I have a childhood memory of pouting about something when a family friend started rubbing their pointer finger with their thumb. After spending a few seconds keeping me in suspense, they finally asked, “Do you know what this is? This is the world’s smallest violin playing ‘My Heart Bleeds for You.'" Yeah, really hilarious. Although I was a very nice, well-mannered child being ridiculed by a woman raising a demon, I will admit I learned a lesson from this interaction. Note: Look for a future blog on lack of objectivity in parenting.
Unfortunately, this lesson did not prevent future cry baby moments well into adulthood. It has, however, often made me stop and think, 'Is this a World’s Smallest Violin/ ‘My Heart Bleeds for You’ moment?' Approximately nine times out of ten, it has been.
Have you ever stopped and really listened to some of the things that you have the luxury to complain about? Or that your friends complain about? The concept of World’s Smallest Violin [‘WSV’] has been a critical ingredient in my recipe for a fuller, more grateful life.
Here's how it works: You're whining about something petty, and then you remember that there are people in the world who lack the basic things humans need to survive (food, shelter, clean water).
WSV: You are freakishly annoyed when you discover the microwave popcorn box is sitting empty in the pantry. After a long day at the office, you REALLY wanted that popcorn (and a glass of wine) to complete your Thursday night in Shondaland.
Reality hits: There’s a child of a drug addict who hasn’t had a meal since her mediocre school lunch 8 hours ago.
WSV: You are stressed out about the imperfections of your home - rooms with popcorn ceilings, a scratched-up wood floor in the dining room, and a cracked tile in the kitchen.
Reality hits: Over one million children in the United States alone are homeless. They would think they hit the lottery if they were able to move into your home.
WSV: You get stuck in traffic on the way to work and rant on social media about your terrible misfortune.
Reality hits: Traffic is backed up due to an accident in which two people were killed. You are still alive, and after this hour-long inconvenience, you will go about your day as if nothing happened to disrupt your morning.
I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t sometimes overreact to insignificant annoyances or inconveniences. Of course, I am not friends with the Dali Lama (or any Buddhist monks for that matter), Deepak Chopra, or Jennifer Garner – so there’s that disclaimer. Most of us show our ass in some way, at some point, and that is why putting things into proper perspective and counting our blessings are crucial to our well-being. It also adds a tremendous boost to our likability.
We struggle with genuine issues and real reasons to be upset. If you are fortunate enough to spend any time on this planet, you will have moments that break your heart. There will be times when the injustices you see overwhelm your conscience. And, yes, there will be times when you feel like throwing in the towel. Let’s reserve our energy to fight the battles that will mean something long after we’re gone. Our gratitude can make all the difference, and we can make a difference with our gratitude.