Sometimes life feels hard, and we struggle through. But some people seem to float through the hard stuff more easily than others. I think that the difference lies in how we see our “struggles;” and in whether we see them as “big deals,” or not.
“A big deal.”
When I was ten, I got sick during my summer vacation. When my fever stuck around for too long, the doctors decided to do a blood test to figure out what was wrong. To me, this was huge problem.
I was terrified of having my blood drawn. I imagined being taken into a room at a clinic. I imagined a nurse coming in and trying to be nice. I imagined her pulling out a syringe and a needle, and telling me that it wouldn’t hurt. I imagined my mother sitting next to me telling me not to look. I imagined them holding me so that I wouldn’t wiggle. I imagined a long and fat needle piercing my arm causing it to throb. And I imagined the pain to be excruciating. That was a “big deal” to me.
To deal with my “big deal,” I thought obsessively about it. That only served to increase my sense of dread. And by the time I entered the clinic, I was in a state of utter panic!
Becoming a big deal.
When the moment of truth arrived, I refused to allow the nurse to touch my arm. I announced to her and to my mother that if they wanted to take my blood, they were going to have to prick my finger to get it!
They tried to reason with me. They told me that pricking my finger would hurt more because they would have to prick it many times to get enough blood. They promised to use the smallest and thinnest needle they had. They promised it wouldn’t hurt. They promised it would be quick. But I was unrelenting.
So other nurses came in and tried to convince me to do it. I refused. A commotion ensued. A few doctors popped in to see what it was about, and assured me that I would be alright. But I was unflappable.
After an hour or so of this, my mom gave up. Exasperated, she summoned my dad from work to “handle” me. My dad arrived, and quickly realized that I wasn’t going to give in. So everyone reluctantly agreed to do it my way. And it was over.
It had been a “big deal” indeed!
Big deal, or no big deal?
Over the years I realized that it had been that way only because I told myself that it was a big deal. First, because telling myself that it was a big deal caused me to have dreary thoughts. And those thoughts made the situation more painful than the prick of a needle would have been.
Second, because telling myself that it was a big deal made every fiber of my being resist the situation I was in. To get through, I had to deal with my resistance. I had overcome it, or overcome the situation I was in. Either way, that took effort. That felt hard. That felt like a big deal.
Or, I could have told myself that it wasn’t a big deal. I could have eliminated the mental agony leading up to the event. There would have been no inner resistance to contend with. When the moment arrived, I could have dealt with the pain, and moved on. And it wouldn’t have been a big deal.
Life’s a breeze.
This held true in other areas of my life as well. In law school or at work, if I told myself that something was a big deal, it seemed arduous. But if I told myself that it wasn’t a big deal, I could focus on the task, get it done, and move on with ease. I have found the same to be true with getting chores done, running errands, planning events, and with the other little things I do on a daily basis.
Things are what they are. They are not a “big deal,” or “no big deal.” They are not “hard,” or “easy.” The labels we apply often define how things turn out for us. So if we can think of life as a breeze, perhaps it will be.