Just thinking aloud: The lost art of letting go

Modern life can be rubbish, right? Evie Prosser has a few thoughts about ways to make it easier

By Evie Prosser

This morning, as I walked my son to school, an angry man in a van stopped me. He’s a resident of our village and I know him to say hello to, so I stopped with a cheery greeting and an inquiry as to his wellbeing.

Sadly, he wasn’t in the mood for niceties. He was cross that my son and I were walking, alongside some neighbours, in the middle of the road. He wondered why we couldn’t walk in single file so that he and other traffic could pass without slowing to a crawl.

It was a fair cop, guv. As I explained to angry-van man, we were deep in conversation and hadn’t really thought about our position in the road. We should have been more considerate, so I apologised and moved on.

And then I thought, with all that’s going on in the world – Cyclone Idai, the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, political confusion surrounding Brexit, and all the individual dramas playing out in people’s lives – might my fellow villager not have had just a bit of perspective?

I mean, there are people suffering a lot worse than having to change down a gear to drive around a group of kids on their way to school.

And besides, the reason we weren’t paying attention is that we were having a good time. The kids were chattering away and laughing with each other, and the grown-ups were having a thoroughly enjoyable gossip. It was the stuff of life, right there, and we were loving every minute.

Which brings me to my point: why do we get worked up about trivial things, when there are so many more important things to fret about? What does it matter, actually, if the washing machine packs up or we can’t afford the latest, flashest, car? What does it matter if we don’t feel completely contented in our job, every single day. That’s life, right? We should be grateful for the good things, let the bad things go.

I know that’s far easier said than done. We all lose perspective from time to time. But today, as of this moment, I’m mounting a campaign: to help people let things go. To sit lightly to stuff that doesn’t really matter. To be just a teensy bit more relaxed.

At its most extreme, this could lead to an eschewal of modern life, akin to what the writer Andy Merrifield did when he walked a donkey through the French countryside (published in the brilliant The Wisdom of Donkeys).

But it needn’t be so extreme. How about taking a few minutes each day simply to switch off from the bustle of life? Sit on a park bench and watch the world go by. Talk a walk through a wildflower meadow. Listen to Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. Eat a decent home-cooked meal. Have a nap. Hang out with your mates.

All of these things are recommended by mental health experts as ways to improve your wellbeing. But we’ll only really enjoy them if we empty our heads of the concerns that so often crowd in, but don’t really matter.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t fret about stuff that genuinely deserves our worry. Impending job loss, relationship breakdown or, indeed, the travails of the world: they all warrant our careful attention.

But so often, our minds are full of stuff that doesn’t really matter: status anxiety, worries about material possessions, feeling aggrieved when we’re stopped in the street and berated for not walking down the road in an orderly fashion.

So let’s all give letting go a chance. I’m up for it if you are. I reckon we’ll be a lot happier as a result. And when someone is angry with us, or aggressive or rude, we’ll have the fortitude and patience to respond pleasantly, meeting their ire with pacific calm and a friendly smile.

And won’t the world be a better place for that?

Published: 27 March 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

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