Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Really Counts

I made a list, a small and surprising list, of memories of 2008.

I remember the weariness of beginning the year with a broken heart, and the angst of having my purse stolen. I remember chicken and waffles and getting doozied up in Atlanta; and jazz and beignets and sexiness in New Orleans. I remember sweet kisses. I remember celebrating my brother’s dirty thirty. I recall the anxiety and pride of the Obama campaign that, at times, consumed my days.

I reviewed my list, pausing on each memory. Most of them were good, pleasant. In fact, it seemed too good, too pleasant. Whose life was this? I pored over the list again, searching between the lines. Something was missing. I thought about each month: January, February, March…and then I reflected on each season: winter, spring, summer, fall.

“You’ve had a great year!” a stranger peeping over my shoulder would say.

Well—but--where are the…bills? Where is the fretting over past due this and late that and car notes and $4 gas and ailing bank accounts and whack health insurance and floating checks? Where were the worries of doing the wrong thing or the frustrations of my 9-5? Where was the concern of spending too much money going there or eating that? Where was the cringing each time another bank imploded in our sagging economy?

My list was very telling. Those frustrations I wasted so much energy on, at the end of the year, were no longer relevant.

The times I was stuck behind slow drivers or was late to work or left dishes in the sink didn’t make the “Ode to 08” list. It means that the title of the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and It’s All Small Stuff” is true. We get so caught up in the daily mess that we often don’t look at our lives in broader terms. Sure, there are folks who are in deplorable situations, circumstances that justify some “woe is me.” And most of us have had a few moments in life where things did truly suck. But usually that’s not the case.

I once asked a stress-free friend how he managed to stay so annoyingly breezy at all times. He said he would ask himself, “Will this matter in five years?” And nine times out of ten, whatever it is won’t even matter in 24 hours.

“I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.”

-Nadine Stair “If I Had My Life to Live Over”

I too have made the typical resolutions of losing weight and saving money. But one of the most important resolutions of life is to know those moments of frustration, heartache, and disappoint will pass.