’re on a treadmill, and someone keeps turning the speed up higher and higher.  Those times when there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get through even half of our “to do” list, and we fall into bed each night exhausted and already fretting about all the things we have to accomplish tomorrow.  For some reason, Fall always seems to be one of those times for me, and this year is no exception.

I’m sure part of the problem is that the days are growing steadily shorter and that there is so much to do in order to get our yard ready for Winter and our house ready for the upcoming holidays.  My husband and I are also spending a lot of time getting my mother’s old house ready for its new owners and dealing with all the little glitches that always arise at times like these.  (It took us two months to realize that some of the utility bills for her house have gone AWOL.)   Add these extras to our usual day-to-day responsibilities, and I suppose it’s no wonder we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed.

But I know all those things are just part of the problem.  And the rest of the problem rests squarely on my shoulders.  Because I have a long-standing and very unhealthy habit of taking on too much and hanging on to too much.  My intentions are good….I want to be a supportive friend, a good neighbor, a dependable family member, and basically just the sort of person that others know they can count on for help, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Within reason, of course.  But the problem is, sometimes I forget to be reasonable.

I tend to forget that there are limits to how much responsibility I can take on and still retain a sense of well-being.  I seem to need constant reminders that when I try to “be there” for everyone, I usually end up satisfying no one, least of all myself.  I need to learn that there’s no such thing as a perfect friend or relative, and that as long as I am doing my best, those who truly care about me will be okay with that.

I suspect that self-care and setting healthy boundaries will always be a process for me, and that’s okay.  I’d rather be too generous with my time and resources than too selfish.  But I also want to respect my limits, and learn to say “no” to obligations and needs that I truly can’t meet without stretching myself too thin.  I need to let go of my natural inclination to rush in and try to fix things, all the time.  Because let’s face it, it’s both arrogant and short-sighted of me to believe that I’m the only one who can step up when help is required.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll get to the point where next Fall is just a little bit more relaxed, and therefore more enjoyable for me and also for the people who would rather not have to deal with me when I’m stressed and crabby.  That certainly strikes me as a worthy goal….

77 thoughts on “Let It Go

  1. Boy I sure can relate! Hardest lesson for me has been, that I need to stop expecting myself out of others. People never think the same way but I still get hung up on “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”

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    • Yes, we each look at things our own way. And I think that “do unto others” is still a good way to live our lives, but we have to see it in a more general way. Because what we want and what others want isn’t always the same thing. And we have to remember that it is so very important that we take care of ourselves as well. Thank you for the insightful comment!

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  2. It is so easy to keep saying “yes” to things, when we know deep down, our days are already full. We do this because we set very high expectations for ourselves. Surely, we can get it all done one way or another. The truth is, a whole lot may get done. But, what about our peace of mind? What about the quality of our sleep? What about how we feel? Sometimes, a day off is what is in order. Rest. A change of pace. A cup of tea and a walk in the crisp autumn air with no to-do list in hand. You can try and conquer the world, but you do not want the world to conquer you. If it can’t be a day off, then let it be a morning or an afternoon…a break is due. Now, rather than later. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for your wise comment, Linda! You’re right, when are so busy trying to please every one else, we sacrifice ourselves in the process. And that doesn’t really help anyone. Sometimes, we just need to take a break, and trust our loved ones to understand.

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      • Like Jill, I too, have learned the hard way… In the end, we have to listen to that little voice inside that tells us we are tired, we have done too much. Often, when it is too late…we catch a cold when we are run down, or worse, and then we realize there really are limits we must set for ourselves. A happy balance is such a good thing. It does mean letting some things go; it also means enjoying the things we choose to do and putting them at the top of the list. You matter. Your feelings matter. The people who love you for your warm heart and kind spirit understand that you need a break too. Give yourself that body and soul refreshment. Give a little portion of all that you give away to others to yourself. Jesus knew the value of time set apart…I think He tried to set that example for us. I know it is so hard to do, but that ‘refreshment’ is like a life-makeover. Everything just feels better because you, yourself, feel better.

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        • You know, the way I figured out I was doing too much (or trying to do too much) was when I got a cold last weekend! Sometimes our bodies have to tell us the hard way to slow down and take a break. Because you’re right, we all need a rest now and then, for our bodies and our souls!

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    • I’m glad you’ve figured out what your real priorities are, Jill! It is okay to say no, especially when we’re already doing as much as we possibly can, and we have a clear picture of who needs us the most. It does make it easier to put things into perspective too!

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    • Believe me, I can relate! But I think we have to remember that those who really care about us don’t want us to be exhausted and stressed, so they are okay with us setting boundaries. And those who don’t care about us aren’t the ones we should be killing ourselves to please…..

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  3. I’m a fixer, too. Sometimes it’s only my crankiness that tells me my plate is too full and runneth over. So, what kind of a legacy do I want to leave? Cuz the children have been watching and the tightrope is wobbly…

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    • Yeah, that’s the lesson I’m finally figuring out too, Miriam! When I try too hard to take care of everyone else, I don’t have enough left in me to really do a good job of taking care of anyone, myself included. So that’s where boundaries and realistic expectations come in. It’s a learning process for sure!

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  4. The longer I live, the more convinced I am that balance is one of the Big Lessons that many of us have to figure out. Your past few months have been such a whirlwind, Ann, that it’s no wonder you’re feeling out of whack (so to speak…). So you’re doing a fine job of figuring out how to reset and redo your life while also not wanting to lose too much of your beautiful helping spirit. It will come, and you will be all the better for having come to this crossroad and chosen the better part.

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  5. I have the same problem but it’s due to guilt – probably due to the way I was raised. I hurt myself a lot living life the way I did, cramming 48 hours of caring for others into the 24 God given ones. Although I was aware of the damage I was doing to myself, I just couldn’t seem to live differently.

    But in recent months, I’ve slowly come to realise one thing: that when we always make ourselves the ones people depend upon, in some ways we spoil people. We make them lazy and a little selfish because they don’t need to come out of themselves for others – since we are so available. Before long, their needs regularly trump ours.

    Sometimes, we are called to give and give till there’s nothing left in us – but not always. There’s a season for everything, even for emptying ourselves. We need to know when to step back and when to push on.

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    • That’s a very good point. Sometimes we can do too much for others, and they get to the point where they expect it out of us. I once thought my name must really be “somebody” because it seemed that whenever I was in a group of people and the words “somebody ought to do that” came up, everyone would turn and look at me. But then I realized that if people expected me to do all the work, it was because I had (unintentionally) taught them to do just that. So now I try hard to pick and choose what I’ll do, and to say, “I just can’t do that right now” without feeling guilty.

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  6. I’ve been in your shoes thinking I was the only one who cared enough to get things done right. I like your realization that you have to retain your own sense of well-being and do what is best for you first if you are to get through things. I’ve been consciously saying ‘let it go” to myself all fall, hoping that the spirit of the season will help me move forward in a lighter, happier way. I wish the same for you, too.

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    • Thanks, Ally! I hope that it works for both of us. Life can be difficult enough all by itself, we don’t need to make it harder by overburdening ourselves. Especially during the holidays which shouldn’t be about seeing how much work and activities we can cram into a day!

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    • I think you’re right, we will always have to be intentional about how we spend our time, and willing to reassess as our situation changes. And when others believe we have lots of free time, the requests for us to “fix” things come fast and furious, don’t they? So we have to be more intentional about making sure we’re taking time for ourselves, too!

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  7. I share with you the very same problems. I also have the tendency to take on too many tasks and then feel frustrated that I cannot do them all.
    Next fall is still a very long time ahead to take some action, Ann. Practice cutting back on some of the activities you will be facing as we are approaching Christmas.
    As to me, I have been cutting back with blogging activity. I used to publish five posts a week, now I am down to two and feel so much better. I also used to be an avid Flickr user,. Now I have completely dropped out of it. Perhaps you will find also more ways to make your life a little more comfortable and less frustrating, Ann. Best wishes! Peter

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    • I think you’re right, Peter! As for blogging, I used to post every four days and to read each and every post of the blogs I followed. But that took so much time, so now I just post once a week or so, and simply read most of the posts of the blogs I follow. I give myself permission to adjust my blogging schedule according to what’s going on in my life.
      And yeah, I think I do need to make some concrete decisions about how we’re going to celebrate the holidays so we can actually enjoy them. My husband and I have already decided to put off some of our projects around the house until January, even though November has traditionally been our time to de-clutter, touch up paint, and in general attack the “to do” list for our house. Even that small step has taken a lot of pressure off!

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  8. I swear time speeds up as we age! I am also guilty of saying yes, particularly when it comes to my family & those I care about. I just keep reminding myself I’ll have lots of time for sleep at the end of life😂. Thanks for sharing your very wise words Anne! Have a wonderful day!

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    • It’s hard to say no, especially if we like to be helpful! But I’m trying to think of it as saying no to others means I can say yes to myself now and then, and to remind myself that I need to take care of me, too. I’ll let you know how that works out!

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  9. I go through this from time to time and my approach is to start cutting anything and everything that doesn’t give me personal pleasure. Yup…sometimes that is saying “No” to friend requests for help. But, I am honest with them too. Once explained my real friends understand without issues. Take a personal day Ann, I think you could use it.

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  10. Be kind to yourself. I’m trying this too. I know something in some of us feels like that is selfish, but we really are of no value to anyone else if we aren’t. 🙂 ❤ You are worthy! Hugs!

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  11. “I need to learn that there’s no such thing as a perfect friend or relative, and that as long as I am doing my best, those who truly care about me will be okay with that.” This is the same thought I had this morning when I was feeling guilty for not calling a long-time friend for several months now. She’ll understand because she’s that kind of friend, so there’s no sense wasting emotional bandwidth on it. I’ll call her when I have time and we’ll pick up where we left off. Totally get you on this post – we are our own worst critics and slave-drivers. There will always be ‘too much to do’ but it’s our choice whether we stress it.

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    • I really liked your last sentence, because that summed up exactly what I was trying to say! Yes, there will always be more we need to do than we possibly have time for, and we can’t change that. But we can decide not to stress out about it, and to realize that we’ll get to things when we get to them…. Thanks, Cara!

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  12. But this is such a difficult lesson for us to learn. Which is why we need writers/bloggers like you to remind us/each other to get off the treadmill every once in a while. Sometimes I get so out of breath from “running” too fast and too long on that treadmill that I literally hear myself shout in my head: S T O P. And I do. I make myself get off the computer/phone/kitchen/laundry room/car and sit down and breathe. What a release! The other thing I’ve placed into practice is meditating at 5:30 every evening for 10 minutes. I recommend it. xo

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    • When I’m really feeling stressed out, I try to just sit in a comfortable chair with a good book (and ignore my phone if it rings.) For some reason, that helps a lot. And thanks for the tip on mediating. I tend to think that it requires a whole lot of time and possibly a teacher, and forget that it can be done on my own, for short periods of time, and still help!

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  13. Seems I’m the last one to pipe up on this post. I learned to say no (kindly and gently) at work after having 3 bosses who were at odds with each other! I also had to fine tune my ability to prioritize so that I didn’t get overwhelmed. Hope you can hold yourself back from over committing – no one should feel crabby during the holidays!!

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    • Having three bosses who didn’t cooperate with each other sounds like a “make it or break it” situation! I’m glad you learned how to say no and to balance their demands, and I bet that comes in very handy in your personal life as well. I’m trying very hard not to over commit from now on, especially during the holidays, because I agree with you: they are meant to be enjoyed!

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  14. You’ve got a lot on, and I think it’s a tricky one because I can see the whole not wanting to be selfish with your time, but needing to respect your limits, too. Tricky balance. I think when you start to feel you’re reaching burnout or your own needs are slipping and not being met, it’s time to take a breather. Are there any ways you can lighten the load, even just a little? A few things you can say no to? Some way you can take some time for yourself, to do something you enjoy, get the things done that you want to do right now? I think your help will be very much appreciated by your family, but they wouldn’t want you overdoing it and feeling so frazzled either.  ♥
    Caz xx

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    • Thanks so much for the suggestions, Caz! Yes, I do believe there are ways that I can just lessen the load a little bit, without neglecting any of the important things. It’s a matter of me first admitting that I can’t do all this, and secondly, figuring out what actually has to be done now and what can either wait until later or be done by someone else. I’m learning to fight my first impulse of saying, “yeah, sure!” whenever I’m asked to do something!

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  15. Hi Ann, it’s hard to keep the right balance. And it’s also hard to say no to things we genuinely care about. There’s also the guilt of not doing something for someone or to help out with something, especially when you’re around a lot of people who say yes to everything. It makes me feel like I’m being selfish, but now I resist going down that road. Something always has to give when we overcommit. Great post about a thing we all struggle with.

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    • Thank you! And I do think it’s a very common problem. I know a few people who go the opposite way, in that they rarely help anyone with anything. But for most people, we want to be helpful to those in need and that’s a good thing. It only becomes a bad thing when we forget our limits and commit to more than we can do without becoming completely stressed out and crabby! So that’s what I’m working on, to learn to think before I give an answer, and not to commit to too much. Self-care doesn’t come easily to me, but I’m working on it!

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  16. Ann, I think many people can relate your feelings. One strategy that has helped me is to say, “I need to check my calendar and then I will get back to you.” This helps me in two ways. First, if I put my commitments on my calendar it keeps me realistic about what I can get done. In my mind I always set unrealistic goals for myself. Second, I always want to help. I am an automatic YES. Helping feels good. But providing myself space to think about what I am already committed to and time to reflect on different ways I can be of help has been valuable for me. Sometimes just listening for a few minutes is the help that is needed.
    I really appreciate your post. Just writing this down has made me realize how intentional I have become about saying yes, as well as, saying no thank you.

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  17. I think most of us want to do it all. We know we can’t but it’s our nature to at least try. We have that same problem in my house. One of us is always doing way more than we should but somehow it all works out. By January you’ll be amazed with all that you have achieved.

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  18. I hope your mother is settling in well to her new environment. She is blessed to have you taking care of things. I hope all the extra bits get sorted before the holidays so you can sigh and enjoy. My husband is the fixer in our family. I love my daughter’s line for him at times, “Remember dad, it’s not your circus, not your monkeys.” Makes us laugh anyways and reminds him that certain situations are not his to fix. Take care! 🙂

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    • I love that circus and monkeys line! In fact, I use it whenever I get frustrated at the animal shelter….it’s my way of reminding myself that I only volunteer there, I don’t actually run the place. And yes, Mom is very happy in her new home, which makes all the work worth it. My daughter and son-in-law are actually buying her house, so we’ve been busy getting it ready for them, but they are moving in this weekend, so things will slow down for us soon. Meanwhile, I’m learning to say no to other commitments until we get through this crazy time, and that’s been helping a lot. I do want to enjoy the holidays. Thanks so much for your sweet comment, Brenda!

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  19. Pingback: Let It Go — Muddling Through My Middle Age – Toviadiva's blog

  20. So very true, Ann! And I really hope that next Fall will be more relaxing for you. It surely is a stressful time and I can relate to your description of the treadmill – it really gets faster and faster these days! But as you said – we need to learn to accept our own limits and to say no in order to take proper care for ourselves.

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    • Thanks, Sarah! I don’t know why it is so hard for me to remember that it’s not my job to fix everyone else’s life, but it is. And then I get so frazzled and stressed that I’m no use to anyone, least of all myself. Self-care is actually a good and necessary thing, and allows us to be so much kinder to others….I just need to keep repeating that to myself, I think!

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  21. You know…I almost wrote something similar about how I used to try to be the best fill-in-the-blank person for everyone, but I’ve realized that’s impossible and for me, I always end up disappointed because there’s a little bit of expectation tied to it, which typically goes unfulfilled. Anywho, I can relate. Thanks for writing this.

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