Every day for the past week or so, I’ve awakened with the song “Let It Go” playing in my head. Yes, that “Let It Go”.
I don’t mind having that particular earworm; I love this song. But why was it stuck in my head morning after morning? I mentioned this to my bestie Liz a couple of days ago, as a sort of “isn’t that weird” anecdote. She came right back at me with this:
“Based on what you’ve been doing the last few weeks, I’m not surprised. It’s kind of your theme song right now.”
You know what? She’s right!
This was one of the best holiday seasons I can remember as an adult, partially because I made sure to take care of my mental and physical health, but also because I actively, intentionally chose to let some behaviors, thoughts and emotions go.
My therapist, Dr. J, has been working with me on recognizing what is within my control and what is not, particularly with regards to other people. We’ve also been working on avoiding “triangulation,” or being pulled into other people’s drama and conflicts.
Both of these concepts touch deeply rooted behaviors, thoughts, feelings and attitudes within me. I’m going against decades of well-meaning but ultimately detrimental habits. A couple of months ago, however, I had something of a breakthrough and chose to go into the holidays actively practicing NOT doing what came “naturally”.
I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it was tough. I’m so used to being the mediator, the go-to member of the group, the one who fills the gaps of others’ poor planning or poor follow-through. It’s always been easier, in the short term, to take over and do it myself.
But recently, I realized the long-term damage.
Dr. J has encouraged and challenged me to set boundaries and maintain them in all areas of my life. I still have work to do, but now I see why he has been so consistent with this message.
In my first session of 2015, I went in feeling light, buoyant, better than I’ve felt in years. The dark cloud and heavy weight that have been my constant companions, gone. As I shared this with Dr. J, along with the strategies I used during the holiday hubbub of November and December, I was almost giddy with the realization that I’d come through the season with relative ease and was feeling really good heading into what are generally two of my toughest months (winter + S.A.D. = tough).
As I said again how good I felt, Dr. J asked, “Do you know why you feel so much lighter?”
“Because I planned ahead,” I said confidently. “I had my reminders pop up in my calendar, took my supplements, used those strategies when I was around a lot of people…”
“It’s because you didn’t let other people’s drama drag you down,” he answered.
“When you accept other people’s negativity, when you allow them to drag you into problems that really have nothing to do with you, when you become involved in their unhappiness and conflict, you get stuck. You’re like Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby – other people’s ‘stuff’ is the Tar Baby, and you’re Brer Rabbit. You think you’re helping, but in reality, you’re getting stuck and sucked in and weighed down.”
“… Holy crap.”
As the new year has progressed, I’ve begun some new practices and habits focused on both my mental and physical health. I’ll post more about that another time, but part of what’s happening is a continuation of what I began before the holidays: I’ve decided to Let It Go.