Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Small stresses - small pleasures

Why is it that small stresses get magnified, in a way that small pleasures do not? It doesn’t seem very equitable.

The car has been breaking down. That is a stress for me at the moment. It has been in the garage for a few days while the mechanics see if they can find out what’s ailing it.

So this morning, for the first day of term, I had to take C and O to school by foot and by tube – not by car. Despite having to carry all the extra first day clobber of PE kits, dinner money envelopes and re-discovered library books, travelling to school by public transport is one of life’s small pleasures for me. I get to chat to C and O and we have a long walk and a short tube journey together through the spring sunshine.

But when we got to the tube station, the tube was suspended, so we ran for a bus instead. We got on the bus, but there had been a major accident on the local A-road, so the streets were gridlocked.

So, no car, no tube, and a bus that is still sitting in jammed traffic five minutes after the start of the school day. From front door to desk it took me two and a quarter hours of travelling this morning - the children were late for school and I was late for work. That’s a stress.

Half my team have gone on holiday so there is more work than usual waiting for me at the office. Someone in Frankfurt doesn’t understand the numbers I sent them last week. His English is patchy and my German is non existent. We exchange frustrated emails and phone calls all day. That’s a stress.

The Tesco near my office doesn’t have the right sort of ham for tomorrow’s sandwiches. Nor does it have the variety of cheese I wanted. I buy wrong ham and wrong cheese and mutter darkly about how ‘this is why I shop in Waitrose’ all the way back to the office. That’s a stress.

There are small pleasures mixed in with these stresses though.

I am wearing a favourite summery cotton skirt that has been sitting in my cupboard all winter. And I am also wearing a clip in my hair that matches my skirt PERFECTLY.

At one point, sitting on the tube from school to work while it waits interminably for the signals to clear up ahead, I look up from my book and notice a whole haze of glorious purple-blue bluebells covering a bank up the side of the tube tracks.

The garage calls after lunch to say they’ve fixed the car and it wasn’t expensive. I can pick it up tomorrow morning.

I slot the last few pieces of the school summer holiday childcare jigsaw into place.

And the Cathedral bells are pealing - JUST for me, I am sure! - when I come out of the office this evening.

All small pleasures, but good ones.

And yet, when I get home this evening and my family ask me how my day was, my first thoughts are of failing transport, an unsatisfactory shopping trip and too many queries at work. I feel drained. Why do the small stresses dominate so? After a moan, I start to remember the small pleasures and think how silly I am being.

If you asked me now ‘How was your day?’ I would reply, “Lovely thanks! I walked to school this morning, wore a really pretty skirt, saw a whole bank of bluebells while I was on the tube, and sorted out the car and summer childcare!”

These small pleasures need a helping hand in being promoted – they like hiding behind the small stresses and are too easy to forget.


  1. Guilty of magnifying the stresses here too sometimes.

  2. Yes, there's quite a bit if that round here. The lunacy of the after school schedule obliterated the quiet hour spent on the allotment with only a skylark for company.

  3. Yes, your story rings so true with me. Thanks for reminding me to remember the good things

  4. hurray for the car being fixed, thats a big stress, and thanks for the reminder to focus on the pleasures. xx

  5. oh, Waitrose shoppers are so smug! Get over it with the cheese!

    Only joking. Your day sounds a nightmare and a lovely thing.

  6. It is lovely to hear that even with the frantic pace of life today there are still people who can "stop and stare". Thanks for the timely reminder - small pleasures for me today, reading my book, outside at lunchtime!

  7. Congratulations on turning your day around and focusing on the positive and the pleasure, not the negative and the nasty. That's a trick we all could learn.


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