Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Road Lesson Two: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

From a talk I gave to Mental Health Con, Sept 28, Estherville, Iowa, titled "Eight Lessons I Learned on the Road" ...

Guess what? After a heart attack in which I’m supposed to be dead, every day is a gift. Things that used to be important to me are no longer important to me. This takes a lot of stress out of my life. Stress is a major killer. It can be found at the scene of the crime in every illness, mental and physical. Stress sets us up for anxiety, depression, mania, addiction, anger, psychosis, trauma, obesity, heart disease, on and on.

Trust me, stress is far more damaging than whatever it is you happen to be stressing yourself about.

Stress, I am convinced, is what brought on my heart attack. But my heart attack, oddly enough, turned out to be liberating. By not sweating the small stuff, I’m am in much better mental health now. If I screw up, I screw up. If someone doesn’t approve of me, so what?

Jesus, himself, said don’t sweat the small stuff. Only he phrased it a lot more eloquently: “Consider the lilies of the field,” he said in the Sermon on the Mount, “how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. ... O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious.”

Mind you, being on the road has a way of turning the small stuff into big stuff. My can-opener, for instance, has a way of migrating from the front of my vehicle to under a pile of laundry in the back without so much as leaving a forwarding address.

I also have a very bad relationship with gravity. This is one of the many aspects of reality that I was hoping would change after my heart attack. That gravity would somehow take pity on me and prove to be more accommodating. Say, when I dropped something, instead of falling to the ground and rolling under a nearby refrigerator, the object would thoughtfully hover in mid-air for say two seconds.

But, guess what? Much as I would like to change reality, I cannot. My only choice is how I respond and interact with it. This involves cultivating a sense of acceptance. Maybe one day, when I get good at at this acceptance business, I will stumble into enlightenment. But it all begins with not sweating the small stuff.

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