Why Not Just Stop Trying?

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

Settling into bed last night, feeling very lucky for the comfort, a random thought occurred: one of the great things about hitting the mattress is that as of now, it’s all clear.  The day is over.  I can stop trying.

What! Red flag alert!  Bizarre thought. Trying what?  Why would that notion even occur?  At this time I am having the easiest patch of living that I’ve known in my 70+ years.  C’mon.  How much “trying” is called for? 

But.  On examining the little “realization” – that it was comforting to let go of trying – I felt some truth buried there.  And obsessive thinker that I am, have to dig a bit.

Gratitude for Having the Option

Okay – start at the beginning.  In the large scheme, being able to try is a privilege.

Is it not churlish to dabble with the thought of not trying when trying is all that some disabled or very ill people would like to be able to do?  Those whose loving task it is to urge the vulnerable to try harder are some form of saint, because it’s so very difficult when the strength seems to be missing and the will is tired out.

Nonetheless, as a non-saint, there are still bedtimes when along with thoughts of gratitude for multiple blessings, I’ve noticed the relief in not having to try any more today.

Pushing Through Time – How Hard Is That?

So what is the effort that saps me and maybe others in the course of blessedly ordinary living?

Maybe I’m noticing the amount of simple energy needed to navigate everyday – recognizing that for all of us, managing our surroundings and our bodily needs has always been a modest accomplishment.  Now we’re older, numerous small hurts make it a little harder:  the stabbing shoulder pain, stiff knees, fingers that ache when clenched.  And I’m one of the healthy ones!

Why not just stay in bed? Apart from being thought of as fully over the hill, losing it, dotty, pathetic – I would feel as if I were resigning from the human race.  Not ready for that.

Guilt and Custom – Do These Push Us To Keep Trying?

So just get up and figure out what to do.  Just try a little.

It’s not so hard when there’s a planned activity or appointment coming up.  But with no one awaiting my arrival, does ennui (the apathy, the ho-hums) happen because so little absolutely NEEDS to be done?  I know (well) that this absence of being driven happens in the middle of so much need on the part of others.  People need help everywhere.  Volunteers are called for.

So does inaction come down to my indifference or a lack of physical energy?  If so, the phenomenon of not trying is hardly worth examining.  Look around you, take more vitamins , do more exercise and get off your fanny.  You know that working with others, for others, is one of the happiest times there can be.

And remember that it’s February – which Canadians know as a time for winter blues, or blahs.

Effort – When Is It Really Positive?

But there is something more positive to consciously letting go, regularly, of needing to make an effort?  Maybe the quiet voice of inner reason is saying something.  Is it, again, a matter of getting back some balance? 

Some of the best days seem to be full of action, when it all flows.  Jump out of bed, line up what has to be prepared, get dressed, go to meet the excellent company that awaits, and get your lungs full of good clean air, laugh, eat, move through space as if it’s all silken, and end the day with hugs all around. Blissful living.

We know it’s only rarely like that.  But as long as there are a few hits of bliss, that balances out the more grey days.  And, of course, in winter in Canada it’s harder to avoid an overabundance of grey.   Skating, cross-country-skiing, downhill for some, walks in the park or the country – those can be glorious times.  They come less often as we age: could we maybe do something about that?  Really – crazy to assume they’re totally behind us.  Sometimes, go for the bliss!

The Effort to Be Better

Yet, the effort that has to be questioned – perhaps – is that required to be Better.

That’s the one that at night-time I happily let go.  And why, at this stage, does it still matter to improve?

Under the surface lies the ambition for more patience, more consideration of my partner, more kindness, more overcoming of reluctance to reach out, more seeking of who someone who needs what I could give – more giving.

Yet, worthy as those goals seem, there’s something out of sorts there.  The seeking in myself for more, more, more doesn’t really fit with my chosen Taoist mantra:

The world is gained by daily increment

The Way is gained by daily loss,

Loss upon loss until at last comes rest.

If driven (unconsciously) to be more virtuous, rather than to seek the peace of letting go, I continue clinging to the wheel.  It’s a crafty undermining: the trickster wants us to keep wanting.  And wanting virtue expends energy that might go instead into getting used to the being one is – not who one should be.

Once Again, Letting Go

I have written before about the folly (for me) of the purpose-driven life.  Continual self-improvement – that’s the effort that has driven me too often.

I think that truly, the Creator knows us.  We meet her when we aren’t trying to be good enough.  We meet him when we aren’t trying.  We meet her when we’re laughing, joyful, when quiet, when loving.  Let go.  Stop trying so hard.

Maybe that’s just fine.



Filed under A Bigger Circle, Rosemary's entries, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Why Not Just Stop Trying?

  1. Perhaps letting go changes as we move through our lives. Having moments of letting go is the only thing that recharges my batteries, When I am on there is very little below 99% for me. This means that I go full speed until the tank is empty and then i sleep as hard as go. I do my best to not miss those moments of bliss on the ski hill surrounded by those that are most precious. Hopefully those moments will never be lost in my mad rush for the next exoerience, but sometimes you do need a seat belt to keep up. Oh, and please don’t interrupt my moments of letting go 😉

  2. I remember the film, The Remains of the Day. No matter how good or bad the day has been. No matter how depressed even. When the evening comes and I settle down to watch some good and some crap tv. I feel a sense of relief. There is nothing more I can do about, money, bills, friends problems….anything. So I stop, and let go.
    It’s the best time. No matter whether I have done good or bad that day, it’s over.
    As Shakespeare says in Macbeth:
    Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,
    The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
    Balm of hurt minds (MOI) great nature’s second course,
    Chief nourisher in life’s feast”
    So, just go to sleep and rest. That’s what it’s there for.

  3. Jane Wingate

    Ah rosemary I think you have captured the anxiety of our sated nation, and it’s elders.You have skillfully meshed existential angst with religious purposfulllness.A splash of thankfulness that when we look out our windows bombs are not dropping , our happy lot as Canadians .I tend to the ennui side othing at this time of year, well maybe all year , but the expansiveness of you description is refreshing and an enjoyable read even if it is not quite the understanding I have of the winter doldrums. Greetings cousin Jane

  4. Rosie:
    Your dilema seems to center around the belief that you are, now, in retirement, REQUIRED to either let go are be “better”. What seems to me to be missing is a sense of SEEKING – opening possibilities that are desired, desired in that internal way, from the heart-brain. Not being “better”, not “striving” to be “better”, not responding to an obligation to be better. But rather, asking “what do i really WANT to do?” “What would wake me up?” “what would enthuse me?” “What would be fun?”

    My experience is that such “PROJECTS” as in pro-ject, future regarding, seeking, inquiring, uncovering, opening, such projects if they are from the inner heart-brain, are tremendously enlivening. They remove us from obligation, from requirement, from the risk of not being “better”. They create their own energy and positivity out of themselves and lead, enlessly to other realms which enliven and enrich.

    sure that are things that must be done, and hopefully, in retirment, there are not so many of these that we are dragged by obligation from wake to sleep. Yes that are things that are preoccupation and even worries, but again the same hope. But even if there are, hopefully some, but not too many of these, their negative effect can be nullified by the positivity of heart-brain projects acted upon and accomplished in a continuous and fomative way.

    It is one of the blessings of retirment that we are able, again hopefully, to entice such openings from ourselves.

  5. Julie-Giulia

    Rosemary…in my case it’s the “guilt and custom” once my enery is gone that’s it….time for some “blissful living”. I’ll make the effort to connect with friends to simply eat, laugh and love,which is tough at times. I find in Europe they work to live here we live to work…. I await the evening, a glass of red wine a chick flick ,dim light. Now there’s peace. xo

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