“Remember not to care about the things you don’t even care about.”
I haven’t stopped thinking about this simple, singular piece of advice poet Cleo Wade offered me when we recently sat down to discuss her new campaign with Aerie. It popped into my brain when I was annoyed that a guy I went on one date with hadn’t texted me, then again a few days later when a friend made a snarky comment about my outfit, and again during pretty much every phone conversation I’ve had with my mom since.
I’m the opposite of “chill“: I regularly sweat the small stuff, and am the queen of holding grudges for years at a time (…just ask the girl who kissed my sixth-grade boyfriend). Wade, on the other hand, epitomizes it. Her Instagram is full of artwork and poetry that redefine the inspirational-quote landscape (as in, none of it’s cheesy at all), and her work is a constant reminder that we can choose to have power over our thoughts—including the not-so-nice ones.
A few weeks before we met, Wade posted a quote that read, “Just a friendly reminder: Letting sh*t go is always an available option,” and the words struck me. Because while they make *~*letting sh*t go*~* sound so, so easy, the reality (for me, at least) is that it can often feel impossibly hard in practice. So I asked her, point blank: How the eff do I do it?
“One way that we can let sh*t go is by asking ourselves, ‘How much do I really care about this? Do I care about it enough to let it take up this much mental space in my life and in my brain?’ And if the answer to that is no, we can continuously remind ourselves that we need to let go.” —Cleo Wade, poet
“One way that we can let sh*t go is by asking ourselves, ‘How much do I really care about this? Do I care about it enough to let it take up this much mental space in my life and in my brain?’ And if the answer to that is no, we can continuously remind ourselves that we need to let go,” she tells me. “A lot of what we hold onto is just a habit. If we can create the new habit of letting it go, every time the thought pops into our mind that ‘I’m still mad about this,’ or, ‘I’m still jealous of this,’ we can remind ourselves, ‘Wait, no I’m not. I actually stopped caring about that two days ago.'”
While we can’t control the things that come up in our lives, we can control differentiating the issues that are houseguests versus permanent fixtures. “I have a really deep struggle with anxiety, and when I have my peak moments of anxiety, I start repeating the mantra to myself, ‘this is not you, this is something moving through you, it can come out of the same door that it came in,'” says Wade. “And when I do that, it’s how I remind myself it’s not a permanent fixture.”
But letting things go, Wade admits, isn’t quite as easy as just deciding to be #overit and moving on. “When I say we ‘let go,’ I don’t mean that in a flippant way, like ‘oh that must be so easy to make the decision and do it.’ I just mean you do have a lot of power to decide ‘this happened to me and I will not let it define me,'” she says. Rather, actively define your experiences by regarding them as learning blocks you can build up versus weights that pull you down.
“When you can turn yourself into a constant learner, the journey is so much more enjoyable,” she says.
In other news, Wade’s fellow Aerie model Iskra Lawerence taught me confidence-boosting tips for feeling good in a bikini. And gymnast Aly Raisman opened up about how she practices self-care after the most challenging year of her life.
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