One day about six years ago I was driving across the San Francisco Bay Bridge with my then three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Kenna. She was looking out the window when she asked me, in a curious yet serious tone, "Daddy, why is everyone so angry?"
Coming from my own child, it was, at the same moment, one of the cutest and most powerful questions I had ever been asked. I stumbled for an answer but nothing came out. As I looked out at the other drivers, Kenna's observations appeared quite accurate. Almost without exception, the other drivers appeared frustrated, agitated, nervous or angry. A minute or so later I admitted to Kenna, "I'm not really sure."
The more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed. After all, the tens of thousands of drivers on the road that morning were all seated in reasonably comfortable automobiles. We were all getting where we needed to be, albeit slowly. I'm guessing that most drivers probably had a cell phone and/or a radio to keep them occupied. Many were sipping coffee or talking to the person next to them.
It was one of those moments that I realized that many of the things we sweat really aren't that big a deal. It's not that anyone would actually like traffic, but then again, while all of us are subject to big and painful events in life, a traffic jam, like so many other day-to-day things, isn't one of them; it's not life and death.
Both before and after that day in traffic, there have been other moments and experiences in my life that have reinforced a similar message, moments of clarity that have reminded me of the relative importance of things. I've come to realize that life is far too important, short and magical to spend it sweating the little things.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and it's all small stuff )was the first in a series of Don't Sweat books all designed to help foster this more accepting and peaceful attitude toward life. The latest in the series, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Men (out this month), attempts to guide men in the same direction. But now, it's your turn to be the author! My publisher (Hyperion) and I decided it would be both fun and useful to others to publish an entire book filled with stories from my readers' perspectives. Many people have moments of insight in their lives, similar in some ways to my traffic story above. These are moments that remind us, or teach us, to not sweat the small stuff. At times, these insights come about from a touching or funny experience. Other times, it's a moment of tragedy or a near-miss of some kind. A friend of mine, for example, had a life-changing moment as the small plane he was traveling aboard was about to crash. Another friend was neurotic about keeping her house perfectly clean. Then she traveled to a country where the poverty broke her heart. Her perspective shifted, and she had a change of heart. When she returned, her home seemed like such a gift the mess and chaos less relevant. It's not that keeping her house clean was no longer important just that it was no longer an emergency!
I'd like to invite you to share your story with us. Although we won't be able to print them all, we will certainly learn from each of them. If your story is selected, we'd love to publish it in a book of Don't Sweat Stories so that others can learn from your experience. If you'd like to participate, please send us your one or two page story along with your address, phone number and e-mail address. If your story is selected, we will let you know. Please send your story by October 1, 2001, to Lary Rosenblatt, Creative Media, Inc. 1720 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org It has been such a joy to write the Don't Sweat books. I hope you join me in this life-affirming adventure in sharing with others how we have learned to not sweat the small stuff.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Men, is the latest entry in Richard Carlson's best-selling series of books on dealing with the day-to-day challenges of living in a stressful world. A psychologist, he lives with his family in northern California.
Winning combination for reducing stress
Women lead incredibly full lives these days, wrestling with responsibilities at work and at home. So BookPage and Hyperion, which publishes the Don't Sweat series, recently sponsored a De-stress Contest, asking women to share their ideas for reducing stress in their lives. The winning entry came from Jeanne Leffers of Richmond, Indiana, who will receive an autographed first edition of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Women and a beauty gift basket to pamper herself with. Here are Jeanne's winning recommendations:
1. Downsize Look at every thing you have from space to shoes and try to downsize. Examine all of it and consider yourself, not friends, relatives or advertising. If you downsize you will find time to smell the roses, relax, put your feet up and enjoy a good book. Your number one priority should be getting rid of the over-abundance.
2. Find humor Read the funnies, learn to tell a joke, read books cataloged under humor , and when you see a cartoon that makes you laugh out loud, cut it out and post it where you can continue to enjoy it. Share kid's jokes with the children you meet. A famous person wrote a book about how he cured his serious disease by watching comic movies. Find a Charlie Chaplin movie and enjoy a belly laugh.
3. Forgive and forget To maintain and cherish your relationships, learn to forgive others' transgressions, overlook their foibles and mistakes, and forget about the time your sister-in-law threw the mustard dish at you. (And if you have been saving the stained outfit all these years, throw it away!)
4. Prioritize Every time there is competition for your attention, stop to consider which is more important. Try to go with your heart just as often as you follow your head. If you have children at home, remind yourself frequently that they are there temporarily and many years of their absence will follow their presence. Make lists of perceived jobs; it is easier to see which must really get done and which can be ignored. When the jobs are completed, cross them off with a red pen; it is very satisfying!
5. Exercise If you can downsize and prioritize you will be able to find time to exercise. It may be the most important activity of your day. A favorite for me is an early morning power walk with a bit of jogging (I call it running!) included. If you have been a couch potato, start your exercise program slowly and work toward a goal slowly.