Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sometimes You Should Sweat the Small Stuff

Remember that popular book?  Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.  I think it was popular in America, at least.  I don't know if it was popular in Australia.

I'm not 100% sure I even read the book.  I think I did. Probably.  

Anyway, my dad recently wrote an email to someone saying something like Don't sweat the small stuff, but please sweat the big stuff.  And I think I added to the conversation by saying that sometimes the small stuff turns INTO the big stuff. 

We might want to sweat at least SOME of the small stuff. Sometimes it's better to sweat things when they're small. This way you might prevent big bad stuff from happening.  

There's a quote about this on page 170 of The Spell Book of Listen Taylor.  

But then she thought of her recipes: an accidental touch of egg yolk in her meringue; one-eighth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper in her mango dressing-these tiny things had such an impact! Small things she realized can mean something immense. 

It's like a tiny leak in the ceiling. 

One day it's small and harmless.  Leave it, and soon you have black mold growing.  

It's probably best not to ignore those things.

With a lot of other stuff, it's not so cut and dry. You have to find a balance. If we're too nonchalant about things, we can get ourselves in deep trouble.  If we're over-worried and cautious, we'll have an unhappy paranoid life.

If someone feels a slight twinge in their breast, they don't need to assume they have breast cancer and rush to the doctor.  But if one has a lasting twinge, and/or a lump, it wouldn't be wise to ignore it.

If there's a young girl who refuses to eat dinner one day, there's no need to call in doctors or therapists.  But if it continues for another day, and another day, I don't think it's wise to say Oh, she's just going through a silly phase. The silly phase may be the beginning of the eating disorder that kills her when she's 25.

It goes beyond leaks and medical issues. How about with relationships?  The little things that irk us in the beginning can be signs of things that will cause us great aggravation down the road.   

How about a guy who insists on being friends with EVERYONE on his girlfriend's Facebook. Kind of cute, and kind of irritating.  She marries him and then learns she's not allowed to have any sort of social life that does not include him. 

On Valentine's Day, a girl receives coconut chocolates from her girlfriend. The girlfriend is the one who likes those, not her. A tiny mistake.  But this could be the sign of someone who is overly egocentric, and unaware of other people's likes and dislikes.  

How about a friend who asks you what's wrong when you're perfectly happy?  It's sweet and innocent.  Nice of them to care, at least. But what if it ends up being a relationship where two people are miserable at reading each other.  What if there's constant miscommunication? It could get annoying.

But not all small stuff turns into big bad stuff.

And some small stuff turns into really good stuff.

It's just that I don't think you should make broad assumptions when giving out advice.

The full title of the self-help book is Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. And it's All Small Stuff.  Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things From Taking Over Your Life.  

That's bullshit. What about my friend whose child is recovering from Leukemia? Is cancer included in the small stuff?!  How about if you step on a land mine and lose both your legs?  Is that included?

Maybe I shouldn't take book titles so seriously. I know. Yeah.  Still.  It bothers me. I'd be more okay with the title if it was Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.   And Most of It Is Small.   But We Don't Include Stuff Like Leukemia, Brain Tumors, Your Dog Being Run over, Your Friend Being Murdered, etc.  

It's like that saying Don't Worry Be Happy.  That IS good advice for me...sometimes.   Like last week I suddenly freaked out because I didn't know that Tim had canceled Jack's doctors appointment.   I thought we had simply missed it.   For some reason, things like that REALLY bother me.   I was so upset, and I had to calm myself down.  Dina, maybe Tim canceled it. Don't freak out yet. If you did miss it, is it the end of the world?  Is it really THAT the scheme of things?  

But what about the time, my sister was having major brain surgery because the pressure in her brain was too high?  That was a LITTLE SCARY, thank you very much.  I don't see how I could be happy at that time.  How about when I lost Jack at Disney World?  That was terrifying. I could have stood there and thought, No big deal.  He's been gone for only a few minutes.  But in some tragic families, those minutes end up lasting forever.

You know what?

I think self help books (and songs) can be pretty damn annoying.  But you small piece of foolish philosophy can make someone VERY wealthy.