Chances are better than average that at some point in your life you’ve had to deal with a true crisis outside of death of a loved one or divorce. It might be a health issue, a financial issue, a house fire, a broken engagement. Whatever it might have been, it was unexpected, the situation was out of your control, and it left you mired in uncertainty for a period of time.
Fortunately, that kind of situation does not occur often in our lives, but when it does, we’re surprisingly well-equipped to deal with it.
Why then do we sometimes find it so much harder to deal with life’s minor irritations? I’m talking about events that certainly can’t be called a crisis, and yet cause us to feel anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness or other emotions that are out of proportion to the event.
I know that sometime in the next seven days you and I will have each experienced at least one minor irritation – a driver swoops in and takes the parking space we had our eyes on, we get a traffic ticket, we work through lunch, our favorite jacket is torn, we get behind someone at the grocery story with 20 items in the eight or fewer line.
We’re all pretty good at handling one or two minor irritations like these. But then there are those days when a gaggle of the little crisis critters gang up on us. The day starts off with burnt toast, a missed train turns into a missed deadline, the bank account is overdrawn, and the day goes down hill from there until it seems as though absolutely nothing is going to go right and we just want to crawl under the covers and pray tomorrow is a better day.
In the big picture of life, little irritations are just that: Little. And irritating. Not insurmountable. Not life-changing.
Sister Pat, a wise personal friend of mine who is neither a nun nor a relative, refers to these things as the tremendous trifles. It’s always the tremendous trifles that wear us down, bit by bit, until we’re worn down to the nubbins. We’ve had it. We’re beat. We can’t handle one more little thing.
And then, as if we asked for it, one more little thing happens.
Suddenly, we couldn’t care less about the big picture of life. We can’t see the big picture, we can’t even recognize there is a picture hidden behind the overwhelming pile of tremendous trifles.
Here’s Sister Pat’s advice: When the tremendous trifles gang up on us, we need to adjust our perspective.
First, take a minute to think about the things that have happened. Ask yourself: will I feel the same way about this in five minutes? Five days? Five months?
The burnt toast, the missed train, the missed deadline, the overdraft, the torn jacket, the parking space, the so-and-so in the checkout line, they aren’t the big picture, they’re little details living in the shadows and at the edges of our life. By dwelling on them, we make them bigger than they really are. They don’t deserve any more of our attention.
Yes, not every day is care-free, nor is every day out to make us miserable. Tomorrow will no doubt be much better, and if not, the day after is sure to have some sunshine in it.
Sometimes all we need to do is put things in perspective.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: The next time we’re frustrated and overwhelmed by a series of minor irritations, try taking a different perspective on the situation. Doing so helps us acknowledge that irritating things that are in our lives are not our lives, they are only details that do not deserve to continue to make us miserable.