Earlier this summer, I mentioned to a friend how grateful I was for some of the ways he’s helped me out in the past. He listened for a minute, then waved his hand dismissively near my face and said, “Aw, you’re no big deal.”
The look on my face must have conveyed the shock I felt; I mean, I get it…but people don’t generally vocalize these things!
“No, no, that’s not what I meant,” he said. “I just meant, you don’t cause that much trouble. It’s not a big deal. I mean, you’re no big trouble. You’re not a big deal!”
By this point, I was laughing too hard to help him untwist himself. I knew what he was trying to say — that whatever trouble I’d caused him, it wasn’t so much that we couldn’t still be friends. But I thought about his words later: you’re no big deal.
That’s sort of the crux of the matter, isn’t it? No matter what’s going on in our lives, and how monumental it all may seem when it’s happening, in the great scheme of things, not one of us is truly a BIG DEAL.
This is NOT, in any way, to downplay the illnesses, injuries, triumphs, disappointments, achievements, accidents or concerns of our lives. As David III once told me, when I was deep in the weeds of a situation and chastising myself for being there, we are each on our own journey, and what happens on that journey is supposed to be — and should be — meaningful to us.
But perhaps we should all take a longer view of things, and acknowledge the fact that our time here — our singular pass through this life — is fleeting. That virtually everything we experience has happened before. That we are simply the most recent walkers in the march between past and present. And, knowing this, perhaps we can be a little more respectful of the fact that our fellow human beings are also on a journey; each of them on a trip whose twists, turns, triumphs and tragedies are generally invisible to us.
Perhaps we can also be a little more relaxed about the decisions we make; a little less tied in knots, a little more respectful of the fact that the longer we put off actively seeking happiness in our personal and professional lives, the longer we are doing a disservice to the small allotment of time we’ve been given.
And, more to the point, perhaps if we realized that, in fact, not even one of us is a big deal, we’d be more inclined to live our lives without the fear of failure that keeps so many of us from chasing our dreams. Why do we worry about what other people think or say about what we do? What a tremendous waste of our time!
The next time you’re wrestling with a decision, remember how very few things there are in life that can’t be undone….and how often the things that frighten us most end up being incredibly rewarding. Figure out what it is you need and want in order to make your own life meaningful to YOU, and then go for it!
Remember the research done by Dr. Ted Waldinger at Harvard? [Read about it here at What Makes a Good Life]
Dr. Waldinger is the head of a study that’s been going on since 1938, following the lives of over 700 men from mixed backgrounds to determine what makes for a happy, healthy, satisfying, long life.
The lives of the men in the study have been wildly different, but for all of them, the lone standout among the factors contributing to a long and happy life was good relationships.
“You can be lonely in a crowd, and lonely in a marriage,” Waldinger explains. “So it’s not just the number of friends you have, or whether you’re in a committed marriage. It’s the quality of your close relationships that matter. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. High conflict marriages, for example, marriages without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. But living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.”
Remember Bronnie Ware, who does hospice work and wrote a book called “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying?” [Read about it here at Love, Loss, and a few Regrets] Based on the experiences of Ware’s patients at the end of their lives, here are the five biggest regrets:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
As Ware explained, “Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others,” Ware said. “As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice,” Ware explained. “They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
So, as my friend so eloquently put it, “You’re not a big deal.” But you do matter. Take Waldinger and Ware’s work under advisement, and then figure out how to make your life count…for you!