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Why Does it Matter, Anyway…?

People get themselves worked up into a lather over the oddest things. I know, I do. For example, just last night, *someone in my house* got cranky because I put recyclable bottles in the non-recyclable trash can. Big deal, right? I mean, *I* thought that it would be easy enough to sort when it was emptied, but unfortunately, my belief was not shared by *someone else* in my house (who shall remain nameless), so we both got prickly about it.

In the past, I’d have marinated about this and probably even gone to bed mad (!) but, THIS TIME, rather than stewing over it, I did something different – (a skill I’ve been working on for about a year, by the way): I calmly sat down and rationally thought about the situation. (Gasp!) Guess what happened? I realized that I was making a federal case over…plastic bottles. Yes. Plastic bottles. And, yes, I know one could argue that *someone else* was doing the same thing, but that’s only when seen through my own prism of self-importance. See, I was getting overheated about…EMPTY BOTTLES…and perhaps there’s a metaphor there: The bottles were empty, and so was my anger.

(Profound, don’t you think?)

So, once I saw the emptiness of my anger, I took a deep breath and came up with a solution to the problem — not that it was a problem for me, mind you, but since it was a problem for *someone I actually love in the house,* it needed a solution. Just what did I do? No, I did not go onto Facebook and status about it (LOL) — I put a recycling bag by the trashcan so that, in the future, I can “sort-on-the-fly.” (Revolutionary!) Now, truth be told, I could easily have continued on the war path and turned this into a battle of epic proportions; but I didn’t. This time…I just…let it go and moved on.

What changed? Why was I able to do this now when I spent years and years and years being…mad? Well, to be perfectly honest, it comes down to a little thing called my “ego.” (Ouch.) Uh-huh, I spent my life fighting to the death over ridiculously insignificant things because of my E-G-O.

Alright, I realize that this might sound a bit absurd to you, and you might be wondering just how I could make a federal offense out of trash (but that is only because YOU were not there; YOU were not enmeshed in my moment, and YOU do not know how frustrated I was to have to defend my decision to put a freaking bottle in a freaking trashcan.) Got that? Silly, really, but admit it — you have found yourself in a similar situation and gotten all worked up over something equally trivial. You know you have.

Don’t believe me? Let me jog your memory…

Ever found yourself asking:

  • Is it *really* that hard to put the roll of toilet paper on so that paper faces out, instead of in?
  • Can’t you *just* turn the “clean/dirty” magnet to the right position on the dishwasher so I know those dishes aren’t clean?
  • Is it *that* big a problem to just refill the soap dispenser…?
  • Can’t you JUST hang my Victoria’s Secret bras, rather than drying them in the hot dryer with your socks? (I might have gotten worked up over this one. Once or twice…)

Did anything up there ring a bell for you? No? Okay, think about it for a minute; I’ll wait…

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Do you have some examples now? Great! So, here’s my question: Why. Does. IT. Matter? Why does it matter if you overreact to silly things that you swear are more important than they are? Where’s the harm? Well, I contend it matters because when we allow unimportant things to overshadow our reason, we allow distractions to overshadow our recovery.

Let me say that again:
When we allow unimportant things to overshadow our reason, we allow distractions to overshadow our recovery.

Said differently:
When we make unimportant stuff seem important,
we make important stuff seem unimportant
until it becomes impossibly-important.

Still confused? (Stay with me) I say, it’s pretty hard to be calm when you’re a raw nerve just waiting for a place to overreact. Don’t you think? And it’s pretty hard to be rational when you’re feeling irrational. Right? Wrong? Don’t know?

How about if I frame this in a (seemingly) innocent way? Ever spent an hour on Facebook? Ever seen any drama? Ever found yourself saying, “What is the big, fricken’ deal?” I mean, just scan the status updates and you’d swear we were mere moments away from the Apocalypse. Yup. Catastrophic-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it sorta drama.

Stuff like:

  • My husband left the toilet seat up! (It’s the end of the world!)
  • I got a bad haircut and I’m convinced my stylist did it on purpose! (My life is over!)
  • I lost my phone charger! (There is no reason to even think about tomorrow!)
  • Someone misspelled my name! (I am struggling for my next breath.)
  • Someone said I took the easy way out by having weight loss surgery! (People are just evil…I can’t go on.)
  • My football team lost (I’m gonna go eat a brownie!)

Ooh, ouch, I have a feeling one of those hit the aforementioned raw nerve…but that’s what happens when we allow drama to rule the day. That’s what happens when we elevate everything to “code red.” Well, at least it is for a great many of us. You see, when we feel out of control and angry, many of us decide to EAT…We decide that situations are unmanageable so we can *manage* them by eating Oreo cookies, or french fries…or drinking (and I don’t mean protein shakes.) The point is, when we allow trivial matters to become overly significant, many of us turn to our familiar go-to behaviors for solace and relief…yet…solace and relief are the very things we don’t find. The net result is, not only have we NOT solved the problem, we feel “guilty” for eating Zingers, AND are STILL worked up over the drama that started the whole thing!

Wow. Self-defeating behavior at its finest. Sounds a lot like sabotage to me…

Want another way of looking at is this? When we make mountains out of molehills, we quickly learn that the view from the top isn’t so great. (I’m talking about that little mound you created when someone  said you looked too skinny and you tried to convince everyone this was a brazen act of war.) Don’t get mad at me. I didn’t say that to you…

But here’s the thing — WE HAVE THE POWER TO MANAGE OUR EMOTIONS — I’m not saying we don’t involuntarily REACT and FEEL things — I’m saying we can choose how we ultimately respond — even if we’ve already reacted with a dramatic performance worthy of an Academy Award. You’d be amazed how powerful the words, “I’m sorry I overreacted” can be. Of course, most of the time, we believe we are completely justified in our reactions, so it makes saying something like that twice as hard. I mean, people “just don’t understand,” or, “they can’t possibly comprehend” the immensity of the event that has befallen us! (Right?)

The real question is: WHY are we catastrophizing, awfulizing, and giganticizing all that drama in our lives? Could it be so we DON’T have to deal with the stuff that REALLY matters? Could it be that if we’re constantly trying to cope with manufactured stuff, we won’t have to face the genuinely important stuff…like our weight…our health…our relationships…ourselves? It certainly seems plausible. At least, that’s what I’ve learned in therapy…

Whether you think you do it or you think you don’t do it…YOU DO IT — and there’s hope. See, I have this process I use when I feel myself venturing into Dramaville. When I feel like I’m going to blast-off (like, when someone has the audacity to park *their* car in *my* spot), I walk myself through this series of questions:

  1. Does it really matter?
  2. To whom? Just me? Someone else? A lot of others…?
  3. Do I need to do anything about it?
  4. What would happen if I DIDN’T do something?
  5. What would happen if I DID do something?
  6. Will it matter tomorrow? Next week? Next year? In 10 years?
  7. Why do I believe it matters so much?
  8. Am I ignoring something else?
  9. In the grand scheme of things, will anyone be hurt if I just move on?
  10. Is this the best use of my energy?
  11. Does it really matter? (Notice how we ended where we started?)

Next time, you try it. But, be aware, when you first begin working through this process, the answer to these questions might be, “yes, this is a good use of my energy because I am upset about something extremely important that will impact my life in a negative way…FOREVER” and that’s okay; it’s precisely why this exercise matters. In practicing this method myself, I’ve learned that a great deal of what I always believed was significant, really…wasn’t. The stuff I thought mattered…really didn’t. Mostly, being a drama queen just gave me excuses to eat my frustration away.

Know what? By asking myself this simple series of questions, I have allowed recovery from obesity to become a very real part of my life. I’ve learned that it’s darn-near-impossible to be in recovery if I’m always trying to deal with the hard stuff by throwing food at it (and if everything is hard stuff, then I’m gonna be throwing a LOT OF FOOD around…mostly into my mouth.) So, doesn’t it just make sense to eliminate drama for drama’s-sake?

Wouldn’t life be…simpler if life were…simpler?

Just for today, I encourage you to try having this conversation with yourself. Next time you feel that familiar anger welling up inside you — and you’re one finger away from Facebooking the world about it – DON’T. Instead, walk yourself though the questions above, and see what happens.

Chances are, NOTHING will happen if you don’t tell the world. The world will continue to rotate on its axis and the sun will continue to be the center of our solar system and, oh yeah, you might not eat about it!

Just for today…eliminate the drama. You’ll be glad you did.

7 comments

1 Kristy { 08.28.12 at 9:27 pm }

Love it! too bad those last paragraphs were not part of the "face book for dummies!" book that everyone had to read prior to opening a Face book account. Love your writing:)

2 bariatricafterlife { 08.28.12 at 9:32 pm }

Thanks, Kristy, but isn't “Facebook for Dummies” kind-of an oxymoron…?

3 Cris M { 08.28.12 at 10:00 pm }

That was really good…and I will definitly apply to myself before updating my status. That was a LOT of very good points….many times we feel like the sky is falling and our anger is huge….only to calm down and rationalize the situation and see its not that bad.

4 bariatricafterlife { 08.28.12 at 10:12 pm }

Cris – Excellent point about “The Sky Is Falling” syndrome. I find it to be…what's the word? Ponderous? Hmm…it's like pandering to get people's sympathy or concern. Are we THAT hungry for attention that we have to scream for it? And then, when we realize the attention isn't enough, we feed it food…I dunno…just thinking out loud. I just remember a boss I once had (I didn't particularly *like* her, but she was quite good at what she did) — anyway, she said to me, “Cari, a wise woman always leaves at least one thing left UNSAID every day.” I didn't get it then, but I sure do get it now. Call it mystery, or just call it self-control…but the more you leave unsaid, the less there is to explain ;-).

5 Sine { 03.06.13 at 1:50 am }

Ok, so i admit to laughing out loud to this – it is SO me. I am a classic over-reactor. Believe it or not – a lot less than i used to be (i would like to say it's age, but actually usually because my eyesight is crap and miss half the information in front of me). I need to learn the whole "one thing left unsaid everyday" thing. Filters Sine, Filters.

6 bariatricafterlife { 03.06.13 at 1:53 am }

See what I mean? I've been saying this for years! 😉

7 bariatricafterlife { 03.07.13 at 1:55 pm }

Yes, follow that up with “one thing left unthought,” and you'll be well on your way… 😉

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