Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What Is It Worth To You?

I just knocked over 2 - 1/2 pint boxes of blackberries as I was trying to put them away.  I said a four letter word, which brought my 20 year old son into the room to find out what was going on.  I picked up the berries, and had him wipe up the floor.  I continued putting away the groceries.  I stepped into the pantry, and my foot skidded.  I looked down, and there was a large smashed blackberry, and several purple footprints where I had stepped when I took my foot off of the blackberry. 

I had just gotten home from work and grocery shopping.  I was tired, and didn't need this.  I could have gotten upset.  There have been times when a situation like this would have brought me to tears.  (That's a pretty good trick for someone with Sjogren's Syndrome.)  Instead, I joked about always wanting a pink floor as I set about cleaning it up. 

What made the difference?  I have had some long talks with myself, and I am working on changing how I respond to situations.  I have limited energy.  A situation like this can sap alot of it if I let it, but is it worth it?   The berries cost a total of $1.98.   The time it took me to clean it up (twice) was a total of maybe 5 minutes.  By mid- morning tomorrow, it won't matter to us if we had blackberries on our cereal or not.  This situation is not worth much energy at all.   Certainly not worth the energy of losing my temper, crying, or even getting upset.   It is worth about the amount of energy I expended making a joke and cleaning up the mess.

If you start to look at situations from this perspective, you will likely find that you are investing more energy in alot of situations than they deserve.   We often react spontaneously to a situation, not taking the time to think if it is worth it.  My four letter word was my spontaneous reaction, but it gave me the time I needed to assess the situation, and redirect my response into clean up mode instead of act up mode. 

Think about these two words: react and respond.  A reaction is spontaneous and unplanned, and often is a behavior learned from past experience.  A response is usually thought out and planned, and designed to fit the situation.  The way we react to things can be hard to change, since it is automatic, but with determination and practice, it can be changed.  The way we respond is easier to change, because we have time to think things through, but again, it takes determination, and reminding yourself of the benefits of such a change.  

The benefits of learning to respond to each situation with the amount of energy it deserves are not only the energy you save, but also the decrease in your stress level.  Practice catching yourself before you respond, and asking yourself how much the situation is worth.  This is not only useful with spills or mishaps, but also in an argument.  Is it really worth fighting about?   Does it really matter?  Do I really care that much?  Will I even remember it a week from now?  You will likely find your own questions that will help you determine what the situation is worth to you. 


  1. A coupled of years ago, I decided that whenever a situation evoked a stress reaction, I would ask "Is it going to kill anyone or burn down the house?" If the answer was no, then I knew I should move on. This also helps with teenagers and spouses who overeact to things like berries spilled on the floor.

    -- Kathleen Walder

  2. Thanks, Kathleen. Those are great questions to ask. They really put things in perspective when we over-react to a situation.