Nearly Overwhelmed by the Little Things

Nearly Overwhelmed by the Little Things

In my adult life I have grown increasingly skilled at handling “big” things—I have developed the capacity and equanimity to skillfully navigate complicated relational dynamics, to be a relatively non-anxious presence in the face of other people’s emotional outbursts, to withstand large-scale institutional conflict without being consumed by it, to sustain engagement in addressing systemic oppression without expecting a quick fix, and so on.

But the little, inconvenient, non-life-threatening annoyances of daily life? Sometimes I think they’ll do me in.

Today it’s been a comedy of errors that nearly undid me. At one point I thought I might burst into tears, only to realize I was shaking with laughter instead.

Late in the morning, the dentist injected Novocain in the back of my mouth before filling a cavity. I am, on the one hand, grateful for the precautionary care, just in case he hit a nerve. On the other hand, I do not love the lingering effects of the local anesthetic, which I experienced for the next several hours. I felt … odd. I was hungry but nervous to eat, lest I should make a mess or hurt myself. Did I look weird? Was I talking right? Is it safe to swallow a sip of water? Augh!

Then, in my distraction and discomfort, I forgot a 1pm meeting—a standing meeting that I’ve had at this time every week for more than a year. Thinking I had thirty minutes until my next commitment, I was relaxing in the backyard hammock when my phone alerted me to the meeting’s start time. So, I connected from my phone, then relocated to the computer, then tried to switch devices and inadvertently ended the meeting for everyone. We reconnected. A few minutes in, the dog started barking so loudly that I turned the volume way up. Then the dog stopped barking and the volume was too loud. So I turned it down. Except what I actually did was mute the volume, so I couldn’t hear my colleague … AND I couldn’t get the volume to go back up! She was understanding and forgiving and we agreed (by typing in the chat) that we’d just meet again next week.

But I felt so silly and incompetent and ridiculous! I don’t like those feelings.

And I’ve been participating in UUMA Ministry Days and General Assembly this week.* I’m feeling inspired, encouraged, challenged. My sense of faith in this faith is being renewed, invigorated.

So, I’m reminded—again, and again, and again—that my life … and even a single day’s experience … isn’t all one thing. There’s frustration and failure and anger and worry AND hope and joy and love and courage. It’s true in the big things and the little things.

May you, too, be reassured by a restorative variation in each day’s experience.

With love,

* At this moment, I’m feeling especially grateful for the reports from President Susan Frederick-Gray (starts at 00:30:45) and Co-Moderators Charles Du Mond and Rev. Meg Riley (starts at 01:22:15) during General Session II, as well as the Service of the Living Tradition [update: I just learned that this video is being edited, which may take a few weeks, but it will then be posted for viewing], during which UUCC’s own Jen Raffensperger, Rev. Anthony Jenkins, and Robin Slaw were all honored for this year’s vocational milestones.


  1. Natalie A. Roberts

    Paige, I totally understand about how the little things can fragment one’s existence. I didn’t know how to express it, what words would capture what was going on until I read Parker J. Palmer’s section on p. 68 in “On the Brink of Everything” entitled, “The Hidden Wholeness in a Broken World.” He talks about the “hidden wholeness” the spiritual eye can discern beneath the broken surface of things–whether it’s a broken political system, a broken relationship, or a broken heart. He quotes Thomas Merton’s description in “Hagia Sophia”, which says, “There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans.”

    I haven’t read much Parker, or any Merton, but I think I will, because it seems like it might bring something that will carry me over all these small broken fragments of life that capture my attention so strongly from hour to hour, day to day until I suddenly wake up and realize that a year, a decade, almost a whole life has passed by.

    • Suzanne Henig

      Thank you for your post, Natalie. I just added On the Brink of Everything to my online shopping cart.

  2. Norman D Hazzard

    Paige, it is somehow nice to learn that, despite all of your competence, you are just as human as the rest of us! I think it is commendable that you have enough self-confidence to share these somewhat private slip-ups. So, you sort of give me the okay to share one of mine:
    Recently I missed a doctor appointment, something I almost never do. This annoyed me, because I do not like to inconvenience anyone if I can avoid it, out of respect for their time. This doctor’s time is in such great demand that his next available appointment is in November! Luckily for me, I was able to make an appointment with one of his colleagues, for tomorrow morning. I am determined to keep it!

  3. Kay Armstrong Baker


    Thanks for sharing your challenges with us. It’s always been a challenge for me to look at the greater picture and put things in perspective. Since last August 27th and the birth of our precisous Mica, we can be with her for several hours, several times a week completely focused on this new life, our gratitude and the rest of world falls away.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *