Despite being a dad to a very enthusiastic Frozen fan, I am not talking about Elsa’s exodus from Arendelle to live out the rest of her days in some fancy ice palace on the North Mountain. (I may have watched the movie 37 too many times.) It’s a little more profound than that and it goes beyond letting go of the past too. Instead, it’s really about learning to let go of myself, learning not to brood over self-destructive thinking, and learning to find my peace with the everyday. Let me explain.
The Helicopter Parent
I remember the first few times we took my daughter to the indoor playground at the local mall. The carpet is soft, the walls are padded, and most of the structures are this flexible, rubbery material. Realistically, there should be very few sources of anxiety. Except, you know, for the other kids. Other kids are always bad, right?
This was before she had learned how to walk, so she was slowly crawling her way around the space while the other children were running and jumping with energy levels dialed up to 11. Naturally, the protective instincts kicked in and I hovered. This “helicopter parent” behavior continued after she started walking, because I couldn’t help myself. I have to keep her safe.
It wasn’t until months later that I made the very conscious and very deliberate decision to stop doing that. I had to let go. I had to let her get her bumps and learn how to interact with the other kids in a relatively safe manner. It was really hard at first, but I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at it. They really do grow up so quickly and I found myself almost doing the same thing when she started preschool. I knew I had to step away.
She was ready. Me, not so much. But if she’s big enough to enjoy amusement park rides, she’s big enough to hang out with other kids without her dad hovering around her.
It’s Never Enough
Really though, the bigger area in my life where I really need to learn to let go (and I’ve been actively working on this) is with my professional life as a blogger, vlogger and freelance writer. I’ve written here before about the utter anguish and sense of defeat that I feel when I look down at an incomplete to-do list at the end of the day.
Even on days where I put together a more reasonable to-do list, I fall into this unfortunate habit of adding more items as the day goes on. But I’m working on it. You may recall that one of my three guiding words for this year, and perhaps the most important one, is “acceptance.” I need to accept what I can and cannot do. I need to let go of unreasonable expectations.
Contentment Over Happiness
Even outside of the United States, many of us have been unwittingly sold on “the American Dream.” We think we can have it all, so we think that we should have it all. And when we fall short of utter perfection and overwhelming success, we can feel like we’ve failed. That’s neither fair nor realistic.
In this way, maybe we should stop reaching for those fleeting moments of happiness and start seeking ways to be more content with our everyday lives. Maybe we can learn something from the Scandinavian Law of Jante or we should learn to embrace the Danish concept of hygge a little more often. When we learn to let go of ourselves, we can start to live more authentically. And be more grateful for what we have.