As we end the month of March, it’s worth revisiting the words of Oliver Sacks that inspired the series, The Clean Sweep. “I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential.” Have you made clearing away what is inessential part of your daily routine?
There’s a critical difference between healthy detachment and being irresponsible. Irresponsible people are reckless about the commitments they’ve made. Instead, thoughtfully detaching requires quiet discernment followed by courageous action, even when it’s painful.
Suze Orman once gave advice to a young veterinarian with a bleak financial picture. Like many people, the doctor had left vet school with a sizable load of student loans. Then she decided to start a large animal vet practice which meant acquiring expensive equipment to treat new clients, both in her office and on the go. Things were good. She wasn’t having blow-out success during her first few years in business, but she loved her work and her practice continued to grow. She also owned a home.
As she described her overcomplicated financial landscape, the home weighed most on her mind. It was clear that it was a bit of a stretch just to make the mortgage. Then there were the surprise expenses. She hadn’t planned on the $1,500 bill to replace the water heater that suddenly went out. The black mold that showed up in the bathroom demanded immediate attention. Late credit card notices were starting to pile up on the kitchen counter.
The stakes got higher each month as she stayed just a few steps ahead of bill collectors. The doctor hadn’t meant to get into trouble, but there was a nagging fear that one catastrophic event could bring everything tumbling down. She began to choke up. She was trying to do all the right things, but how could she keep it together?
Suze could have made many recommendations. Refinance the home to a lower rate. Try debt consolidation. Get lower interest credit cards. They were all perfectly valid budgeting tools. Her advice? The vet should keep only what meant most to her and carefully dismantle everything else.
The doctor initially protested. Interest rates were relatively low, so this was a good time to own a home. Her friends had encouraged her to buy. She didn’t want throw money away on rent.
She had plenty of valid, rational points for keeping the house. Except for the invisible one: the stress the house brought. Without the pressure of constant home repairs, she could focus on what really mattered – her vet practice. Detaching from one thing, even something important, wouldn’t be a failure. It would have the opposite effect, suddenly offering her new possibilities. She could revisit home ownership when her financial picture improved.
This may be the week for you to make a radical decision. Is it time to end the crushing tension and admit that your balancing act is barely working? Let it break. Your “for now” choice doesn’t need to be a “forever” decision, unless you want it to be.