My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.
-Mark Twain

From "Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor" by Sarah Ban Breathnach:

We are far better dealing with the big losses-death, divorce, debt, and debilitating illness-than with the daily onslaught of little losses. The big losses stun us into response; the litany of little loss saps us physically and psychically. But there is an "art of losing," the poet Elizabeth Bishop tells us, and it "isn't hard to master." In fact, "so many things seemed filled with the intent/To be lost that their loss is no disaster."

Have you ever gotten so worked up over a misplaced set of keys that you flipped? What about a past-due bill that you could swear you'd paid, and then you find it stuck in the back of your calendar (so you wouldn't forget to pay it)? I once tore apart my house (and fought with my daughter for twenty-four hours) because she'd mislaid a handbag she'd borrowed that I desperately wanted to wear for a special evening. I was so angry I could barely contain myself; actually, I didn't. Of course, looking back, I'm appalled at the serenity siphoned by an empty purse. I found the darn thing after a few hours combing her room, but the ranting and raving wasn't worth it. When it was time to get dressed, I was an emotional wreck and didn't even want to go out.

Think about all the little losses that agitate you during a typical day-a missed phone call, the letter that doesn't arrive, a glove gone astray, an appointment canceled at the last minute. How do you react? Are you quick to erupt or do a slow burn? Do you seem to take it in your stride, only to brood secretly and become increasingly aggravated? (Heaven help anything or anyone who crosses your path one hour later.) Unfortunately, once the day unravels, it's nearly impossible to wrestle it back or ransom any pleasure in its return, which is why it makes sense to learn a new response to what I call "gnat losses." They might sting, but it's our scratching that makes them red, swollen, and so irritating that amputation doesn't seem to extreme. So let's try something different, shall we? You've heard the phrase choose your battles

? Well, I say, "Choose your losses..."

Too often we elevate the inconsequential into the influential-as influencing the quality of our day-by reacting without reflecting. How hard would it be to ride the ripples of inconvenience, acknowledging imposition's presence privately, and dispatch irritation on its way with a self-preserving shrug? Not as difficult as you might think.

Do you remember the character in Nicholas Nickleby who used the span of a century to decide how bad a mistake was? Will it matter a hundred years from now? Now here's a woman with a balanced view of life. But we can gain her perspective by using a year, a month, or even a day. Next time you're frustrated in the post office line, stuck in traffic, or caught behind an extended "price check" in aisle 5, ask yourself if you'll ever remember this incident. If the answer is "probably not," then don't focus on it now unless there's something you can do to improve the situation. Little by little you'll notice a difference in how you react to things-the inconsequential will stay that way and you'll have more reserves of psychic energy when you really need them.

"Lose something every day/ Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent," Elizabeth Bishop advises. "The art of losing isn't hard to master."

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