When I was young(er) there was a publishing phenomenon at the time (like The Little Book of Hygge last year: it was everywhere and everyone had read it, or heard of it) called Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. The idea was that we learned to put things into perspective, to handle problems and instead of making them big, see them as, mostly, small and issues that we can overcome. Amazon’s page says
Carlson’s cheerful book aims to make us stop and smell–if not roses–whatever is sitting in front of our noses. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… offers 100 meditations designed to make you appreciate being alive, keep your emotions (especially anger and dissatisfaction) in proper perspective, and cherish other people as the unique miracles they are.
I remember reading it and thinking that, honourable idea though it was, at the time with a little baby myself and an elderly Grandmother driving my own mother wild, I couldn’t quite see how that was going to help me keep a clean house and put tea on the table at a reasonable time. (if you’ve ever had children you’ll know all about the Witching Hour, that marvellous time when the need to make tea and the necessity to calm a fractious child collide)
Now I have maturity and a little more wisdom on my side, I can see that the things that made me mad then have lost power over me. My Nan died, my babies grew up. I could have a whole different set of worries, but age lends perspective and I can now say truthfully, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
I could also say, “Make like a Guinea Pig.”. We have 5 beautiful piggy babies, who live in the living room with us. During the school term, they have their cage during the day and get released into the wilds of our living room during the evening. They run, they scurry through tunnels, they try to emulate Steve McQueen and dig a tunnel to freedom behind my chair. Whatever, they enjoy their evening preambulations.
We don’t often see them during the day except at weekends, when it strikes us that they are very sensible in their own lives. Guinea pigs don’t stress over much except if there’s a lack of food. As long as you leave them alone, they will waddle like miniature hippopotamuses across the carpet, grazing, occasionally pop-corning and most of the time finding a cosy spot and pancaking. Those are recognised Guinea pig moves; pop-corning and pancaking. Both are signs of happy, well-adjusted guinea pigs. In fact, the pancaking is particularly lovely when they do it on you,because it means they are relaxed on your knee. #Guineahygge indeed.
And we had our own human pancaking going on over the weekend. Last week the evenings were all so full that we never made it to pancakes. On Saturday I had promised pancakes, but had my hands full when the kids looked at me. I chucked Delia Smith at them (the book, not the woman) and said Get on With It.
My kids are a resourceful bunch and they did just that. 30 minutes later, we had pancakes to eat and, bless her heart, Sarah had another skill that I just have never been able to master.
From both my children and my pets, I have learned that very few things in life are certain, except death and taxes. That new skills learned are always valuable, that sometimes the best thing to do is just be and that as long as there’s food, life is good. I have learned that a tribe is a wonderful thing to belong to, and that sometimes the least attractive looking is actually the most loving (Sherlock, I’m looking at you. you fuzzball!)
I have learned that looking at life with gratitude is a beautiful ability we should cherish. I have learned that differences should be celebrated and I have learned that hygge… beautiful, heart-warming, soul-building hygge…. doesn’t ever ever need stuff. That togetherness is enough.
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