This year, I have set off with an intention to simplify my life. It was my clear desire at the start of 2011 to let go of those things that were draining my energy and making me feel cranky, guilty, inadequate or used. I leaped into a critical examination of all the things I was involved with or attached to and considered what I could let go of without too much trauma or sadness for all involved.
This process hasn’t been quick or easy, but it has created an unexpected discovery. As I let go of things and examine what isn’t really serving me wholly and completely, I find that others around me are doing the same. The biggest lesson for me in these months of purging is that the very nature of my change creates an awareness of the changes others are making as well. Some of my friends and colleagues have let go of their stuff just as carefully and deliberately as I have let go of mine! It hasn’t always made me happy – in some cases it has made me downright angry. But if I feel the need to simplify, I have to respect the same course of action in those I care about as well.
As a coach, I often work with clients on personal foundation issues. There are always clients who come to me seeking more work /life balance, time or energy to complete their tasks. The age old question, “How will I get all of this done?” comes up time and time again in the lives of those I work with. My own daughter, who just graduated from college with her Bachelor’s degree, has used the word “overwhelmed” more than once a week for the past semester.
So how does one go about simplifying a full and over committed life? It requires a quizzical mind and a willingness to put up with the consequences. I started by making a full inquiry and inventory of the groups, events, and efforts I spent even a little time engaged in. Then I listed them out based on whether they were perpetual or had an end date. I grouped them by Large, Average or Small in terms of the time commitment required and then gave them a “Shackles On or Shackles Off” grade. Did I feel happy when spending time and energy on this? Could I hang in there and live with it until completion? Or did I need to regroup, delegate or let go completely? I spent quiet moments considering how my breathing and posture changed when I considered a life with or without these considerations. If I burst into tears thinking about a commitment, I took that as a mandate to go deep within and let go of some aspect or the entirety of my involvement.
When I started looking at what I could let go of and get the most benefit, I was terrified about how the other people involved would feel. I understood they might be angry and resentful. I felt guilty about originally committing to something I couldn’t fulfill. But my perspective was different than theirs. I saw that staying with the project or practice would actually hurt the end result rather than make things better. If my involvement wasn’t complete and I wasn’t all in, the best solution was to stop, release, or even find some way for me or someone like me to step up and do a better job. I had to think of my self, heal my self and intend to care more fully for my self in the future.
So what lesson did I learn from my inner sage woman? She who hesitates is found. My version of this proverb has a completely different meaning doesn’t it? I now know I cannot say yes without thinking of the larger, broader ramifications of my decision to participate or engage in something that may not fit into my life or bring me joy! Jen Louden’s tweet earlier today sums up what I’ve been feeling too – she tweets, “I am finally ready to stop doing anything that drains my energy and makes me resentful.” Isn’t that a wonderful statement for all of us to embrace?
What does an energy draining or shackles on item look like and feel like for you? Does your breath quicken? Do you feel sad, resentful, guilty, inadequate or scared? Do you want to keep feeling this way? Are you ready to release and breathe deeply again?
One of my friends recently let go of something she had been involved in for a very long time. Some of her sojourners, including myself, had strong, negative reactions to her departure. She told me she didn’t want people to be angry with her for leaving. My sage woman took over and said, “You can’t control how other people feel – you can only do what you want to do and live with what comes out of the leaving.”
But hopefully what she found, and what I have found too, is an inner peace that comes from knowing when to let go. And now I know to hesitate and consult my inner sage before walking blindly and losing myself in an overcommitted life that tips my balance. I make no apologies for not scrawling my name on the sign-up sheet, for only blogging on the occasional Tuesday, or for saying no to a request for something I can’t deliver. The result is that I get to send out more handwritten notes, create more poetry and bake for pleasure. The journey continues but the peace I’ve found so far is invaluable.