Stepping Back and Letting Go

One of the things Jake and I did a few years ago was to spend time figuring out what mattered to each of us. We made short lists of things that really, really mattered so that the other person could make a concerted effort to focus on them. For example, an item on my list could be “put the dirty dishes in the sink” (this is not an item on my list by the way, just an example!) and so Jake could know that and make an effort to do that thing because he knows it’s at the top of my short list. This way he won’t put the dishes on the counter and I won’t pick a fight over something that’s not on my list.

The thing is, we won’t ever get it all right. When you live with other people you’re bound to have a million little issues. (And big ones, too, of course, but fewer of those if you’re lucky.) This is inevitable. It’s a part of daily life. And it’s not limited to your partner. You can go to Starbucks to get coffee and someone can cut in line. Someone can get your order wrong. Someone can spill stuff on your shirt. Someone can respond rudely. The list goes on and on. These instances are more often and repetitive with your partner cause you spend more actual time with them.

So having this list really helps me. It reminds me of the few things that truly matter to me. And, more importantly, reminds me that I can let go of all the rest. Sometimes we’re in a bad mood and pick a fight for no reason. Sometimes we just want to be right. Sometimes we make things a matter of pride. The list stops me from doing any of these. Each time an issue comes up, I can take a step back and check if this is on my list (and I try to keep my list small and specific so it’s not open to interpretation and bending of truth to fit my mood.) If it’s not on the list, I take a breath and let it go. If I already started picking a fight over it, I apologize and reset.

I am not saying this always works. But when I remember to step back and adhere to the list, it works like magic. It also helps to have my husband’s list so I know what to focus on most when trying to be the best I can. I can’t fix everything all the time, but I can prioritize based on what matters most to him.

I’ve decided that the same setup would work well for work. I had a situation today and once I was able to step back, I realized it didn’t matter that much after all. I was letting my pride and frustrations get in the way. So I took a moment, apologized and let it go. I decided a few weeks ago that my work list only contains one item for now and it’s an item that’s definitely being met. So I am going to let everything else go as it comes up. I believe that remembering my list and remembering that it’s being met is the most crucial thing for my personal peace.

A lot of life, for me, is learning to deal with these moments. I tend to focus on small things and get overly upset, anxious, worried, etc. I am a worrier so I take a lot of stuff on and let it all get to me. Having my list and using it regularly will allow me to keep things in perspective. It will allow me to regularly practice letting go. And I know that the more I practice, the more it will become second nature.

Here’s to being able to step back naturally and let go.

5 comments to Stepping Back and Letting Go

  • sheri

    I am a worrier too. I think the list idea is a good one and I am sure is helpful for dealing with this sort of anxiety and gaining perspective.

  • Sophie

    I’m definitely with you on that one, Karen. Being a Virgo too, lists are dear to me and a great great tool. In fact, your post is a timely reminder that a list might just be what I need to stop me from strangling my stepson. Thank you for the reminder!

  • Daney

    Love it. thanks for posting this. I need to make a list (and maybe several small context specific lists would be more accurate).

  • One of the best books my husband and I have read is His Needs, Her Needs. In the early part of the book it talks about the “love bank” and how the way you treat someone can either debit or credit a person’s “account”. The things which credit your account are usually different from your spouse (although many of these principles apply to friends, or could be extended to the work environment too). So one particular thing on the list may count for way more credits (or debits) in your own account than in someone else’s. Learning what those debits and credits are is key, and in a marriage especially, staying out of the red! If I do something for my husband which “counts for a lot of credits” he’ll sometimes say “cha-ching!” to let me know. 🙂

  • […] don’t really mind either outcome, then I can stop the fight before it starts. I can remember my list and I can let it go. Because once I remember that it doesn’t matter, it’s easy to let […]

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