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Do You Get in Your Own Way? I Sure Do!

By Ilene Marcus July 31, 2023 Mindset

I’ll never forget the day I realized it wasn’t the holding on that was killing me. It was being dragged. Mostly through the mud, which was wet and messy. Over my life, I have learned to manage the mud. A stiff dirty martini, some retail therapy, and a nice long shower and I was good to go again. I mean mud is good for the skin, and obviously the soul.

But is it?

Now in my 60s, I am sick of getting in my own way. What do I mean by that? I am tired of old patterns and ways of reacting and responding that don’t serve me anymore. That doesn’t improve my relationships or bring me joy.

The Non-Soulmate Story

Let me tell you about it through a story. Another story about my soulmate who wasn’t to be. Today we will call him NS = non-soulmate.

“It’s simple,” he said. “You just have to listen…”

My mouth involuntarily opened and yet I chose not to speak. After months of fighting, we were finally getting along, and I was careful not to blurt out my first thoughts that would land me back into the mud.

I desperately wanted to say:

“But you never say anything that makes sense.” Adding, “And when I ask for you to explain, you just repeat yourself. Like if you say it louder and more forcefully, I will understand.”

I had spent months trying hard to figure out where our relationship veered off the path. I was old enough to know that every love has disappointment built into it and too stubborn to believe we couldn’t fix it.

Instead, I said: “How about a hot chocolate?” It was a chilly September evening, and I walked away from the fire pit, running from being dragged.

Saving the Coffee Pod

Lost in my thoughts, I put a pod into my Keurig, closed the lid, pressed the middle button for the easiest hot cocoa on the planet, stared into space, thinking about what had just happened, and panicked. I’d put in a coffee pod instead of the cocoa.

Acting quickly, in this life-and-death situation to save the pod, I swiftly raised the lid, rescued the pod, only hesitating for a moment, and placed it into a to-go coffee cup for tomorrow.

This time, before placing the next pod in the machine, I double-checked and sat back to wait for the roasting chocolate smell to fill the kitchen.

My eyes keyed in on the pod in the to-go cup, and I noticed it was dripping and might not make it through the night. I grabbed a mug out of the cabinet and placed the pod in the mug, ready to be used in the morning.

I started making the second cup of cocoa, again my eyes keyed in on the pod, now in the mug. It was leaking too. What to do? What to do to save the coffee pod? I decided the best course of action was to make the coffee now, so I pulled out a clean jar and placed it in the machine. This way I could save the pod and have iced coffee in the morning.

Then I thought, It’s getting a little chilly for iced coffee and when I make iced coffee, I like a different brand than the pod. Oh well, I can make an exception.

And as the black smooth liquid filled the clear mason jar, a vision floated in front of my eyes…

… I will be grabbing something from the fridge and will accidentally knock over the jar with the coffee. Somehow the lid has become loose over the last 7 days since my vow to drink the coffee to save the pod. Every day, after unscrewing the lid, I recall I don’t like this coffee iced and decide that maybe I’ll be in the mood later. I put it back in the fridge. Over the week, I move the jar around to reach other stuff until it finally spills from the top shelf, trickling down to every shelf below. I spend 20 minutes, and a roll of paper towels, cleaning the refrigerator. Finally, I ruin the expensive microgreens I bought at the Farmers Market, all because I was trying to save a 34-cent coffee pod.

I Finally Realized I Was the One with Issues

Just as my attempt came to an end and I tossed it into the garbage, my NS (non-soulmate) came through the door.

“I can’t believe it took so long for that fire to go out. Jeez it’s cold out there.”

It’s only been a minute, I thought, and started pushing the nozzle to put whipped cream on the hot chocolates. No steam.

“How long do you think it takes a hot chocolate to get cold for the whipped cream not to melt?”

“8 minutes or so,” he said without flinching, used to my bizarre line of questioning. He slid into a seat at the breakfast bar across from me.

I stood up facing him, our height difference neutralized. With absolute clarity, I looked into his eyes and said, “You are not going to believe what I just did.”

As I retold the coffee pod rescue story, his body stiffened, his head backed away from me, his soft smile, noticeably turning into a frozen, deer-in-the-headlights look. His eyes darted back and forth. His body was stuck with no place to run. It was fear. I leaned in closer still going on about how I spent 15 minutes of my life saving a 34-cent pod that I just realized I was never going to use.

NS was still frozen, his eyes darting widely.

A lightning bolt hit me. I softly said, “Is this what you have been trying to tell me for all these months? How I spin out of control on things that don’t matter?”

He snapped right back into focus and said, “Did you just get that?”

I was now the deer in the headlights and weakly said, “Yes.”

The Daughter Story

The next day I called my daughter to tell her about the NS episode. I finally found the reason why NS broke up with me, what he had been trying to explain.

“Oh my god!” she literally screamed, “He is the luckiest man alive, he can break up with you because I have been telling you about this for years, and I am stuck with you for life because you are my mother!”

After all these years, I started looking at my attempts to be frugal in my spending, especially around food and groceries.

Several months later, I went down to the City and visited my daughter in her new apartment. We ordered in Chinese food. And while cleaning up, I asked, “Honey what do you want to do with the extra chopsticks and sauces?”

“I like to toss them,” she said. I could tell she must have practiced it in therapy, her house – her rules, not my house anymore. I picked them up, walked over to the garbage and threw them out.

She gasped. “Where is my mother and what have you done with her?” In my house, where she grew up, I had a large-sized full kitchen drawer with leftover Chinese food supplies. Now it was my daughter’s turn to be speechless.

Frankly, so was I.

The Art of Getting Out of My Own Way Starts with Letting Go

Letting go is scary because I never know where I will end up. I didn’t want to write about wasting my time on saving one coffee pod. Hell, I don’t even want to admit I have a Keurig. I want to live in San Diego, bop out of my house, hop on my bike, and get a flat white at an organic coffee shop on a skinny side street on the bay. Sit at a small café table, watching others come and go and get their coffee. But that’s not my life; that’s vacation.

Sustaining that is, well, unsustainable. The coffee pod became the unexpected vehicle that showed me one of the behaviors that no longer serves me. I don’t want to keep living with a scarcity mindset that messes up my relationships.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What do you see in your life that you can let go and not live that way anymore? Who serves as a mirror into how your thinking drives you off course and makes others crazy? Where do you see the ways you twist and turn and can’t get out of your own way? What do you do that adds no value to your everyday routine? What is your unexpected vehicle? What’s your 34-cent Keurig pod?

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Toni Stritzke

I’m a good sulker. It serves nobody, least of all me.

Arshi Aziz

I feel letting go is one of the hardest things… we have, I think, been conditioned with certain values. Like being frugal with groceries. Letting go of an ingrained idea when you feel it has served you well for years is difficult for sure!

Thanks for sharing your story.

Kathy Newman

This comes homes to me. I can’t throw away some of the magazines I’ve had a while. I’ll keep old sneakers after buying new ones – just in case I want to paint or I’m doing a dirty job in the garage.


And thanks for sharing yours – I am going into my closet & tossing old shoes!


I can relate. I’ve been overreacting to everything and not regulating my emotions for my whole life (I’m 64). My kids and my siblings are totally sick of it. I am working on regulating myself and becoming non-reactive. It’s super hard after six decades of doing it another way for so long.


It’s so hard – we will get there!!

Patti Duncan

It’s wonderful that we continue to learn and grow throughout our lives if we stay open to the lessons. Those “light bulb moments” are so liberating! Nice job…


To more light bulb moments!

The Author

Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is the author of Managing Annoying People and runs Aligned Workplace, speaking and training Leaders and Founders to attract and retain great employees. An emerging literary writer, her goal is to make you smile just a bit more. Please visit her website at

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