About a month ago, I was walking my dog one morning when another dog-walker approached from the opposite direction. She stopped and held her dog’s leash taut.
Then she said firmly, “Leeeave it.”
I had heard people say this before to their presumably excitable dogs, urging them to ignore distractions, particularly of the canine kind. But for some reason it made an impression this time.
What a great motto for humans: “Leave it.”
I have a hard time leaving all kinds of things alone. Here are just a few of the many:
- An unreturned text from a friend
- My mother acting in a way that doesn’t make any sense to me
- A disagreement with my spouse
- A silly mistake I made at work
- A car honking behind me at a traffic light
- A decision I’m second and third guessing
- That project I know I should be working on
I fret and fuss about these things, letting them take up way too much real estate in my brain.
You might have heard about “sitting with your feelings”—especially if you listen to guided meditations or are part of the recovery community. Sitting with your feelings, observing them, and letting them calmly pass, is a good thing. I’m not trying to avoid that step, I promise.
What I am trying to resist is being sucked up into a tornado of emotions. For decades I let my anger, fear, embarrassment, self-pity, frustration, and sadness consume me. The feelings would grow more intense as I fed them the fuel of my indignation and paranoia. It became difficult to extricate myself from one of these storms. I would grow more upset as the issue took on epic proportions.
Meditation has helped, as has journaling—though the effects of these are more cumulative than immediate. In the moment, deep breaths can do wonders. Reminding myself of the pointlessness of getting all worked up can also be helpful.
Not long after the “leave it” encounter, I was working a booth at an event where I was selling my book. I had a large mirror standing on an easel, mimicking the bathroom mirror where one might leave themselves an inspirational message. On the table, I had provided lots of brightly colored Post-it notes and a bunch of Sharpies for people to write affirmations and stick them to the mirror. They could also take one if there was a message that spoke to them.
Most of the messages were short, such as:
“I am cared for”
“You are enough!”
“I am healing”
A woman stopped by my table and informed me that she had a message to share, but it was kind of long. I encouraged her to write it out, telling her that it might be just the message another person needed to see that day. She wrote:
“Not everything or everyone deserves your energy. Do not respond. Do not reply. Do not be provoked or provoke. Protect your peace.”
There it was. I was not alone in my struggle.
No more than half an hour later, a different person was looking at the mirror, and I heard them exclaim, “Yes!”
After contributing their own affirmation and chatting with me a bit, I saw that they had taken the “protect your peace” message. This beautiful soul friended me on social media, and I was delighted to see them share that Post-it with the world (plus a dazzling selfie they took in my mirror, surrounded by all those colorful, positive messages.)
We are all so much more alike than we realize. We all wrestle with negative emotions that want to grab tight and pull us down into the vortex.
The next time this happens to you, try telling yourself to “leave it.”
Hey, if you haven’t grabbed a copy of my book yet, please take a minute to check it out!