Well-meant lame advice

One of my out-of-town relatives noticed that I am spending Saturdays at the library to avoid Mrs. Dim and the clatter of her lawn maintenance. He writes to tell me, “Really? Advice—Don’t sweat the small stuff and that is definitely small stuff. Relax and enjoy and focus on your awesome family.”

I ask myself: is this a teachable minute for my out-of-town relative, or should I roll my eyes and ignore the well-meant advice? If he knew that I battle depression, would he tell me to cheer up? I didn’t used to understand anxiety and depression even when I was struggling with anxiety and depression. How do I explain these things to a person who probably doesn’t get it?

“Relax.” I’d love to relax. I’m taking two pills every morning that are supposed to help me relax. I’m regularly in therapy learning how to relax. By the way, my therapist considers it a good move to avoid the Saturday noise since that noise triggers panic attacks. Ever had butterflies in the stomach? How about a sparrow or a finch flapping about behind your sternum? Because that is how I feel a lot of the time, and I would really like to relax.

“Enjoy.” Enjoy what? The sound of the lawnmower and blower and trimmer? The beautiful uniform green lawn that they produce? I’d rather enjoy my clover and violets and daisy fleabane, if it’s all the same to you. I do enjoy my awesome family, but that doesn’t erase my frantic energy when hours of loud continuous noise have me wanting to rattle the bars of my cage. (That’s a metaphor, folks—no one has locked me in a cage.)

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Put that bumper sticker on every car in the city and see if it puts the psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors out of business. Anyone who possesses the self-control to label a problem “small stuff” and then be done with it is doing well. Sorry I can’t be one of those people. I have spent a lifetime ignoring emotions, bottling the anger and the anxiety, doing what has to be done and thinking that such self-control makes me a good person. Now that the bottle is open, it’s not easy to replace the lid again.

I do have a wonderful family. The last few months they have been great (most of the time) about understanding what I am facing and helping me through the rough patches. I don’t know where I would be without them. As I try to be a relaxed and happy person, I still remain, most of the time, Spock on the surface and Bail Fawlty underneath.

This is why I blog. I can be Basil Fawlty here without screaming my head off at Mrs. Dim or at my out-of-town relative. Thank you for tolerating my tirade. Back to trying to relax and enjoy.


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