Little Things

I got a letter from the gas company today, threatening to turn our gas off if we didn’t contact them immediately to schedule a safety inspection for our gas meter.  I had already scheduled the inspection and it was completed three days ago.  According to the inspector, our meter passed.  I don’t know if the inspector failed to turn his report in, or if the gas company sent the letter before he did so, but the upshot was that I called the gas company’s customer service department and was on hold for a long time before getting a recording saying, “All our representatives are busy now, please leave a voice mail and we’ll get back to you soon.”  That was three hours ago, and I’m still waiting.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge problem.  I’m sure it will get sorted out eventually, and even if they do turn our gas off temporarily, we have electric space heaters and I can cook in our electric toaster oven.  But it is annoying and something I’d rather not deal with.

Lately, I’ve found myself getting far too annoyed at “the little things.”  When a neighbor decided to keep her trash cans at the curb next to our driveway, I was really offended, and not just because it’s against the city ordinances.  It bothered me to look out my window and see them there.  I got upset when there was only one checker working in the store on a busy Saturday morning, resulting in a long wait to check out with my groceries.  It seemed that the little things were adding up, and I was reacting with both anger and impatience.

Which meant that it was time for a good old-fashioned “attitude adjustment.”  Yes, life has been difficult for the past two years and continues to be in many ways.  But the reality is that if I can pay enough attention to the little things to become annoyed by them, then I can also pay enough attention to the little things to react in a more positive way.  The trick is simply to pay attention to different little things.

fullsizeoutput_507dRather than look out my window and see ugly trash cans, I can focus on the beautiful daffodils or the lovely purple buds on our young tree.  Instead of being frustrated by how hard it is to schedule family gatherings at holidays, I can be thankful that my son and daughter live close enough that we always get to celebrate the holidays with them and their families.  I can be thankful that my husband and I are able to eat inside our favorite restaurants again, be grateful that today’s storms didn’t cause any damage in our area, and thrilled that one of my favorite shelter dogs was finally adopted.

Yes, the little things do count, and they do have a very real effect on our moods.  But the good news is that the positive little things add up just as quickly as the negative ones, and they produce a much, much better result.  And the choice of which little things we pay attention to is ours……

83 thoughts on “Little Things

  1. So very true and as usual so beautifully said Ann. But how frustrating and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get a bit peeved at some things. At least you’re aware and can shift your focus, that’s what matters. Sending love your way. 💜

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    • Thanks, Miriam! I realized it was time to move away from the frustrating things….that’s not the way I want to live. And there’s still lots of things to be thankful for, and to give us joy. One of them is good blogging friends like you!

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  2. I love how you said all this, Ann. What we focus on can make or break our day and our attitude. I was frustrated yet again two nights ago because a few minutes before my husband and I were headed out the door, Aaron told me that there was toilet water on the floor. Yep, he had once again stopped up the toilet. But as I cleaned it up, I thought that I’m not in Ukraine and I have tons for which to be thankful. At least we have our house, toilet water and all! Thank you for so wisely writing what we all need to hear.

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    • You’re so welcome! Sometimes it is hard not to react to the little things that irritate us so much, but if we can just step back and look at the big picture, it helps. And I’ve found that there really are just as many good little things we can react to as well. Good for you for being able to put things into perspective! You are a strong person.

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  3. I laughed at your tale of the gas company. I spent an hour yesterday with my electric company; somehow they decided I no longer had an account with them, so they’d cut off online access to my account.My lights still were on, and I’d just received my weekly usage report, but no matter: I’d been booted off their system. Of course it was a computer glitch; they’d done a system upgrade, and we all know how those upgrades go! But none of the tech support people could figure it out, so they said, “Just wait for 24 hours, and see what happens.” I waited, and sure enough; the system got fixed.

    I could have spent that entire 24 hours fussing and fuming, but it wouldn’t have fixed a thing, and it would have sucked up all my emotional energy. I need that energy for other things, so I just let it go — and now all is well.

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    • Few things can be more annoying than dealing with utility companies, that’s for sure! But you were wise to let it go…and thankfully, the situation resolved itself. Getting upset about stuff like that really does just waste our emotional energy, and who needs that?

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  4. I’m all about choice!! It is the shift in perspective that we are free to make that can change the outcome of a trip to a store or mailing a package at the post office. I love that you were able to change your focus!! (and I had to smile at the pup that found his forever home!)

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    • Yes, it really is all about perspective. Standing in line at the post office, we can fume about how long it takes, or we can look at it as a break from our busy day. Places like that are also great for people watching, I’ve found. Thanks for your affirming comment!

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  5. So easy to relate to your post, Ann. Annoyances are all around. I believe “the more you look for something, the more you likely you will find it.” Looking at negativity, just leads to seeing more and more of it. Looking for positive things – allows me to appreciate good things even more. I love the way you pointed this out.
    But I still hope the gas company problem is behind you!

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    • So far, our gas is still on, but I haven’t heard from the company either. Hopefully the letter was sent before the report was turned in, but I’ll find out! And I agree so much about how we see what we’re looking for. There has always been both good and bad in the world….the key is what are we looking for?

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  6. Great advice. It may be at our age we are not as busy and can focus on the small annoyances too much. We got a notice that our electricity was going to be cut off because we canceled our check. It turns out the bill was delivered to the wrong house and when their bill came, they canceled the check. My husband was also listed as dead for our property taxes. It’s always something.

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  7. Everyone is so short of patience and understanding these days. Covid, political infighting and the invasion of Ukraine have upset our worlds and we all are just trying to get some control back again. The trouble is…we never really had any control…just the illusion of control. Hopefully, the gas company has sorted out there records now and all is well with your gas. April 15 is the first day here that utility companies can cut off power and gas for unpaid bills and thee are a lot of people struggling who will soon be faced with this. In the meantime, I am one more person who has to work on his patience and understanding and let the little things go. Stay well Ann. Allan

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    • You’re right, Allan, both about how we’re all out of patience these days and how we never really had a total control in the first place. We had more before the pandemic than we did afterwards, but the idea that we were completely in control was never more than an illusion. And the past two years have shown us that, which is probably why we’re all a bit short-tempered these days. I’ve noticed people who are usually quite tolerant are now ranting about other people, which is disturbing. Somehow, I hope we can all take a collective deep breath and realize that patience is the key. And trust me, I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else when I say that!

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  8. Yes, yes, yes!! That is the difference! We DECIDE, sometimes almost minute by minute, what we pay attention to ..what we focus on. Once we really get this I wonder why we would ever torment ourselves in the first place…
    Sending all good things, Ann😊💜

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    • Thanks so much, Lorrie! It is a revelation for sure, and one that we need to have over and over again. It’s so easy to get bogged down in life’s annoying situations, especially during trying times like these. But if we can manage to keep our focus on what makes us happy, it makes dealing with all the rest of it so much easier!

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  9. OMG, I am going through the exact same thing. I had called the main office to reschedule. No problem. But now the guy doing the inspections has called twice…asking if he can use my lockbox to get into my house. Said he was trustworthy, did the same thing for Amy Klobuchar. The whole thing has left me feeling uncomfortable. Get that he’s just doing his job but he and the main office should better coordinate…plus I just think it’s inappropriate that he’s asking to let himself in.

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    • I wouldn’t be comfortable with that either, unless the house was empty. And yeah, the communication between the people who do various jobs at utility companies usually leaves a lot to be desired. So far, we still have our gas supply, and I haven’t gotten a call back either. But we’ll see how all this goes! Good luck with your situation too….

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  10. It seems the pendulum of cultural evolution has touched the extremes of decency humans are capable of and now it’s headed back to dark ages, maybe worse. Having said that, it is best to focus on brighter spots around us, just as you have concluded.

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    • Yes, we are certainly on a downward swing right now, and that’s beyond scary. One can only hope that things begin to look up eventually. Meanwhile, yes, it does help to focus on the bright spots in our own personal lives. And to do all we can to alleviate the suffering of others, too. Thanks for your comment!

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  11. Well said, Ann. Yes, I, too, find myself stressing over the “little things” (that aren’t so little to me!), but there’s much wisdom in turning our focus to things we can do something about. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’re all suffering in some way, and we all need to be kinder and more patient with one another. What pretty flowers on your tree! Is it a Redbud, by any chance??

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    • No, and I’m ashamed to say I’m not exactly sure what the name of the tree is. Our lawn service company picked it out for us, and of course I promptly forgot the name. But it does have pretty buds in Spring and turns a lovely reddish purple color in the Fall, and grows quickly.
      One of my Facebook friends commented that she finds herself getting overly angry about annoying things when she’s seriously upset about something else, and is transferring her frustration. I think that makes sense, too. So many people are feeling “at the end of their rope” these days that over-reacting is becoming more common. And I include myself in that! So I’m working hard to refocus on more positive things.

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  12. Marvelous post! The little things do add up. We must train ourselves to see the beauty everywhere in the little things. Then, when we become frustrated with daily aggravations, we are better equipped to deal with it all. It does take concerted effort to keep our focus positive, and we will have moments when all of our best intentions fail in that regard. Still, it is so worth the perpetual trying to see the silver lining in every cloud, and the enchanting wonder ever around us in the ‘little things’. Happy Easter! 🙂

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    • You’re so right Linda. Focusing on the positive doesn’t mean ignoring the negative, it just means being open to seeing the good things that are in our lives, even on the darkest days. Because acknowledging our gifts and being thankful for our blessings does give us the strength we need to cope with the tough things. Those silver linings can be a life saver! And happy Easter to you too!

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    • Yes, it’s annoying, because our driveways almost meet at the street (both our houses sit at a bit of an angle), so we can’t avoid seeing them. And it felt odd to give someone directions to our house by saying, “turn right into the driveway just before the trash cans.” But the good news is, she finally took them back in. I hope they stay there, but if they don’t, I’ll cope!

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    • I like the way you put that! I think after two years of pandemic, the horrors of Russia’s war on the Ukraine, and all the usual global violence and conflicts, it’s hard not to be annoyed by just about everything…. All we can do is try to switch our attention to the good things that are still there. It helps!

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    • I think being able to see the bright side helps us cope with the dark side, you know? Sometimes it’s far too easy to get discouraged because we can’t see the good things that are a part of our lives, so it helps to try to focus on them a bit more. Thanks for your comment, Alan!

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  13. Yes, little things combined with many other annoying little things can become a mountain of a problem. We need to shift our focus to all the little things that give us pleasure. And as our focus shifts to the positive side of life, the big mountain turns into a molehill in our minds.

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    • That’s exactly what I was trying to say, Peter! There are so many little things in our lives that can combine to become very big, but not all of them are bad. Some of those little things are very good, and we can combine them as well!

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  14. You are spot on with this post Ann! It is so easy to get caught up in every little negative thing that passes our way day to day but it we only take the time to switch gears & have a look out for all of the positive little things presented to us, it is a game changer in how we feel. Thanks for the reminder!

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    • Lately, I’ve found myself giving way too much attention to all that is wrong with the world, and not enough attention to what is right with it. And that’s not a good way to live at all. So I’m making the effort to notice the good just as much, if not more, than the bad!

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    • Yes, the pandemic sure puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? I was so annoyed at the trash cans, not just because they’re ugly and smelly and not what I want next to our front yard, but because I took it as a deliberate insult to our neighborhood because all the other neighbors follow the rules and put their cans away after the trash is picked up. But then I realized that my neighbor might not mean it that way at all, and there was really no reason to be so upset. This is such a pretty time of year that there’s no reason to look at trash cans when the flowers are blooming, the trees are budding and the grass is turning green again!

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      • I will be honest, Ann. Unless I knew they were having a crisis (as opposed to just being lazy re the bins), I would have got our HOA to send a letter. Something similar happened on our street recently and the householder just didn’t know the rules. Their house and porch suddenly looks amazing – best in the street!

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        • We don’t have an HOA in our neighborhood, but I did let City Hall know. I’m guessing they eventually contacted her, because she’s moved the cans now. She’s a nice enough young woman, but has no idea how to maintain a house or yard, and isn’t the sort to take any advice. I have a friend who says the older she gets, the more she wants to buy ten acres and build a house smack in the middle of it. Sometimes I can relate to that!

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  15. This post helped me so much the day I read it. It made so much sense. If we allowed the little things to get to us, why not flip and let little things light up our hearts. I just came from a post in a blog where someone said we ought to go out and seize every joy possible. So, perhaps for some of us, it is an act of will to be joyful. Now I understand a quote from my favourite saint, St. Margaret Mary Alocoque – she had said, Above all, I beg of you to be always gay, joyful and happy, for this is the true mark of the Spirit of God… If it doesn’t come naturally, make it an act of will to find joy. It will be more easily found than we realise because there are so many little things tucked into life if we care to see.

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    • Exactly! I was thinking about how often the “little things” add up to make me cranky and/or depressed, and then I realized that if the little negative things can bring me down, can’t the little positive things also build me up? And wouldn’t it make so much more sense to pay attention to those? And I think your quote is spot on. A pastor once told me that when anything good happens, no matter how small, immediately think or say, “thank you, God.” It’s a way of training ourselves to be happy and grateful, and it does work. Once we get into the habit of acknowledging the good things, we also notice them more, and then we’re living the life we were intended to live!

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    • Those bad things can add up so quickly. A friend who reads my posts on Facebook commented that she got so angry once waiting in an endless checkout lane, only to realize later that what she was really upset about had nothing to do with that at all. She was really upset because her daughter was in the hospital, so every other annoyance just seemed huge. It can add up so quickly! So my thought was maybe we need to be intentional about letting the good things add up as well, you know? It takes effort, but I think it is worth it in the end.

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