How many times a day do you think, feel or say, “I hate that?” Usually it is small things that break a relationship, the one small oversight or transgression that builds to epic proportion in our heads and makes us blow. It was just such an event with my 9-year-old DVD player. It started out skipping small things in the beginning, a line of dialog, small but meaningful gestures. I let it slide; we all do in the beginning. It’s me; I expect too much, I’m too picky, too demanding. Then it began to skip whole scenes, lose plot points, and check out for whole sections of what made my evening good. I still let it go; I would cajole, curse and push all of his buttons to no avail, the rat bastard. Finally it was a friend who brought it to my attention that this was an easy quality-of-life thing to fix. I knew it, but had chosen to muddle through, be a big girl and make it work. Unfortunately I was the only one. My DVD had no such plan and I was paying Netflix to watch 2/3 to ½ of all the movies I was renting. I was a dolt.
The fix was a new DVD but I was putting it off because it felt like a luxury expense and not a daily quality-of-life issue. What I did over the years, as this went on, was minimize its impact. I love movies, documentaries, episodic TV series and all types of film. Film is a way I learn, relax and explore; they are a healthy coping mechanism and they bring me immense pleasure. I was spending half my night fighting with the remote, cursing like a truck driver, bringing up my blood pressure and making myself a cranky old thang. It sucked. It was a small thing I had control over and put it off not realizing the fix would have a huge impact on my life. It did.
But then there were the 20-year-old mugs. Ugh. Tea and coffee stained scratched glass I could not make clean no matter what I did. They still worked so I hated to give them away. It was just a mug after all, why the big deal? Why did it make me frown to pour my hot morning beverage in something ugly? What can I say I am aesthetically driven and they were an eyesore, that and I am a shallow wench. To replace them or even just one with a special mug for my tea or coffee seemed so small and self-indulgent that for 5-6 years I just thought about getting a new mug. Not even a set mind you, just one and I still never got around to it. One day in Marshalls for $2.99 I found a lovely little mug and remembered my promise to myself and kept it. I would smile every morning I filled it, it was bright, clean and made me happy. If someone told you that you could make an investment of $2.99 to start your day with a smile instead of a frown wouldn’t you do it? The point it took me 5-6 years to do it. Why? I thought the small things were small and did not make or break an experience, my minute, hour or day. I did not take the time to adjust my life to me. One size does not fit all folks!
I started to pay attention to all the little things in my day that annoyed me, that made me think “oh I have to fix that”, “I hate that.” I started to realize it was not the big things that made for a good day or a bad day but the little things because that is what life is, small little moments strung together. Yea sure there are big days in there, promotions, moving, falling in and out of love, but it’s everything in between that we forget to examine. We look forward or we look back but fail to recognize exactly where we are at this moment and that that moment is all we have. Why not make it great?
After those last two incidents I got a pad out and sat down to figure out what other little annoyances ticked me off during my day. I sat, and sat and got nadda at first. I left the pad on the dining room table and went on with my life. Then as my day and evening wore on I would get tweaked by something and walk over to the table and write it down. These things can be so small, so fleeting we don’t always remember them but they pop up every time we go to do something.
Here is the sticking point: you need to have control over it to fix it. That doesn’t always mean throwing money at it either. One item that went on my list was my filthy car; I live in a flight path, on a city bus route and park beneath where Pterodactyls nest. Back east it rains so god washed my car. Here it doesn’t rain near enough for me to get in and out of my car without feeling icky about the crust, dirt and dust, and that is just on the inside. The outside is a hundred times worse depending on what the Pterodactyls ate. I have taken to washing it once a month. This was prompted by a friend who put on a HAZMAT suit to drive with me. He made me realize that I had let one more thing bug me yet not fix it till it was way over the line.
So get a pad and write down 5 small things that you have control over that get on your nerves every day. Your partner chewing with an open mouth is not a good one choice for a few reasons; you have no control over them is one. As to your partner if they have resisted learning the closed-mouth-chewing skill till now you best forget the duct tape option and choose to sit next to them rather than in front of them when they masticate. Or leave the room when they eat. However, if when you get dressed in the morning your closet is jammed with clothes and you can’t find anything you want, are tripping over shoes, etc. that is a lousy way to start your day and something you have control over. Think about taking an evening or a Saturday morning, put on great music make a cup of fabulous tea and clean and organize your space. Make it an event, not a chore. Hell, invite a friend who has OCD like me and open a bottle of wine. Life is meant to be enjoyed why not inject fun everywhere you can?
Start to look at your life and how to make every experience better. A great example is sitting in traffic. That was the first thing my sister thought of to fix. I pointed out we were looking at things she had control over and that traffic was not something she could control but she could have influence over the experience. I suggested trying books on tape, lectures or a specially mixed CD made by my niece just for her commute. She could pick up a favorite beverage and sip it on the road planning her evening in the quiet of the car. Though she cannot change traffic she can make sitting in it a better experience.
So the exercise is to get that pad out and pay attention to the things that tweak you during your day. Think about how to make things better. Can they be removed, replaced, organized, and improved upon? Doing so will raise your overall mood and quality of your day. I recommend starting small, like my mug. The payoff is big no matter what, so keep it simple.
Life is full of choices, putting your head down and pushing through “this is the way it is,” your “have to’s” and “it doesn’t matter it’s just a teacup” is one way. Why sit there waiting for those great moments instead of making them? Why spend your time living for your weekends, evenings and the ‘good times’ when the other option is ditching what doesn’t work. And for what has to stay: reframe it. Think about how to make it better, think “Ah hell might as well dress that pig up and teach it to dance.” Again except if it’s your partner then it best to pay someone else to give them lessons.
Love this article! I made my list of not five, but eleven things around the condo that are constantly bothering me. It’s such a nice space but it is so cluttered and makes it feel smaller than it is. This will be an ongoing homework assignment to work on this.
Good girl, take control of the things you can and improve your life in every way you can. Nice work!