THE SKILL OF NOT CARING

Thursday, February 2, 2012

This past summer, while visiting Indiana, we went swimming at a family friend's home. These friends of ours live out in the country on a beautiful farm that over looks the gorgeous rolling hills of southern Indiana. It was about five p.m. when we entered the pool and the air was warm, the water was perfect, and the horizon presented a beautiful display of evening light. I didn't fully take in all of this until a bit later because I was preoccupied by how chubby I felt in the swimsuit I borrowed from my mom.

Actually, it was the top of one ill fitting tankini and the bottom of another and I wore some men's shorts over the bottoms. It was quite the site. Joan Rivers and her style critic minions would have had a field day with me. Anyway, I was complaining of my discomfort over my chubbiness to our family friend when she said to me, "I'm so glad to be at an age and time in my life that I just don't worry about that stuff. It's such a relief." She was perfectly relaxed, arms draped over the edge of the pool, kicking her legs slowly up and down. She is older, chubbier, and wiser than me. She was living in the moment by watching the kids splash and play, listening to the sheep braying in the field, and taking in the beautiful scenic view. I, on the other hand, was missing it all because I was too busy mentally comparing myself to an albino whale.

Thankfully, her comment came at the beginning of our visit, thus I could benefit from her example for the rest of pool time. I played with my kids and hubby, draped my own cushy arms over the edge of the pool, and breathed in the clean country air.

I wonder how many times I've been too preoccupied with mental self-critiquing that I've missed some pretty great moments. Don't get me wrong, critiquing/analyzing ourselves is important to progression, but there's a time and a place for everything. Not to mention, I really think my friend is on to something. The whole not caring thing. Not caring about the right things that is. Such as the real and imagined ill judgments of others or the fact that your caboose is bigger than the twig next to you in line at the grocery store (Seriously, you don't even know her...let...it ...go!). How amazing would it be to not care and just relax?!

I've actually gotten better about not caring than I used to be. Occasionally friends drop by unannounced (Which, by the way, is totally fine with me!) and my house is a total disaster. It used to be that I would scurry around picking things up while they talked to me, never really listening to them. Then, when they left, I felt stressed about what they thought about my home, my appearance, etc. Now, when someone comes, they see reality (maybe feel a little better about their own homes in comparison to mine:), I clear a spot on the couch for each of us, and I sit and visit with them. The mess still bothers me and I still wonder what judgments pass through their heads, but I don't let it get to me too much. If they can't look past the mess to see my better qualities (intelligence, wit, sparkling personality, mad Tetris skills...:) then I've got plenty of good friends who can (At least I imagine I do).

Admittedly, a mother in line at the grocery store who is my same age and half my size, still bugs the crap out of me. But, in my defense, it's not her judgments I give a darn about, it's my own. And here's the clincher, if I care so much about something, why do I keep punishing myself instead of doing something about it? And if it's something I can't do anything about, why don't I just let myself be happy?

I guess if I had to sum up my thoughts from this very convoluted, ill thought out post, I would state the following...

1) We need to spend less time worrying about what others think of us and more time enjoying the present.

2) If someone does actually judge us harshly, their judgments say more about their true character than your own.

3) What really matters is the way we judge ourselves and that these judgments be accurate and productive.

4) If we become hard on ourselves about a certain topic (weight, productivity, parenting, etc.) then we have three choices...
    a) Continue to fixate on it and become very unhappy.
    b) Do something to change the thing you don't like.
    c) Let it go until you are ready to work on it.

5) You shouldn't bother judging me because I'm currently practicing my "not caring" skills.

When I'm laying on my death bed I don't want to feel like I wasted precious time worrying about things that just didn't matter. I want to know I lived a happy, ever present life.
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