The Pandemic of 2020 has given us permission. Permission to slow down, examine our values and eventually quit and let go.
Many of us were raised in a society that told us never to give up. But “never” does not always serve us. Circumstances change.
As I age, I more carefully guard my time. Time is the one thing we cannot buy and it is of uncertain duration. Yet most of us are more careful about how we spend our money than how we spend our time. We never know which day may be our last. So, when I am about to start something or think about continuing something, my interior dialogue includes thoughts of whether whatever it is that I am doing is moving me closer to my best version or purpose. If it is something that will unnecessarily deplete me and brings me no joy, why continue?
In midlife, there are things that we must complete, of course, principally relating to our jobs or other obligations. But many things that are squarely in the “should” category can be dropped. Stop “should-ing” all over yourself and learn the art of quitting and letting go. I like to say.
Last year, I took on chairing a large conference for women in Washington, D.C. Initially, I was honoured to have been asked to chair it. As I learned how much of my time and energy was required for the task, I questioned why I was doing it. It was my ego. I wanted the title. I wanted to bring a successful and inspiring conference to the women I knew in the area, but I also wanted people to know I could do it, and do it well.
It turned out to be too much. I agreed to take a smaller role. To date, they have found no one to take the chairperson role. Perhaps others are more adept at saying no.
I have never been good at saying no. I am a recovering people-pleaser. I am learning to drop the rock of people-pleasing, however, and to examine my motives in all that I do.
I suppose I wanted people to like me. I realized, as I got older, that what people think of me is not within my control. People’s reactions and thoughts are based on an amalgam of their experiences. Often, a person’s behaviour towards me has little to do with me. It may have had something to do with a memory I triggered. In any event, I have learned to let go more and more, and to stop taking things personally.
So, stop beating yourself up if you need to bow out of doing something. Better yet, stop committing to things. Learn to enjoy just being rather than doing so much all of the time. Abandon the myth that women who do more and multi-task more are successful. When one is doing two things at once, neither is being done well. I used to pride myself on my ability to multi-task. What that led to was my inability to be fully present. I was continuously thinking of that needed to be done next or what else I could be doing at the same time. I was a poor listener to the conversations I was having. We were sold a false bill of goods on doing it all, especially at the same time.
Life is to be savoured, especially during this third of our lives. It is easy to dwell on negative things, but we would all do better to learn to dwell on pleasures in life, especially the simple ones that are easily overlooked.
This pandemic has forced many of us to re-prioritize our lives. It also has led many to become more aware of all the excess in our lives. When going out is dangerous, one learns to make do with less. And we all could do with less in our over-consumptive culture.
I am gratified to see more of my neighbours taking walks since the pandemic began. I believe, based on what I see, that more people are exercising now. That benefits our long-term health, both physically and mentally.
When is the last time you took a walk, especially to an area you have never visited? When was the last time you actually stopped to smell a flower? When did you last take in a full sunset’s glory? These pleasures are not to be rushed by. Notice. Savour. Enjoy life’s symphony.