Last-minute “planning”?

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Sick of hearing about “jumbo shrimp”? Need a new oxymoron? Me, too. So I offer “last-minute planning.”

It sounds contradictory. If we had planned well, we wouldn’t be doing anything at the last minute, right? Second-Day Air and Overnight are almost never the shipping options I use when ordering online, because planning ahead and completing tasks well before deadline is what I do. However, there is always an exception, and the one I have in mind is related to inspiration.

Being inspired, or led, doesn’t always happen on a neat schedule. (Just ask pastors who occasionally step up to the microphone and say, “I was planning to preach on thus-and-so this morning, but I have been led to give a different message.”)

While cleaning house before Thanksgiving, I noticed a little paperback book upstairs. (You have these, too – the ones that have become décor instead of reading matter.) I took the book downstairs and placed it on the coffee table because I knew we would have a full house for Thanksgiving dinner. There were several on the guest list who came to mind; the book is Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.* My mother gave it to me a long time ago. I hoped that at least one dinner guest would notice the book, become interested, read a few pages, and gain a helpful insight. I don’t think that happened.

No one need take offense that I should say particular people – including my daughters, some coworkers, and my husband – came to mind when I thumbed through and read some of this book’s very short chapters in the early morning on the final Sunday before Christmas. I mean, I came to mind, too. After all, we all

  • know people who irritate us (chapter 27)
  • wish certain neighbors would park elsewhere or take better care of their yards (chapter 30)
  • need reminding that not every little thing is an emergency (chapter 22)
  • can benefit from realizing that little of what we stress over today will matter at all 100 years from now (chapter 82)

Dr. Carlson’s book was a number-one best-seller of the year at some point after its release in 1997. That year, my children were eight and five, and I had just become employed part-time after working solely as a mother and homemaker for about seven years. Does anyone wonder why my wise mother would choose such a book for me at that time?

An example Carlson gives of something not worth getting upset about because it won’t matter 100 years from now is when two of his counseling clients showed up at the same appointment time because of a scheduling error. I smiled over that story because it brought to mind at least one person I picture becoming highly annoyed at whomever had made the error, and another whom I would expect to be much more relaxed about it. As for me, I guess I would land somewhere between the extremes, but probably closer to the highly-annoyed end. Clearly, my mother had good reason to buy for me a book titled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.

And I want to be as good a mother as she was, which gets us back to “last-minute planning.” My sudden gift-giving inspiration required very last-minute planning. Later on that morning of December 20, before we left for church, I engaged UPS Second-Day Air to deliver two copies of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff just in the (St.)Nick of time for Christmas. The books arrived on Christmas Eve and went under the tree, one copy for each daughter. I flagged chapters 22, 27, 30, and 82, and I enclosed a printed copy of this then-future blog post. I desire that some of Carlson’s published wisdom will “stick” with us and will stealthily invade others’ thought patterns in the new year, through our improving attitudes and conversations.

I close with our own this-won’t-matter-100-years-from-now story. (That’s Carlson’s chapter 82, remember.) My husband and I recently discussed whether to make an issue over something with a certain family. I’d share more detail to make the story come alive, but every other way I have tried to write this gives too much information to keep the matter private. For several days we vented some mild steam over it, among ourselves. We thought about offering to help these friends do what we wished they would do. We considered dropping a text-message hint about it. Every option we batted around seemed certain to make us appear supercilious and overstepping.

Ultimately, we did nothing, choosing not to take the risk of offending. What was bothering us was aesthetics and nothing more; it certainly was insignificant when compared to the value of a friendship. We decided the matter was “small stuff” not to be sweated. 

*The “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” books are written by Dr. Richard Carlson and his wife, Kristine Carlson. There are nine books in the series with don’t sweat wisdom teaching mindfulness in all aspects of life. To view more, visit www.dontsweat.com.

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