Good question. How Important Is It? On a scale of 1 to 10…. is this the most important thing to concentrate on right now? When there are so many things going on ….. so many little stressors happening…. so much to think about and prioritise… things never going right… there is always something to have to fix…asking this question of ourselves is the way to look at it and sort out what is worth our mental and emotional effort right now, or, how much of our mental and emotional effort we want to put in to the particular issue right now.
I have a tendency to over react at times. Those who know me well will know that at times, I can be like a dog with a bone. I am sooooo much better than I was previously. In the past, everything had the same weighting of importance. I found it hard to see shades of grey, and that leads to blowing things out of proportion when nothing is given a proportional weight.
For instance; Housework. I come from a family of origin whereby my Mother was very very clean and tidy. It was very important that things were ordered and everything in it’s clean and tidy place. The house was immaculate and the rose garden beautiful and blooming. Dinner was eaten, dishes done and dried and put away, kitchen cleaned and sparkling before she rested every night. That was a sense of pride and satisfaction. This was my ‘true north’. I left home and continued this pattern. One of my relationships reinforced the importance of cleanliness as next to godliness by emotional and physical abuse if I wasn’t ‘up to scratch’ in that area. Over time, a particular cleanliness quality became uber important… the dishes being washed after dinner! This was an absolute MUST of the highest priority in my life! Do not EVER relax until the dishes are done after dinner and the morning breakfast ‘stuff’ organised. I grew to never question this, it was just enforced in me. I left that relationship after 8 years and 8 months of abuse.
When I first moved in with my (now) husband, I found out that despite what I had witnessed while dating him, his level of importance on dishes being done was not as high as mine (I found out later it was because he thought I would do it all now we had moved in together!!!! hahahahahahaha). I felt this was incorrect teaching for his young son. I know they were both just waiting for me to do ALL the housework. I refused. And thus began the stress. The quibbles. The trying to force him and his son to change and do the dishes. The emotional bargaining. The pleading. The anger again. My mind was going insane. I was building resentment when they said I could just do it! I blew an internal gasket when they said things like “settle down, its only a few dishes”…. aaarrrgghh.. ants, cockroaches, crusty hard bits, dirt, mess, IT JUST ISN’T RIGHT!!!! If the dishes aren’t done what will that say about our level of laziness, our pride in ourselves, our family life etc etc. For me, this was super important…. but to the others.. it was just a few dishes. (Cue a totally new level of internal craziness in my mind).
To add insult, naturally this wasn’t the only thing going on in my life. I was in the midst of a divorce settlement, just started a new career stream, first time I had been responsible for a child, new relationship, missing my animals, moved into a new house…. all of this had turned my mind into a state of stress and then the dishes and other household chores came along to be negotiated.
Something had to give. I attended some counselling to assist me work things out and to have an impartial person to talk to. She took me through the cognitive process of ‘what if’. What if the dishes weren’t done? What if the ants came? What if they became harder to clean next time? What if you told them it was their job and left them until they did them? What if you told him to sort out the ants and cockroach problem IF it occurred? It made me think “Why is doing the dishes so important?” “What will it actually mean in real terms?” How do other people judge me on my cleanliness when other people don’t’ really come into my home or look in my front door when they drive past?
I found I could allow the dishes to stay there when I looked at “How Important Is It?” The world won’t end with a few ants that he will have to deal with. The importance of the dishes became less when I looked at the reasons behind my arguing. It was because of programmed responses, my thoughts on the way things are supposed to be. When I actually got down to it and thought.. right.. is this important enough to cause arguments, have my head and gut stressed out, feel ill at the end of every meal because I know what is about to come? The alternative is that I put it in it’s appropriate level of importantness (is that a word?), and in reality… it was only half way down the list.
I stopped fighting about it. I walked away after dinner. I left the mess to them to do in their time. I had said to them it is their job (husband and his son), then I should give them the responsibility and stop trying to make it just as important to them as it was to me. Their job can be done in their time frame their way. If it was soooo important to me, then I should make it my job to do the way I want it to be done!
So I did that with all the household chores. I made a list with our names. I put the things that I found important to be done my way under my name. I knew those would be attended to and my stress levels would be reduced. The next least important I gave to my husband, the least important to me, I gave to his son (husband can chase up the child doing his chores). On the days that I cooked, I took the responsibility for my own dishes. If someone else cooked, they were responsible for their dishes. In this way, I could detach completely from the dishes on a night that I was not in the kitchen.
In this way I looked at HOW IMPORTANT IS IT and I reduced my stress levels. I made sure the things I found important, I was in control of. I gave up trying to be in control of everything and handed over some of the other responsibilities. It reduced some arguments, it handed control over to the other two people in the household also.
Yes the dishes sat for a few days to start with. Yes I had to continually walk away. Yes it was difficult to let go. But for my own sanity I had to just keep saying.. How important is it? About half way down the scale between imminent death or harm to me or someone else and pfffftttt who cares. So…. on the nights I cooked, I took my own control.
“How important is it” is something that can be applied to all our situations. Is this situation worth my argument? Is it worth my stress, it is worth my time? If so… ok.. go for it. But if it isn’t really.. if the outcomes won’t really be that bad.. then let it go, or control the bits you can control about the situation.
Letting things go doesn’t mean you are letting people walk all over you, or ‘get away’ with anything. It means you are looking after your own mental health and prioritising your own emotional energy.
Give it a go and let me know what happened to your stress levels.