When I was a little girl and would come home with a scraped knee or another bruise, my father would plunk me onto his lap and say, in the most soothing voice he could muster, “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Of course, at five, a bleeding wound wasn’t made better by this tender advice. I would scream and cry until, eventually, I tired myself out — or, found a Band-Aid. Bonus points if it was pink.
As I aged, this advice came from my father’s lips in regards to most all of my crises — my first lost tooth, my first mean friends, first detention, first ‘F’, first heartbreak, my first failed job interview, lost stage roll, lost pet, first car accident, a credit card bill I couldn’t pay off and so on.
About three years ago, after a particularly difficult self-declared crisis, again he held my head as I sobbed and again he said, “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Frustrated that all of my seemingly large problems were only grains of annoying sand in a bathing suit bottom to him, I wanted an explanation. What right did he have to think this was small stuff? It was big to me. I whirled around on him and said, “dad, if this is all small stuff, what exactly is the big stuff I have yet to encounter?
“Well,” he said. “I suppose death. And the question of life after death.”
While it is not the most sensitive of approaches, I have held onto “don’t sweat the small stuff” as a sort-of mantra since that conversation. I whisper it to myself in times of trial, reminding myself that, sure enough, all the crises of the past have been small-ish in the scheme of that larger “big stuff,” despite their up-close appearance. I don’t downplay or discredit my emotions, but I allow myself to look at them from different angles. Sure enough, after some time, or lots of time, I have moved on. Let go. Separated myself from. Gotten over. Forgiven. Healed, even.
The past week has been filled with moments in need of a mantra and many of them have been what constitute the small stuff. There have been disappointments, nerves, long nights, and tiny ailments — nothing worthy of complaint, but burdensome nonetheless.
There have also been moments this week that don’t belong to that mantra.
My husband’s family lost a beautiful, vibrant, young member to a tragic disease. The memorial was Saturday and there was nothing small about it — death, and the question of life after death.
The attacks on Paris, unfolding on Friday afternoon and evening, were followed in live-time with horror and dismay by nations around the world — death, and the question of life after death.
It seems the Universe has a funny way of putting us in our place when we start to fret over too many of the little things. We are reminded, sometimes harshly, of humility, of mortality, of global community.
There is the small stuff, which so often tricks us into believing it is larger than it appears, and then there is the truly big stuff — the unanswered questions, the mystery of why, the bottomless grief — there to remind us that our lot is our privilege.
Above all, in times like this, we are challenged to wonder if there are not lessons to be learned at all — only loud claps of thunder, waking us from our own tiny worlds, reminding us not to sweat the small stuff (but to respect it, always) and to stand as one in the face of the big stuff, knowing we’re all in it together — death, the question of life after death, and plenty of sweat.
— Andria Parker is an Instagram-obsessed idealist with at least 600 words to share on every topic, ever.