The Good Life – A Few Small Things

Sometimes in our lives, there are days when the world threatens to overwhelm us. The new supervisor at the office seems to be harboring some sort of grudge against you. You’ve just had a fight with your husband about whose turn it is to take your daughter to soccer practice. The cheque that you wrote for your son’s swimming lessons has bounced, because you forgot to transfer the funds. The dress that you bought just last year does not fit you any longer. The history midterm exam is scheduled for Monday morning, and there is not enough time or energy left over at the end of the day to study for it. You can’t find your car keys when you’re heading out the door, late for an appointment. As we all know, the small but nagging stresses and tragedies of the day can mount up around us to the point where we feel that we just can’t cope.

At these times, it is only human to begin to question the larger circumstances of our lives. The self-defeating questions spin around and around inside our heads, like dogs chasing their own tails. What am I doing in this lousy job, where I’m not appreciated? What has gone wrong with my marriage? Why am I so disorganized? Why is everything so difficult for me?

It is truly amazing at times how a few minor, but key, frustrations can swiftly turn into a crescendo of anger, despair and self-recrimination. By the same token, though, it is also surprising how a number of small pleasures and seemingly unsubstantial accomplishments can add up to balance the scales. I suggest that when it feels as though your world is crumbling down around your ears, simply take fifteen minutes and walk around the block. It can really lighten your spirits. Putting on some uplifting music, lighting some incense or a few candles, cooking a healthy nourishing meal, going for a bike ride — these are all activities that can potentially turn the emotional tide for us. This is particularly true when we do them on a regular basis, heaping one slight luxury upon another.

When you feel overwhelmed by all the things that should have been attended to yesterday, last week, last month (and all the things that are looming ahead), the best thing you can do is find one small, easily-completed task and do that. The sense of accomplishment feeds off of itself and spurs you on to do more. As a very wise friend once told me, there are many times in our lives when we have so much to do that it seems impossible to get it all finished. But, we can always think of one, small thing that we can take care of right now.

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