I have this uncle. Uncle Fred. Growing up, he was kind of like the patriarch of the family. He was rough-n-tumble, and he was stoic. I mean, he’d seen some things and had some stories to tell. They don’t make’em like that anymore.
He had a saying anytime one of us kids hurt ourselves. It didn’t matter whether we’d scraped our knee, banged our head, or broke a bone. The answer was always the same.
It’ll heal before you get married.
It sounds callous, I know, but it brought two things to the situation: some humour to cut the tension, and some perspective.
It was the perspective that was important, though.
It’s a big picture kind of perspective. It put things into context. No matter how bad something hurt, or how upsetting it might seem, not only will it pass, but you’ll probably forget about it entirely sooner than you realize.
To a distressed 5 year old, this could be, well, distressing. But the more we heard it, the better it worked — not because we’d become desensitized to our own discomfort or suffering, but because we knew from our still limited experience that it was true.
We remembered hearing it a hundred times before, but we never remembered what the last thing we’d heard it over was, and that was the point.
In those moments, when we’d be bleeding from a scrape or writhing from a bump, we’d be so annoyed to hear it that we’d forget our troubles. We’d be annoyed not just because we weren’t getting any sympathy, or because we’d heard it a hundred times before, but because despite all that we knew he was right.
That was the perspective: the suffering, whatever it was, was temporary and ephemeral and unremarkable — and we’d be over it soon.
And it’s a kind of big-picture-perspective you can carry with you through your daily life, no matter where it takes you. Whether you just got shit-canned from your day job or are offended over how something on the internet violated your safe-space, this is the perspective that you’re only standing on and seeing one piece of the puzzle that makes up your whole life, and whatever just happened is probably not nearly as important as it feels.
When you understand that most states are temporary or ephemeral, it’s a lot easier to shake them off and re-focus on the big picture — on what really matters (whatever that happens to be for you). You end up not wasting as much time wallowing in the trivial, and you’re less likely to do something stupid, like make a (rash) decision because you’re angry, or hurt, or offended.