Life is too short for all the things we would like to do. Thus, there are things we need to let go of. “Time flows like water,” says Hava Alberstein in her song “Another Evening.” Indeed, time passes without stopping for a moment, and every minute brings us closer to our end. People tend to forget or repress the simple fact that we will be gone one day. The world will linger on without us. The sun will continue to rise and set; Traffic jams will go on as usual (at least in Israel, Darling 😉.) Someone else will live in my apartment, and the elevator will keep working, up and down, without me ever in it.
Sometimes, fate intervenes, and life is cut short, unnaturally, not from old age. A disease that develops mysteriously and is diagnosed too late to be cured; accidents interrupt the course of life, or a sudden epidemic. All these should constantly remind us that we are temporary on earth. Therefore, it is worthwhile to make the most out of life and let go of disruptive behavior and feelings, even if you are young, not to mention senior people. I don’t mean that you should urgently start to complete all future tasks or jump from one place to another because there might not be a tomorrow. But, there are things that it is essential not to do, not to waste our time on them, to let them go, discard them.
1. To let go of being correct – maybe I’m not always right
Sometimes people think differently than I do. I don’t mean feelings or reactions since obviously there is a wide variety of them, and what is upsetting to one person can be experienced as funny to me. For example, when my granddaughter smeared her hands with honey, in a split second that I wasn’t looking, I thought it was funny. But it is possible to look at this incident and get angry because now you have to clean her and the mess she caused, which wasn’t in the morning’s schedule; You can also get mad with me and criticize me for not taking care of her well enough. Our reaction rests on our personality, so there will be different reactions.
I mean being correct about more “obvious” things, the seemingly “scientific” ones that are controversial, like the topic of nutrition. Some people think that chicken meat is healthy, but red meat is dangerous to our health; low-fat milk is healthy, but milk with 4% fat is unhealthy. Of course, these thoughts have no basis. They depend on the default: chicken meat is less harmful to our health than red meat, but it is not healthy either! Some people are comfortable thinking that chicken meat is healthy, and if I tell them that they are wrong, we will go on a journey of “proofs,” each trying to “prove” to the other the “truth” of their words. So don’t; it’s a waste of time to engage in an unprofitable debate where it would be much better to spend it in a genuine heart-to-heart conversation.
2. Let go of wrath and offense – give up the “silence treatment”
Sometimes our friends or family members offend us. The options to get hurt are almost endless: starting with a sentence uttered distractedly, which we interpret as an insult, and ending with not attending a family event. In any case, one party is offended and decides to “be angry” with the other party. That is, not answering phone calls or other means of communication, completely ignoring the existence of the other. If we are talking about distant family members, maybe it isn’t essential for both sides to keep in touch, not to mention that it also consumes time.
But when close family members of the first and second degree, a grandfather, a son, a cousin, or a close friend, act like that, it’s a different story. How much negative energy is invested in accusations or guilt by both sides: the side that is “busy” living his life as if the other doesn’t exist and the side that tries to atone for what she/he said or did, or merely apologize or explain. Days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years pass in a disengagement, in heartache that affects both parties. Time cannot be retrieved. Time continues its journey no matter what and cannot be compensated for in reverse. It is so much better (and easy, Darling) just to ask for forgiveness or to forgive quickly, not to waste any time on negative feelings. As Paulo Coelho said: “Life is short. Kiss slowly, laugh madly, love sincerely, and forgive quickly.”
3. Let go of the shame and guilt of the past
We were not born with feelings of guilt or shame. Our parents and teachers instilled these feelings as necessary for proper societal functioning. The realization that our behavior is perceived by others as out of place or inappropriate triggers the emotion of shame. Shame comes from our fear of being judged, criticized, or not appreciated. In Germany, shame was an educational tool, while in Poland, guilt was used as an educational tool for internalizing moral values.
Shame is not rational. It is an automatic response of the brain and is, therefore, also uncontrollable. It makes us hide and run away to numb the pain or the hard feeling. Shame makes us hide “secrets,” which seem terrible because we feel it only happened to us or we alone behave this way. Since we don’t share our “secrets,” they hold us back and determine our behavior or thinking. The attempt to keep our “secrets” to ourselves so that people won’t know prevents us from creating intimacy, relationship, and true friendship.
Guilt, however, is rational and makes us reflect on what we have done and think about how to fix it. How often do we tell ourselves that we would have behaved differently if we had known what would happen? We feel guilty and feel remorse. But, of course, if we were gifted with the ability to see the future or anticipate it, we would behave accordingly.
Self-blame starts from small details, from buying a costly shirt that lost prestige when we got home to a sense of guilt related to personal relationships. We spend time and burn energy thinking about how we would fix past actions or events or what we should have done differently. We cannot fix the past and even pay for this guilt with money, attention, and emotions. Guilt and regret advance us nowhere but anchor us to the past, so we must free ourselves from blame. The deed is already done!
4. Let go of complying with the expectations and judgments of others
We think society expects us to behave in a certain way or dress in a specific pattern. However, these feelings are ours alone. It starts in childhood, with our need to fulfill our parents’ expectations of us: good behavior, good grades, etc. It continues in adolescence when our age group or friends become essential in our lives and dictate the tone. Thus it becomes a habit: complying with the expectations of the wife/husband, the children, and others.
By themselves, expectations are not harmful. But even with the best intentions, someone else’s expectation of me will be based not on who I am but on that person’s experiences, opinions, pain, disappointments, and moral values. These expectations are not related to us – they concern the other person and may not suit us. The attempt to realize the expectations of others, which do not serve us, creates anger on the one hand and frustration on the other. Therefore, not only are they not a good compass for life, but often they are unrealistic and may affect our mental health.
Saifa: “The tragedy of life is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Benjamin Franklin