Letting Go And The Pretzel Test


‘Tis the season … of inescapable stress, unattainable expectations, fitful sleep, poignant memories, and increased time with those who share your genes and are doing their own version of this pressure-filled holiday dance.

One way I monitor my stress level during the holiday season – and throughout the year – is to do The Pretzel Test. As I plan, coordinate, orchestrate and otherwise attempt to control life, I will sometimes (unfortunately, not always) stop and ask myself, “Am I twisting myself into a pretzel on this?”

I know the answer is yes when my nerves feel brittle and ready to snap, just like a pretzel. Or, I’ve twisted and turned all my desires/priorities and subjugated them to someone/something else in supposed service of the “greater good.” Or, I finally recognize that I’m more invested in the outcome than the person who actually should.

When the realization hits that I’ve reached pretzel status, it’s time for emergency action. Sometimes that involves chocolate (again, unfortunately). Other times I pull out the quote below and read carefully. Inevitably, the line I need to be reading jumps off the page at me.

Are you feeling a little crunchy this week? How and what can you let go?

Let Go
To “let go” does not mean to stop caring, it means I cannot do it for someone else.
To “let go” is not to cut myself off, it’s the realization I cannot control another.
To “let go” is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another, it’s to make the most of myself.
To “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.
To “let go” is not to fix, but to be supportive.
To “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
To “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own destinies.
To “let go” is not to be protective, it’s to permit another to face reality.
To “let go” is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.
To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate everybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To “let go” is not to regret the past but to grow and live for the future.
To “let go” is to fear less and to love more.


  • Shari Says:
    12-22-2009 11:44:37

    Boy did I need to read that poem today and not for the reason you intended. Personal relationships can twist us into pretzels too. Especially when we mistakenly think we can control others responses and/or actions. Thanks so much for posting this. It is going in a frame and under the tree as a gift to myself :)

  • Catherine Says:
    12-22-2009 12:19:50

    This is a timely reminder for those of us in the helping professions who are dealing with people in crisis during the holidays. We tend to be Ms. Fixits and need to remember that many things are beyond our control. I printed out this message and put it on my desk where I can pull it out as needed.

  • Sue Says:
    12-22-2009 20:25:14

    Love this! This is something I will hang up and refer to all year long.

  • Sharon Says:
    12-23-2009 22:22:07

    Your line jumped out at me: I finally recognize that I’m more invested in the outcome than the person who actually should be. That made me stop and take notice. Then the list of “let go”s laid it all out in black and white. Count me as one who really needed to read this. Thank you.

    Merry Christmas Elaine and Anne! Here’s looking forward to many more coffee chats in the new year.

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