The other day I caught myself as I was about to go to the garage and get a can my son had put in recycling. I heard him rinse it, but I wanted to make sure it was “clean” enough. Seriously, this was what I thought was important. I stopped just as I got to the door, because I realized I was adding an unnecessary stress to my life. The world is not going to end if he didn’t get every last bit of jelly out of the jar.
This is only the most recent example, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve let myself get stressed out about something equally inconsequential. In the grand scheme little things like this don’t really matter. They are not going to make a material difference in our lives. Yet we spend so much time worrying about them. Why?
In my case I think it’s because I’m a control freak. I want everything to be done my way. I should know better. I thought I learned the value of delegating in the Navy. I have no problem contracting out when I recognize I don’t have the skills (or the desire) to do something. So what is different when it comes to my son? Why do I expect, almost demand, he be a mini-me? What truly confuses is me is I sincerely want him to be as independent as possible, go figure.
I’ve become aware of it, and now I make a conscious effort to focus only on things that could affect his health and safety. We have an agreement I will not go in his room. One because I want him to understand the value of privacy and we all need our space. But it’s also because it’s straight chaos and I’m afraid I would go into cleaning mode. He gets to keep his room however he wants it.
There are other examples, but I think you get the idea. If you work an 8 hour day and you sleep for 8 hours, you only have 1/3 of the day left to yourself. Add in a commute, meal prep, etc and you could be left with 3 or 4 hours to unwind. Do you really want to spend that time chasing after someone to do something? Or can you find a way to live with whatever has been setting you off?
Obviously this is not as easy as flipping a switch. Anyone who has ever lived with a roommate knows this. Where there is a will there is a way. It may require changing how you think about things. For me, it was shifting my mindset from “it’s my house so my rules” to “it’s our house”. I use the money he gets from Social Security to pay towards our utilities, cable, etc. So why shouldn’t he have a “voice”.
He’s not in a place, yet, where we can sit down and have a reasonable discussion about sharing responsibility for the upkeep of the home. In many ways it would be too abstract a concept for him. So it falls on me to make accommodations if I want him to learn to be an adult. I don’t believe you can have it both ways.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “dude, you’ve got it all wrong”. Maybe you’re right. But I’ve gotten my time back and temper under control, and these are what mattered most to me. I have more energy to fight the battles that are truly important, like running my company and being present with my clients. We’re not machines. Stress doesn’t care what the cause is, it will affect your personal and professional life.
Consider doing some self-reflection. Are you letting little things get under your skin? Given many of us were in lockdown for much of 2020 it would be totally understandable. That doesn’t mean it has to be acceptable or remain the status quo. As I often say, don’t try to change everything all at once. If you want change pick something you can control. There is always at LEAST one thing. Give it a try. Be patient, don’t expect it to work overnight. You’ve got this!