This post also appears on The Huffington Post.
“I have something to let go of,” I said out loud in my sleep waking myself up from the most intriguing dream. As I laid still in the dark, under the covers but wide-awake, I wondered at the statement I heard so clearly. What was it that I need to let go of?
As I reflected on this the possibilities seemed endless. Here are just a few of the ideas that first came to mind.
I could let go of the:
- Need to be right
- Expectation that I’m interested in everything
- Drive to try to be good at everything
- Expectation that I have to do things by myself
“Wow,” I thought to myself, “that would be a lot. That would be so liberating. But would I still be me?”
I started from the bottom of my list and worked up. “Let go of the expectation that I have do things by myself.” I developed a simple intention: Ask for help.
Now this may sound simple if this is not something that you carry with you – if you naturally ask for help and rally others around you, but, honestly, for me this is difficult. Often when I ask for help I do so in an incredibly awkward way. With people I don’t know very well I may appear overly eager or overly aloof. With my family members I often only ask for help when I’m at the end of my rope. Sometimes literally crying and crazed for someone to dig me out of the hole I’ve gotten myself into. Here’s an ugly example:
It’s Sunday afternoon on a hot and humid summer day, I’ve worked a full week at a new job with a long commute. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed by my weekend to-do list. I feel the list of responsibilities is all mine. I’m kneeling in our backyard pulling weeds that seem endless. Pulling, pulling, until my hand hurts and I start lashing out at my family. “How can you do this to me? If you loved me, you wouldn’t let this happen!” I literally cry out to them. They rally to help me, but I’m left feeling incredibly guilty about my outburst and my lack of ability to ask for help to begin with.
Where did this drive to be so independent come from? Is it something innate in my introverted personality? Was it fostered by birth order? Or did it stem from those elementary school teachers who poured accolades on me for my independent project work? To me, it really doesn’t matter where it came from. I’m here now and this is how I act and react. Now, how do I change it?
Because I’m not proud of any of these incidents of crazed independence and isolation and the results are often filled with regret and guilt that lingers over days. I ask myself, “How can I head this off before it happens?”
I repeat my intention: Ask for help. And, I add: Do it now, do it often.
The other three ideas to let go of seem closely related to each other. Of course, the one at the top of the list: the need to be right is a big one. It is so wrapped up in my ego. My sense of self sometimes seems to hinge on it. However, when I let it go. When I don’t need to be right. When instead I focus on my relationship with the other person – on the love and kindness and a being of light that I am and they are and that I want to nurture in the world, the need to be right drops away.
A few weeks ago, Carl Richards wrote in the New York Times about “The Cost of Holding On”. He noted:
‘The faster we learn to drop our emotional dead weight, the more room we create for something better. I’m talking about everything from stewing about the guy who cut you off in traffic this morning to still refusing to forgive an old friend for an event 20 years ago. …
My question for you is, “What’s one thing you can set down this week?”’
I’ve been working on this lately – the letting go, the liberating myself from these restricting and toxic approaches to life. I’m replacing them with the following:
- Ask for help right now.
- Focus on my true interests and skills.
It’s a practice and sometimes I fail at it. I am hoping that the more I follow these the better I’ll get at it and the more I’ll be liberated from the grips of false expectations.
Wishing the same for you: abundant freedom, love, and light.