Choosing Your Battles Carefully
When I was much younger, everything seemed so important and I argued passionately for so many issues. And then I got older and realized that most things are relatively unimportant.
If you’re married or living with a roommate, who cares if the towels are folded this way or that way? In the larger scheme of things, who cares how the dishwasher is stacked or if the dishes are left in the sink? If your spouse were to suddenly die or become disabled, will these issues still seem important?
I have always argued to the death for my principles and that will never change. Don’t ask me to violate my principles, not while I still have breath to argue for them and to try to do something to defend them. But anything else? Not likely.
There is one other thing that is important enough for me to argue about. If you and I were married and you weren’t a fiscally responsible person, I wouldn’t allow my name to be on any legal documents that we shared. That means no bank loans, no house mortgage, no credit cards and, definitely, no joint bank accounts. In fact, I would do my banking in a different bank so that you would never have access to my accounts.
If you want to buy a house and I don’t, you can buy it in your name and not put my name on the deed. You would be responsible for the mortgage payments and I would share utility bills and grocery bills, not much of anything else. Same thing if the reverse were true. If I wanted to buy a house and you didn’t, the house would be in my name and I’d be responsible for the mortgage payments and the maintenance costs, and we would share the utility bills and groceries.
Couples often have different spending habits and core values. If you want to spend your money on what I call stupid things, that’s your prerogative, but don’t spend my money on those things. We’d have separate bank accounts and you can spend your money on anything you want; just don’t touch my money or ask me to spend my money on things that I don’t want.
Government is always spending my money on things that are not essential and that I don’t want but, other than trying to vote those legislators out of office, there isn’t much I can do about that.
Through the years, I have come to realize that most of the things that cause us unhappiness today, will not even be in our lives five or ten years from now. We will barely even remember them five or ten years from now so, nowadays, whenever something upsets me, I ask myself if this issue will still be important to me five or ten years from now, and if it won’t, I make myself drop it and put my focus elsewhere.
Many of my clients have been with me thirty or forty years, so I have the benefit of having shared their fears and tears and, when they have different issues now, that are causing them extreme distress, I remind them about a person or about a situation from all those years ago. Most of them do remember the situation that I’m referring to but when I ask them if those people are important to them now, or if they are still stressing out over the same situation, so far, no one has said yes.
If those people and/or situations are not still in our lives five or ten years after the fact, how important could they have been? As long as we have free will, we can change the outcome of the various scenarios by using our creativity and whatever resources are at our disposal. As children, we don’t have many options to extricate ourselves from painful situations but, as adults, we do.
We can only control just so much in our lives and no more. We can make healthy eating choices and exercise. We can meditate and not allow ourselves to be in toxic relationships. We can do everything within our power to eliminate the stress in our lives but we cannot control the world around us. The only thing we can control is ourselves and how we respond to the world around us.
Nowadays, when faced with an unpleasant situation that I can’t control and can’t do anything about, instead of getting angry, I ask myself if this argument is worth dying on the hill for. Time and distance have shown me that most of the time, the arguments that you thought were so important, are not worth dying on the hill for.