The adage Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff really isn’t as simple as it sounds. Sure, I would love to let the non-sensical things roll off my back while shedding all the angst, contemplation and anxiety that goes along with it. I agree that the heart on my sleeve deserves a day off, as it has been working overtime lately. Admittedly, I have been guilty of sweating the small stuff, the big stuff, and all the stuff in between. This past November was my daughter’s bat mitzvah. Those of you in the throes of planning any life cycle event that includes caterers, DJ’s, and photographers know that life cycle events are the epicenter of small stuff.
Here are some snippets of conversation that give you a cross-section view of life cycle planning small stuff.
“So, let me understand, for $65 a plate, you don’t include the plate?”
“Is the picture of Jerusalem on our invitation supposed to be upside down?”
“Just because Aunt Sophie gave me $50 for my bat mitzvah, doesn’t mean I have to invite her...oh, I didn’t know she died.”
“No, you can’t wear sweatpants to your sister’s bat mitzvah.
These are just a few, but you get the picture. From March-October, I was obsessed with small stuff. It devoured my day, haunted my brain, and quite honesty, I resented it, which of course made me feel guilty. This was supposed to be joyful, a right of passage, a celebration of my daughter’s spiritual connection to her faith, and there I was, drowning in my small stuff, taking everyone down with me in a small stuff vortex.
Life doesn’t stop for a life cycle event,
it just continues to swirl around you. While I was sweating mundane details such as table centerpieces and invite lists, our hectic life continued to hum. My daughter was in full teen swing complete with tests, reports, cross- country track, Hebrew- School and bat mitzvah prep. It was so much activity condensed into one period, it made my head spin. Everyday, there was a new random complaint from her, my head hurts, my knee hurts, I’m tired, pizza hurts my stomach, why do I have so much work? What’s the point?” She was running full force; up at 6:00 and running cross-country three days a week, it was enough to exhaust a racehorse and she sounded like a 90 year-old woman.
My husband and I said things, like, “of course you’re tired, it’s middle school,” “If your knee hurts, then quit track,” “Sweetie, if pizza hurts your stomach, don’t eat it,” “If your tired, get to bed earlier,” “You can choose to be miserable and sweat the small stuff, or you can just get over it and move on.”
All of this is typical advice from a parent to their teen daughter under normal circumstances, but we soon found out that nothing she complained about was normal. It seems like all of her “small stuff” a.k.a her “whining” about aches and pains was really- BIG stuff. After a few ER visits, and a five-day stay at Georgetown hospital, our daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks your small intestine and other parts of your digestive system. She was truly, truly sick. Her insides revealed a body littered with ulcers and lesions from her esophagus all the way down to depths of her bowel. The inflammation in her body created joint swelling which explained the aches and pains, the headaches and fatigue were from blood loss/ anemia, the pizza aversion- most likely a reaction to the ulcers in her mouth and esophagus.
Big stuff SUCKS!
BIG STUFF CON’T
Those three weeks were a blur of doctors, hospitals, medications; follow up appts., bloodwork, fear, more guilt, school plans for re-entry, dietary restrictions, ALL BIG MESSY STUFF!
Suddenly, all the bat mitzvah small stuff seemed so incredibly insignificant. I dropped everything. The papers sat frozen in time on my desk. The caterer thought I was MIA. I didn’t care. My focus was healing my daughter.
Ironically, I suddenly yearned for my small stuff days because I suppose it represented my previous normal. Now I had a new normal, a new normal filled with BIG stuff and I didn’t like it very much.
It has been three months since our big stuff diagnosis and I am happy to say she is in remission for now. The ugly truth about chronic illness is that it’s always there waiting to rear it’s head again. For the time being, however, life is stable and full of small stuff again. Here are some snippets of recent small stuff conversation…
“Yes, I think your future wife would mind if you snuggled with your mom every morning.”
“No, you can’t play outside when it’s 14 degrees.”
“ I don’t think alligator wrestling is a viable career choice.”
“Putting a dish in the sink does NOT merit a prize.”
“I suppose I will have to settle for store credit, even though I will never shop in here again!”
SMALL STUFF REVISED
Small stuff permeates our life, whether it’s the repairperson that shows up late; people who don’t call you back, or the three pounds you can’t lose. It’s not fair to put the pressure on our selves all the time to not sweat the small stuff. It requires work to- not-sweat the small stuff and you are not a failure if you don’t find yourself in a perpetual state of Namaste.
Maybe it’s the wording. DON’T has so many negative connotations, “Don’t touch that,” Don’t eat that!” “Don’t wear that!” We live in a world of don’ts with experts who tell us why we shouldn’t. I don’t know about you, but every time I tell my son “DON’T” he inevitably does. Look what happened to Lot’s wife in Genesis when God said, “Don’t turn around.” She’s been the spokesperson for Morton’s Salt for the last 5000 years. Not a bad gig, but harsh nonetheless.
Sure, we should probably overlook the little things, but as I have painfully learned, the little things turn into big things. It is a never-ending quest to find a balance where we can address the small stuff without losing our sweaty cool, while still being able to acknowledge its relevance. Admittedly, I am still working on this. Though, I think acceptance of a situation goes a long way in how we deal with small stuff or even big stuff for that matter, and while yoga, meditation, or bathing in deodorant may be alternative options, as far as I’m concerned, a little perspiration goes a long way.