I have seen a woman spend more attention, time, and nerve-power on emphasizing the fact that her hands were all stained from the dye on her dress than a normal woman would take for a good hour’s work. As she grew better, this emphasizing of trivialities decreased, but, of course, might have returned with any over-fatigue, unless it had been recognized, taken at its worth, and simply dropped. Any one can think of example after example in his own individual experience, when he has suffered unnecessary tortures through the regarding of trifling things, either by himself or by some one near him. With many, the first instance will probably be to insist, with emphasis and some feeling, that they are _not_ trivialities.
Trivialities have their importance _when given their true proportion_. The size of a triviality is often exaggerated as much by neglect as by an undue amount of attention. When we do what we can to amend an annoyance, and then think no more about it until there appears something further to do, the saving of nervous force is very great. Yet, so successful have these imps of triviality come to be in their rule of human nature that the trivialities of the past are oftentimes dwelt upon with as much earnestness as if they belonged to the present.
The past itself is a triviality, except in its results. Yet what an immense screen it is sometimes to any clear understanding or appreciation of the present! How many of us have listened over and over to the same tale of past annoyances, until we wonder how it can be possible that the constant repetition is not recognized by the narrator! How many of us have been over and over in our minds past troubles, little and big, so that we have no right whatever to feel impatient when listening to such repetitions by others! Here again we have, in nervous disease, the extreme of a common trait in humanity. With increased nervous fatigue there is always an increase of the tendency to repetition. Best drop it before it gets to the fatigue stage, if possible.
Then again there are the common things of life, such as dressing and undressing, and the numberless every-day duties. It is possible to distort them to perfect monstrosities by the manner of dwelling upon them. Taken as a matter of course, they are the very triviality of trivialities, and assume their place without second thought.
When life seems to get into such a snarl that we despair of disentangling it, a long journey and change of human surroundings enable us to take a distant view, which not uncommonly shows the tangle to be no tangle at all. Although we cannot always go upon a material journey, we can change the mental perspective, and it is this adjustment of the focus which brings our perspective into truer proportions. Having once found what appears to be the true focus, let us be true to it. The temptations to lose one’s focus are many, and sometimes severe. When temporarily thrown off our balance, the best help is to return at once, without dwelling on the fact that we have lost the focus longer than is necessary to find it again. After that, our focus is better adjusted and the range steadily expanded. It is impossible for us to widen the range by thinking about it; holding the best focus we know in our daily experience does that Thus the proportions arrange themselves; we cannot arrange the proportions. Or, what is more nearly the truth, the proportions are in reality true, to begin with. As with the imaginary eye-disease, which transformed the relative sizes of the component parts of a landscape, the fault is in the eye, not in the landscape; so, when the circumstances of life are quite in the wrong proportion to one another, in our own minds, the trouble is in the mental sight, not in the circumstances.
There are many ways of getting a better focus, and ridding one’s self of trivial annoyances. One is, to be quiet; get at a good mental distance. Be sure that you have a clear view, and then hold it. Always keep your distance; never return to the old stand-point if you can manage to keep away.
We may be thankful if trivialities annoy us as trivialities. It is with those who have the constant habit of dwelling on them without feeling the discomfort that a return to freedom seems impossible.
As one comes to realize, even in a slight degree, the triviality of trivialities, and then forget them entirely in a better idea of true proportion, the sense of freedom gained is well worth working for. It certainly brings the possibility of a normal nervous system much nearer.