Saturday, July 16, 2016

Learning to Let Go and Roll With It

I've returned from a restful vacation full of sleeping late, book reading, naps, hikes in the mountains, and sightseeing with my family.   We have unpacked, done some household organizing and a little home improvement this week in preparation for me to return to the office next week and see clients for our planned counseling sessions.

Then, I received the phone call from the termite guy.

For those that know me, you know that I like old houses, vintage furniture and ratty old things.  It's my inner gypsy showing.  But, what I don't like are termites..... and we seem to have some at the office in Florida.  Termites love wood framed houses, especially in Florida.

I knew that tenting was planned by the owner of our building, however, due to what appears to be genuine human error, the dates of the tenting on my calendar did not match the calendar dates of the company who is doing the tenting.

With my brain still on vacation mode, it was difficult for me to make the shift and understand what the termite guy was explaining to me.  He said he would be putting the tent up around our office on Monday, leaving it up on Tuesday and then doing his examination on Wednesday.  This news did not match what was on my calendar, nor what was in my head.

I challenged the dates, and explained that my calendar said something different.  I explained that this was not convenient at all for me or my roommate, nor was it convenient for the thirty or so clients who were supposed to be sitting on our couches next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  I was calm. I was persistent.  I was understanding.  I listened.  But, the bottom line was that he was not going to change the dates of the termite tenting and he didn't much care about the inconvenience to all of the folks involved...  in a nice way, though.

I have learned a lot about extermination in the past two days.  Let me tell you now, folks, that apparently, once the schedule is set, it's unstoppable.  Chemicals have been ordered, trucks are scheduled to roar across the state, licenses and certifications from various government agencies have been secured and it costs thousands of dollars for the termite company if they have to make a change on short notice.

So, at this point, I had a few choices.

1 - Temper Tantrum - No good... as a 51 year old lady, it's not pretty when temper tantrums happen... and it's usually not very effective either.  Although it could be entertaining to some, it would not make the tenting situation any better.

2 - Anger Outburst and Blame - My favorite default mechanism that I have to resist... but also, not pretty and not very effective.  It doesn't matter who confused the dates at this point.  And, if I got angry about it and fussed, I would end up with a headache that would interfere with my plans to paint the trim in my bathroom and it would also ruin my attitude with the kids and the plans for tenting would not change.

3 - Cry - Reasonable.  Frustration often leads to tears.  Tears are sometimes necessary to release the energy of the frustration.  Still not very pretty, but effective in that people tend to feel better after a good cry.  But, ineffective, in that the trucks are still coming.

4 - Deep Sigh (with minor cursing) followed up with apologetic email contacts with Laura and my clients that were planned for next week.  - Perfect choice.  A little deep breathing and letting go helped me to get through stressful conversations with the termite guy and helped me to think more clearly.  Organizing my thoughts and getting back down to the business of reorganizing the calendar and communicating with my clients was effective and practical.  Fortunately, everyone was very flexible and understanding about the situation.

When things don't go as you have planned, it can be a real inconvenience.  
Frustration, anger, resentment, stress and all kinds of other negative emotions can result from not having control of something you want to control.... Like when the entire office is going to be tented and it wasn't planned to happen and it effects forty people.

There is a theme that I see in most of the people who come to see me in the office for counseling. They tend to be upset about something that is not going the way they want it to go.  Their spouse is not behaving the way they want him/her to behave.  Their kids are not doing what they want him/her to do.  They aren't coping with their life events the way that they think that they "should".  Generally speaking, we aren't happy when things don't go our way.  So, most of our discomfort comes from what we are telling ourselves about how we want things to be.  Some of the discomfort is the result of our own decisions.  A lot of our discomfort comes from the decisions made by others which

Learning how to express frustrations and tell your story is important.  
That's one of the many aspects of the counseling process. Feeling heard is validating.  Learning how to accept what is actually happening and let go of control is necessary for peaceful living.  Getting down to business to do the work that is needed to regroup and reorganize is how you can move forward and find success.

Fortunately, I'm not really a Type A personality, so it's fairly easy for me to let things like this termite tenting confusion and inconvenience go rather than ruminating on it all. But the frustration I felt was real.  I've had to learn how to integrate the Serenity Prayer and Cognitive Behavior Therapy Principles into my life and I'm still learning.  You can learn how to do this, too.

Recognizing the need to let go is a big part of the journey....  for the little things and for the big things.  Our emotional health depends on it.  Knowing how to reframe our thinking about issues that are beyond our control allows us to, in fact, have control.

Let me know what you've learned about letting go in the comments below.  I'd love to hear from you.

Stacey Brown is a 
Licensed Mental Health Counselor practicing in Fort Myers, Florida.  Sign up for her newsletter and follow on FacebookInstagram and Twitter so you can stay in touch.


  1. Great article. this is something I struggle with and found this very helpful.

    1. I think we all struggle with this..... it's a journey, isn't it?

  2. This is definitely a useful skill to have, and one that I still struggle with and probably will for some time.

    "That's one of the many aspects of the counseling process. Feeling heard is validating. Learning how to accept what is actually happening and let go of control is necessary for peaceful living. Getting down to business to do the work that is needed to regroup and reorganize is how you can move forward and find success."

    I need this tattooed on me somewhere, I think!

  3. Thanks for your comments... remembering to "let it go" is hard but totally worth it....

  4. I have a tendency to cry when I am upset... It's interesting because I was telling my husband that crying was like a release, just like you mentioned. I'm glad I'm not the only one. Great article!

  5. Absolutely, Andrea... some folks are criers and some are not. Crying is a release, so as long as your husband understands that, he can learn to let it go....