Don't Sweat the Really Huge, Horrible Stuff Happening Daily

Instead, stick with what you can do something about.

Posted May 15, 2017

Design by Jennifer Ann Daddio
Source: Design by Jennifer Ann Daddio

Contrary to pop-culture lore, we need to learn how to sweat the really small stuff. For example, say the knob on your dresser drawer falls off and suddenly the screw that had been holding it in place since you bought it in 1983 is somehow inexplicably way too short, and there is literally no possible way to screw the knob back on without defying all the conventional laws of physics, and thus you’re going to have to make a special trip to Home Depot which is 25 minutes away simply in order to buy one lousy screw, then you have every reason to get really upset!  Even curse. Mild to severe fuming is not out of the question. Say aloud to anyone within earshot, "Well that's 50 minutes of my life I'll never get back." In a reasonably well-ordered and fair human existence, life would have no right to make things that difficult for you.

But as for the really huge and unprecedented and unspeakably horrible things happening daily that assault all of us like a high-powered automatic weapon that only fires bullets of bad news, describing unbearably tragic events involving extreme human suffering, sorrow, violence and terror all over the globe? Don’t sweat it! Piece of cake. Or, if you prefer another food group, small potatoes.  

That barrage of indigestible information exploding in our faces from every corner every minute merely concerns the overall fate of the Earth and the very survival of civilization and humanity itself. It’s just part of a very long and very old narrative, only a minuscule blip on history’s infinite timeline. Why should that bother little old, ant-sized you? It’s not like you could have prevented the Ice Age, or intercepted that big meteor that crashed here and killed all of our favorite dinosaurs. What in the world do you think you can do now?

"Mama Got Her Pussy Hat"/Travis & Taska/CC BY-SA 2.0
Source: "Mama Got Her Pussy Hat"/Travis & Taska/CC BY-SA 2.0

Well, I suppose there is one thing you could do: you could knit a pink hat with cat ears. Just think: if enough people were to knit enough pink hats with cat ears, well then, we could have a LOT of hats. And that’s not nothing.

You could also sign every petition that you see on Facebook and your email inbox. If enough of us band together and put our names on enough petitions, objecting to all the unprecedented, unspeakably horrible things that happen daily, well then, we’d have a LOT of names on those petitions, believe me. Hundreds of thousands of signatures. And best of all, they would be digital, virtual signatures, so they wouldn’t use up a lot of paper and kill a bunch of trees, so our online petitions are environmentally friendly to boot.

So if you knit the hat, sign the petitions, and occasionally show up at a protest rally holding a sign that says “Love Trumps Hate” or “This Pussy Grabs Back,” you will have admirably performed your civic duty, and can then just go about your business again and get on with your life, waiting for the next small thing to give you agita.

Like say—and this is purely hypothetical—your wife keeps putting your favorite CD, "The Best of The British Invasion," (which includes both She’s Not There by the Zombies and You Really Got Me by the Kinks) into the wrong CD case, so that the next time you want to play it, it is nowhere to be found, and the last place you’d ever think to look is inside the "Laura Nyro Retrospective Tribute" CD case, and your wife claims to have no knowledge of the missing disc, and truth be told, she doesn’t even seem to care about where it is, and doesn’t seem to think it’s “that big a deal.” She might even toss off a flippant remark, such as, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

NO! In such a case, I strongly advise you to break out the heavy guns, the stomping around and the slamming of doors. Consider breaking or at least hiding something important of hers. Tell her this intolerable behavior has to stop. Suggest couples counseling or simply threaten to move out. Now that’s the sort of thing you should be sweating. That’s manageable stuff you can actually do something about.

 Ross Hendrick, used with permission
Source: Source: Ross Hendrick, used with permission

But North Korea testing long-range nuclear missiles? Russia hacking our elections? The U.S. banning Muslims, making abortion illegal and transgender bathroom use a crime? A few beheadings here and there by madmen? The rise of fascism and an authoritarian regime in America? Truly, don’t sweat it. That kind of thing always happens when the end of the world is nigh.

Just put on your pink hat, cuddle up with a loved one and watch reruns of Mad About You, and then get really annoyed when you want to channel surf during the commercials but you discover that the remote has stopped responding because it needs new batteries and you find that it requires two AAs and all you have in the house are a jumbo pack of those big Ds you bought on the eve of Y2K back in December of 1999 along with 17 extra flashlights, despite having repeatedly put "Buy AAs" on your to-do list, and given that you just got into your pajamas and got comfortable and settled in for the night, there’s simply no way you’re about to go to the 7-11 at that hour, and although it occurs to you that there are undoubtedly two perfectly good AAs sitting inside a certain device in the bottom drawer of your spouse’s night table, you are not at all certain if you are supposed to even know about the existence of said device, so in the end, basically your entire evening has been utterly ruined.

See what I mean? By all means, sweat that.

About the Author

Eliezer Sobel is an author, musician, and retreat leader.

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