With the onset of the new year approaching,I’ve begun to put things into perspective again – especially about the unimportant little things in life.
Every once in a while I catch myself faulting my husband – in my own mind – about all the little irritating things he does: leaving empty or semi-empty drinking glasses un-rinsed on the sink counter, not checking for phone messages, leaving piles of paperwork all over the house, not putting his dirty clothes in the hamper, refusing to learn how to refill our filtered water bottle. You know, the things that are so annoying at the time but really make no difference in the scheme of things.
Last week he had hip replacement surgery, and that event immediately erased those little annoyances from my mind. Then I began to worry about the big life and death issues – would he have a bad reaction to the anesthesia, how long would he have to stay in the hospital, what kind of care would he need once I brought him home, is he in pain, is he eating enough, is he getting enough practice walking again. When I’m up against these major questions, I don’t care about the little annoying things.
The same goes for rest of my life.
Several years ago, we were on a trip to Italy with another couple. One evening at dinner the woman tried to get the server to agree to serve her salad after her main course. Her voice got louder and louder but the server just stood there not understanding a word she said because she wasn’t speaking in Italian. As a result, she got her salad at the beginning of the meal with everyone else. She then sulked through what could have been a lovely Tuscan evening. Realizing how unimportant her request was and how detrimental her behavior was to the outcome of our evening, I vowed not to let a little thing such as that get in the way. I fall back occasionally, but usually I get a reminder, such as a family health issue, that helps me keep my resolve.
Now that I’m over seventy, some of the things I don’t stress about anymore have to do with trying to look younger than I am. I used to go to the hairdresser every six weeks for a cut and dye job. Now, I don’t get my hair dyed anymore, and I get a trim every three months or so. My hair is gray and long, and I like it that way. I also don’t worry about putting on makeup unless I’m going out. However, I’m slavish about moisturizing lavishly and wearing sun block and a hat when I’m out in the sun.
Also I’ve gotten used to wearing very casual clothes. Since I work as a writer from my home office, I don’t have to stress over dressing for success very much anymore. So, my clothes shopping days are very few. One more thing that may seem trivial, I have to admit, it wasn’t in my heyday. I’ve given up standing in front of the magnifying mirror every night making sure I pluck out all the stray hairs around my eyebrows. My husband used to always tease me about my plucking habit.
The list of things I do stress about has to do with family, friends, and our health, and the well being of my country and the world. Since we lost our son to suicide in 1999 our surviving son and his wife are foremost in my mind. I haven’t been able find a way to stop worrying about them. But I chalk that off to the notion that that is my job. Mothers are meant to worry about their children no matter how old they are. I also stress about my many friends who have been recently diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses – lung cancer, an aneurism, ALS. It’s my age.
I know the older I get, more and more people I know will experience ill health. So, I make very sure that my husband and I eat healthy and get enough exercise. Luckily I was raised on a healthy diet, so it’s second nature to me. It’s harder for my husband to choose a healthy alternative to candy and cake because he grew up eating a lot of sugar. And though I’m a firm believer in exercising everyday, he started working out at least three times a week in the last year or so. I think he’s become a believer now that he’s experiencing such an easy recovery from his hip surgery. Being in good physical shape definitely has its benefits.
One other thing I stress about is fulfilling my writing commitments. Writing is so much on my mind, I find myself writing before I even put a finger down on the keyboard. But to me that’s a good stress. Writing keeps me mentally healthy. Of course, a career in writing also comes with other stresses – rejection letters and unfavorable book reviews, for example. However, I’m slowly growing a thick skin. Besides writing keeps me younger than any of the beauty products I’ve given up could ever do.
I’d love to know your thoughts about what stresses you out. Perhaps you’ll find things on your list that don’t matter either.
Want to feel good about releasing excess baggage? Have a peek at this Hooplaha video for inspiration.
Photo credit: Gulfu