I am embarrassed to talk about the small troubles of my life. Embarrassed because so many people are carrying much heavier loads — serious illness, death of a loved one, unemployment. What are my dilemmas but grains of sand measured against their boulders of distress?

It took a friend to break it down for me. “Where is it written that something has to be hard to be valuable?” she said. And that’s the truth, isn’t it? Little difficulties can be every bit as valuable, every bit as instructive, as a major crisis. There is no reason to be ashamed about the piddly-ness of your problems. You’re not a contestant on a reality show that determines its winner by the enormity of the contestants’ woes. And anyway, who would want to go on a show like that?

Okay. To be truthful, we all know someone who loves playing the victim, who always has to have bigger problems in her life than anyone else. Tell her you’re sick and she’ll one-up you with a list of medical frailties longer than a whole season’s-worth of “Gray’s Anatomy.” Tell her you’re concerned about your child and she’ll tell you all about her offspring’s trials and tribulations, painting a picture that ends up looking like one of those horrid 1970s “sad-eyed kid in an alley holding a puppy” paintings. So? That’s her hang-up. Wanting to be noticed or feel special because of the bad things in your life is a sickness. It’s creepy. It’s a decision to choose powerlessness.

There really is a middle ground. Respect your problems for exactly the size and magnitude that they really are. Honor them by addressing them. Learn something from them. Then let them go.

I can’t say that I’m all the way there yet. But I’m learning.

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