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Out with the old


The word “easygoing” has never been used to describe me. It’s possible that people who don’t know me well might confuse niceness with calmness, but that image would die quickly once they saw me in a crisis. I bring other useful traits to emergency situations, but tranquility is not one of them. At least that’s one of the truths about me that I have clutched closely to my chest.

As I move into this new phase of my life, I’m looking at this and other qualities, along with a few behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. I feel a little like all those people who are reading Maria Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and other books and articles about simplifying our lives. I’m sorting through the elements that have constituted “me” for the last 64 years and deciding which of these “spark joy,” as Kondo says about once-fashionable shoes and sentimental mementos, and which need to get the old heave-ho.

In many ways, I’m realizing that retiring from a career and moving on to new activities is a little like graduating from high school and heading off to college—only with a lot more insight and hopefully more money. It also seems like the opportune moment to do some spring cleaning, mostly in the ways I’ve seen myself and the ways I’ve gotten myself stuck in certain ways of acting and reacting.

I get it that this may seem silly and even impossible, but I’m beginning to think it’s necessary—and high time—to let go of a few aspects of myself that I don’t really need anymore. Let’s face it: I’ve got a perfectly good fear of taking risks that I could give up and thus have plenty of room left for some fun adventures over the course of the next 20 or 30 years. I’m also ready to chuck the notion that I’m not good at math. My best friend’s teenagers, who long ago quit asking me for help with algebra because they kept getting Cs on their homework might caution against this, but for my own uses, I’m tossing that one. I pay someone to do my taxes, I make a ritual out of balancing my checkbook, and I’ve even considered an online math class just to prove that idea about old dogs and new tricks.

This is also the time to let go of the ready-made answer “I can’t” whenever I daydream about living in a different city for a summer or doing an internship in New York for a season. And, it’s definitely the perfect chance to chuck the drama of my life story. It served me well to learn the nuances of it—and I worked with two of the most awesome therapists in the world to slog my way through it—but I can let go of the idea that I’m stuck with repeating those same behaviors for the rest of my life. I’m even considering parting with the “fact” that I don’t cope well with change.

I realize that some things are not as easy to toss out as a shirt I haven’t worn in five years, but I also know that holding on to old self-concepts and ways of doing things really does allow for more resilience and room to grow. I can’t promise that I will become easygoing, but I’m willing to let go of “inflexible,” at least for now.

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