Sweating the small stuff

My mom gave me a book a few years ago entitled, "Don't sweat the small stuff - and it's all small stuff".  While I actually think the book was sort of genius in its powerful message, the title makes me angry today.  As a matter of fact, it is NOT all "small stuff".  Some of it is really really BIG, life altering, catastrophic stuff.  The problem is that most people do not know how to separate the small stuff from the really big stuff.  For most people in our society, it is all big stuff.  We are so used to maximizing the drama of the insignificant that when something really big actually happens, we have no concept of how to deal with it, so ironically - it gets minimized.  I actually remember having the thought many times during the week of Max's Shiva that, if nothing else, perhaps we'd all (meaning my circle of friends and family) learn to keep perspective.  I thought Maxie's death would change the way we all looked at life.  That perhaps the small things would stop being gigantic obstacles to overcome.  That everyone might look at their own lives and feel a sense of gratitude.

Being married can be challenging, even in the best circumstances.  We all have traits that push our partners buttons.  After suffering so great a loss, we are less able to edit ourselves.  We bleed vulnerability.  At times, we are more truly ourselves with each other than we had ever been up until this point.  In one sense, it is reassuring.  "If he loves me now, while I am such a mess, he must really love me", is what I often think.  I try to do small things to make up for our loss - to try and bring some happiness or, at least, normalcy to our daily lives.  I make dinner most nights, I pack his lunch for work most days.  He does lots of little things to show me how much he is here for me as well - he brings in all of the groceries so that I don't have to carry a thing, he thinks about my needs while he continues to design the details of our home.  At the same time, I am not as aware of my most annoying habits - the ones that might make him cringe.  I am also often in so much pain that I can't contain it.  There are times when he has had a decent day of distraction at work and then comes home to find me curled up on the couch, where I've been for hours, wailing my cry of despair - "Why us?  Why Max?  Why did he leave me?".  He then has to choose whether to save himself by going in the other room, turing on music or sports or reading something distracting....or try and save me (nearly impossible) by sitting down next to me, and putting an arm around me while I cry.  It is so hard to get to a place each day of non-despair that to have that protective barrier crumble at the site of our grieving spouse makes us feel powerless.  I can see why so many marriages break under the stress of this loss.  Ted and I, it seems, have both decided not to sweat the small stuff.  For us, there is so much BIG BIG stuff that nothing else matters.  The small stuff is just a distraction.  Maybe the small stuff even helps take our minds off of the really terrible stuff from time to time.  Can I even say that there are moments when the small stuff I used to sweat comes as a small blessing today?  I can.  It's true.

Obviously, Ted and I are the ones most affected by this loss.  I am ashamed of the small things that used to stress me out.  Truly.  Having Max put so much of that into perspective, but I still stressed out about work and other responsibilities so much.  Whatever stress my days brought though, it mostly melted away as soon as I saw my baby in the evenings.  He calmed my nerves and soothed my soul.  And, I KNOW that the things that consume YOU so much of the time, seem SO big.  They aren't.  I know that it isn't my place to say it but that is my perspective.  I have the misfortune of knowing how good you have it, even if you can't see it yourself.  I know it sounds cold but - If you are looking for a sympathetic audience in me, chances are that you've come to the wrong place.  I still know the pain of true heartbreak.  Obviously, I understand the grief in great loss.  Don't think twice about calling me to talk about the despair you feel in your current life situation, if despair is indeed warranted.  But, and I am sorry to say it..... - most of your complaints and drama go right over my head.  I don't register your pain at all.  If your complaint is that you have to make Passover dinner for your family and friends - my thought is how nice it is that you have people, that you love, to cook for (and if you truly don't want to do it - chances are, the people who come can feel that - so don't put them through the agony.  Nobody wants to have dinner at the home of someone who feels "put out" by having to have guests).  If you want someone to vent to about having to juggle your children with everything else going on in your life, you've gotta know to look someplace else.  How lucky you are! (and if you don't see it, I REALLY DO pity you).  If you have a leak in your roof or your blackberry broke or you got stuck in traffic and were late to an important meeting - you'll get over it.  I know life is full of inconveniences.  We ALL have them.  My heart is far from bleeding for you.  Sometimes we all have bad days - flat tires, bad waitress, or we just feel under the weather.  Take a minute.  Think about what you DO have.  I know you won't, but I figured I would try.  If you insist of focusing on how life has inconvenienced you - find someone else to complain to.  You haven't learned a thing.


robyn said...

the loss of maxie has definitely made me reevaluate my life and put into perspective the things that really are important and worth getting worked up over. i try not to sweat the small things, something that has to be worked at sometimes, but when i think of max and the pain that you and ted are going through it helps me keep that in perspective. i just hate that it is maxi's loss and your pain that makes me do that, but i think of max often and i find he keeps me in check...i wish that wasn't the case.

Anonymous said...

nice book. i want really to get it and read it right now. i expect we can live simplier life if we applied wt we have learned in this book.