Does anything really matter?

That sounds like a pretty depressing title but I promise you this isn’t a ‘what’s the point when we’re all going to die anyway’ kind of post. Not really anyway. Although sort of.

I was inspired to write it by Oliver Burkeman’s latest email newsletter, titled ‘Maybe it doesn’t matter’. He talks about driving one of his children to a sports club and that horrible tightening he feels around his neck and shoulders when he realises they are running late and how he balances this with the idea of it ultimately not mattering whether they are on time or not.

I can relate. I know that tension well – being late for something is one of the only things that really triggers it – and yet I also relate hard to the notion of it not being important.

I used to think ‘At least…’ was my most overused expression. I’ve been driving my children mad for years by my incessant use of the line ‘at least you’re not homeless’, and while I do concede that suffering is relative, I’m not apologising for always trying to see a silver lining to a bad situation. I like that about myself. I like that I can normally see a positive to something, or at least appreciate that things could be worse.

Over the last few months though, ‘at least’ has been usurped by ‘it doesn’t really matter.’

It’s come about since I’ve started a new job as Deputy Shop Manager of the Oxfam bookshop in Taunton, which I LOVE. Who wouldn’t want to play bookshops for a living?? I know technically it’s not ‘playing shops’, but it also sort of is. The day I started my job was the day the manager left, which really was a coincidence (I think), but has meant that I’ve been plunged rather into the deep end. Two months in, working only part-time, without a manager on the horizon and with no previous retail experience, it has been a learning curve for sure.

The biggest learning though has been that not very much really matters. I care that we keep the shop open as much as possible, (which we do because we have a fantastic team of volunteers), and I care that my volunteers feel appreciated and in the loop. It matters to me that customers have a nice experience when they come in, and feel important, but aside from that, it doesn’t really matter.

I must have said this to my volunteers dozens of times over the last few months, and I mean it. I want them to have a good time and do their best, but if they don’t quite get the cashing up right or they leave a light on or accidentally throw away a signed first edition? It’s okay. We’ll live.

Realising that not much matters is hugely liberating and frees up a lot of time and energy for just enjoying yourself.

I wonder if it might be age too. I had a small panic attack in bed a couple of days ago when I realised that I am quite likely approaching the two thirds point of live soon, and that as scary as that thought it, it can also be a valuable reminder to keep things in perspective.

When you’re younger and it feels like you have forever to do things, stuff like sorting out the garage feels like it might be important. As you get older and start to be able to visualise NEVER sorting out the garage, it dawns on you that it actually doesn’t matter at all. Who cares? Go for a walk or chat to a friend over a coffee instead.

What do you think? What is the stuff that MATTERS to you?


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