Don’t Ask Me to Clean Up Your Spilled Milk

by | May 4, 2018 | Self Care | 7 comments

Our brain is a funny little highway in our head–a complicated processing system that takes what we input, processes it, receives a message, and then stores that message somewhere.   With the help of 100 billion (give or take a few) neurons, it does this seamlessly.  Anatomically the brain isn’t a muscle but if we treated it that way, we would feel better, perform better, and connect better.  Like the muscles in our bodies, our brain needs constant mobility and new challenges to remain sharp.  We need to look at our thought process, our inner voices, and our belief system and be willing to challenge what is not serving us if we are to grow, evolve, or mature.

My brain tricks me all the time.  It makes me think I’m not good enough or smart enough and that nothing I do is right.  That funny little roadway tells me people won’t like me, or what I feel is wrong or that others think I talk too much (okay…that one is true) or what I say doesn’t matter. I hear messages that reinforce my disabilities rather than my capabilities and I (Ahem. A moment of ownership) allow it.   My lump of gray matter reminds me I suck at math, I can’t read a map to save my life and I will never be able to draw a good horse.  My brain invites fear in and for some crazy reason, allows it to pitch a tent and stay way longer than it should.  Anxious thoughts keep me awake at night, worrying about things that never ever happen.  If I’m coming clean: I’ve lost sleep over the most ridiculous things you can imagine. In fact, you probably can’t imagine because they are so ridiculous.  I’ve worried about things that not only didn’t happen, it might not have even been possible to happen. And yet, there I lie, counting sheep and begging for a few minutes of shut eye, when what I’m most worried about is merely a deception or a mirage. So, I guess I’m a magician of epic proportions—playing tricks and doing illusions on myself.

One thing my mind does– with great beauty I might add-  is make me think that I’m liable for all that happens around me. I believe I’m somehow responsible for other people and if they make a mistake, I want to make things better with the wave of a wand (if you happen to find that wand on Amazon, please let me know).  I am a fixer and I like helping people, even if they don’t want my help (hello 13-year-old daughter).  I struggle with watching other people struggle and I blame myself if something goes wrong. I’m the one that would cut the butterfly out of the cocoon if they are struggling, only to watch them die because they never developed their wing strength. My good intentions sometimes hurt me more than help me.

When things go awry for other people, I often ask myself “What more coulda/shoulda/woulda I have done?”, as if I am solely responsible for their decisions or outcomes.  It’s exhausting, draining and defeating. And yet, it’s my own mind that does that to me.  Recently someone said the most profound thing to me that stuck: “You are not responsible for other people’s fuck-ups”.

Stop the presses. Hold your horses. Keep your shirt on.  Holy cow. Someone pinch me because I am hearing bells in my head.

What does it mean to not be responsible for other people’s bad choices or decisions?  It means we hold other people accountable for their outcomes and we allow them to sit in the mess, if they create it.  Remember: it’s okay to be uncomfortable and messiness is uncomfortable.  It means we are free to unload the weight of other people’s mistakes and focus on ourselves.  It means we are liberated from the stress of taking care of the wounds and needs of everybody else and can slow down enough to look at our own wounds and needs.  It means we accept other people—especially those we love—as flawed and as imperfect. It means we accept people as is, because we all know that to fuck up, is to be human.

My mind needs to be exercised (think more free weights than spin class) to allow this new idea to become normal. Our brains are so malleable and continually changing in response to our lifestyle and our belief system.  We can create what we fear, and we can create what we want to change.  I need to make muscle memory in my brain so that it becomes natural to remind myself that if other people stumble or fall, I didn’t trip them.  Armed with awareness, I can flip the switch on the negative chatter and instead of inviting fear or worry in, I can invite peace and calmness.  And the crazy thing is that we can find calm even amid chaos and confusion when we don’t feel like we are responsible for other people’s chaos or confusion.  Like my mom used to say: if you spill the milk, it’s your job to clean it up.

I feel 100 pounds lighter, and I didn’t even go to the gym today.  I’m not responsible for other people’s fuck-ups. I said it again, and it feels better every time I say it.  Come to think of it… I’m taking orders for the t-shirts I am having made.  I’m owning this new concept. I’m accepting those I love “as is”.  My job isn’t to own their shit, it’s to love them regardless of it.  And to know, I didn’t create their shit so it’s not my job to clean it up. I’ll hand you the mop but you gotta push it.

This funny little highway in my head has many detours, road blocks, and pot holes to make my journey real and authentic.  Like traffic, somedays the road is more congested or things beyond my control like the weather cause everything to slow down or come to a standstill.  On those days, it seems to take longer to get to where I want to go but if I stay in my lane, keep my eyes forward and put on some good music, the drive doesn’t seem so bad.  I know I’ll get to where I want to be eventually. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.


  1. Sandy

    Great article. Is tough love coming back?

  2. J$

    Yes!!!!! I’m right there with you Kelly. Working on it and ready to buy the t-shirt!

  3. Pat scarlata

    Sometimes it’s hard to remember that phrase. Great article Kel

  4. Kristin

    As our kids head into adulthood – I’m saying a resounding YES! We can guide and support but they have to do the heavy lifting. Loving your blog – thank you!

  5. Tracey

    As usual your article speaks to me but my gray matter tells me different. Keep up the great work Kel!

  6. Joby

    It isn’t easy but it is definitely worth it-every single day, it is worth it. I’ll take a medium shirt. I hope It’s “flowy”. Well done Kelly~thank you for being brave enough to put these truths out there.


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