What is it that consumes your waking thoughts? What keeps you awake at night, tossing and twisting your bedclothes, or pacing the living room floor?
Are you trying to make friends, fit in, be accepted in a certain social circle? You’ve organized a party and you worry you’ll be judged. Will they even show up? What if you run out of food or drink? Is the house clean enough? A million tiny details run through your mind. You mustn’t be found lacking. Will they include you in their ‘reindeer games’? Or will you always be on the outside looking in?
How about that promotion at work? What if your colleague, the back-stabbing snake who has ingratiated himself so smoothly into your boss’s graces, gets that prized position instead of you? You’re the one that has worked your fingers to the bone. Not him.
And that pesky construction project. All those details and decisions. Did you pick the right color? Will you be happy with the quality? Why is the contractor taking so long to finish…will they honor the contract?
The list is endless. It’s natural and human to worry about the things that are important in our lives.
Getting little Johnny into the best daycare is of paramount importance – until tragedy strikes, burnishing life with a new perspective, shifting reality until all those things you once thought so important suddenly turn meaningless, demoted by a wave of fresh insight, hard won. You can almost laugh, rueful at the wasted time and energy spent on matters now deemed trivial by comparison.
I was reminded of this simple lesson on the morning of July 4th.
I awoke to a beautiful day that held no obligations or appointments, so I lingered over my morning coffee, turned on the TV, and settled down to watch “Independence Day”, a movie set in the USA on July 4th where we successfully garner our independence again – only this time, from an alien invasion from outer space.
What does this have to do with altering life’s perspective? The answer is nothing.
Only that in watching the actors portray panic in their mad dash to evacuate and escape the city before the aliens countdown to attack – it reminded me how in that moment of crises, that moment of mortal risk, normal life stresses cease to exist.
Who cares about jewels, the lawn that needs mowing, that scratch on the Audi…when aliens are landing and want to devour you and your planet?
I was brought back in memory, to one summer’s night, nine years ago. My husband was working second-shift for a company near Washington D.C., and was on his way home from work. I worked day shift, so normally I was asleep by the time he arrived.
That was during the time of former President Obama’s mission for a “green” environment, which included tactics like raising gas prices to just under $5.00 per gallon. It was for this reason only that my husband started driving our Honda Goldwing motorcycle for his daily commute to work. At forty m.p.g, it was the best way to economize his gas expense for the two plus, round trip, hours he was required to drive each day.
That was the night I received the phone call, the one that every spouse, every parent, knows and dreads.
Time was of the essence.
It was 1:00am. The four lane highway stretched empty and I prayed, feverishly, for the simplest of things.
“Please God. Let him be alive. Let me be able to say goodbye.”
The next twenty-four hours were the longest of my life. I arrived to waiting staff who quickly ushered me to my husband’s side. He was alive, but unconscious. I couldn’t see much since he was lying on a gurney and covered by a sheet clear up to his chin. His face was also partially obscured.
I signed the necessary forms and the nurses immediately whisked him away to a prepared operating room. The surgeon approached me and said, “If he survives this operation, I’ll let you know about the next.” Hours passed. The surgeon came into the waiting room and said, “He survived. If he survives this next operation, I’ll let you know about the next.” Wash – Rinse – Repeat, two more times.
The good news is that my husband did survive. But the point I’m trying to make, is that in facing a crisis of that magnitude, where severe disabilities or death may be the final outcome for your beloved, nothing else matters.
The job, the house, the kids squabbling, the dog. Friends and money and community standing. None of it mattered. Instantaneously and forevermore, LIFE changed in the blink of an eye.
Who knows what our lives would have been like had this accident never occurred? There is no answer. But I can tell you this – the old saying is true. Every cloud does have a silver lining. The blessings are there, you just have to be aware so that you can see them.
However, it’s been nine years since that fateful day and I have become complacent in life once more; arrogant in my belief that tomorrow will come, as gentle and blessed as it is today. It’s so easy to take things – and people – for granted.
But the gods saw fit to send me a reminder in the form of a sci-fi story which packs powerful truths – about facing crisis, fighting for independence, and the glory of survival and second chances. The message came in loud and clear.
Do not stress the small things; for they are of little consequence in the overall picture of life.
But how does one determine what is “small”? How can we compare what is important to a 5 year old, 16 year old, 27 year old…87 year old? The answer will be different for everyone.
Growth and life lessons are both part of the same equation. We have to learn for ourselves what is meaningless and what is important, often gained as insights after experiencing hardship of one kind or another.
Personally, I’ve had my fair share of hardships in this incarnation and welcome the current respite of peace and happiness. It’s been hard won. And totally worth it. The blessings are many for “those with eyes to see”.
Life is so precious. Each moment is just a blip in the eternity of time. We should all endeavor to enjoy it – the good, the bad, the ugly – in gratitude and grace. The lessons and depth of understanding gained along the way, are well worth the cost of the ride.
So don’t stress over the small stuff. Really. It’s all just a matter of perspective.