Wednesday, 11 April 2012
12. NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF
For as long as I remember, especially up until my mid-30s, I had always been the type to agonize over every detail about every single thing. When I was a child, it was a means of survival. This essentially mushroomed into something akin to a dispositional wart by the time I was a young adult. I would get so worked up about things, it would gnaw at my core and manifest into ulcers; firstly in the mouth, and then, at the ripe old age of 20, in my stomach. Mind you, I must have also come across as if I had a mental disorder, flip-flopping between being a ‘pleaser’ and then becoming hysterical over the most inconsequential of trivialities.
Growing up, both my parents were specialists in sweating the ‘small stuff’. Mom would deal with her’s by not talking about it directly but her displeasure would always manifest in the form of little digs and spiteful comments at the perpetrator. The actual cause would, however, ALWAYS remain a mystery as she NEVER wanted to talk about it. Dad’s style was much more straight-forward. He would detonate at the slightest of perceived slights. Let’s just say my childhood memories are institutionalized inside an overloaded Pandora’s memory bank of screaming matches and physical, emotional and psychological warfare. Going to school and staying there for as long as I physically could was my only refuge (shame it didn't translate to fantastic grades!).
I knew I didn’t want to be like them. But I also did not know any other way to deal with things. I would oscillate between sweeping it under the carpet and pretending things didn’t bother me, and getting bent out of shape over other things, hiding behind the guise of ‘standing up for myself’. It was an exhausting way to exist.
When my stomach ulcer manifested, I knew I had to start making serious changes about the way I saw and reacted to situations as I had obviously, much to my dismay, become a frightening synthesis of BOTH my parent’s dispositions. All sorts of self-help and journey books were bought over the years as I felt the only person who could help me was me, myself and I. Additionally, I did not really want to talk to anyone about what I was going through. I felt like a failure, a total misfit.
Anyhow, the multitudes of books including “The Road Less Travelled”, “The Alchemist”, “The Celestine Prophecy”, and “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” were all very helpful albeit a protracted ‘journey’! But it really wasn’t until nearly a decade later, when Matt had come into my life and one day bought me, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. My first reaction was hurt. I was like, “What?! You think I get flustered over little things?! But what about all the times you told me I was perfect?!”. Then, I felt vulnerable. That he saw through my struggle even though I thought I had been doing such a good job in muddling through it. And then, relief. Here was a guy who not only saw me, warts and all, but still loved me, empathized, didn’t judge, AND wanted to help. Plus it was a BIG deal for him to pick up that book for me from the sort of aisle he would normally avoid like the plague. NOW that HAD to be love!!
Well, fast forward nearly 25 years since I first decided the road my parent’s chose for themselves was not for me, my journey to find my inner ‘zen-ness’ is an ongoing process. Some days, everything I’ve learnt and practised flies out the window and I have spectacular meltdowns. And then, on other days, I wonder what the fuss is all about and I actually succeed in not 'sweating the small stuff'!
My goal: To remember (as often as possible) not to let things get to me and be mindful that I am in control of how I perceive things and my sum reaction. Oh, and in the big scheme of things, its ALL small stuff.