Contributing Author: Mary Ashley, NDAA Well-being Task Force Vice Chair
They say it’s “the little things” that make such a difference in life sometimes. I found this to be particularly true one morning on a search for my cherished pair of sunglasses.
I was in a rush to get to work. It was a bright and sunny morning and when I went to collect my purse and work bag, they were gone. I always have my sunglasses in the same spot. As I rummaged through my purse, I became a little frantic. I needed my sunglasses to drive to work. Not to mention, they are my favorite and only pair at the moment. I had spent a little too much money on them, but I really like them. I searched my bag, the house, the folds in the couch, you name it. Did I leave them at the drug store where I stopped on the way home? How could that have happened? Should I call to see if they were found? I went to the garage to check the car and didn’t see them in the console.
Now most of you are thinking, “big deal, everyone loses sunglasses once in a while.” And you are right. But for some reason, I allowed the temporary loss to bother me more than it should. My mind began to come up with a plan to get a new pair as soon as possible that day. I could search online, but do they still have the ones I want, and do I want to spend that much again? I could stop by a local department store and find an acceptable new pair. I suppose I was able to resolve within myself that the problem would be fixed, but I would still miss those glasses.
I was reminded of a time when a friend was visiting and staying at my home. She was out and about during the day, stopped at the grocery store to pick up some things and arrived at my home that evening. Only she noticed her necklace was gone. It was the necklace her husband gave her when she had their first child. It was not an expensive necklace but obviously had sentimental value. She believed she had it on all day but perhaps it had come loose by the end of the day. She called the grocery store frantic, desperate that someone may have found it, but not hopeful. A young box boy had found it in the parking lot while collecting carts and turned it in. She burst into tears of joy.
And just then, as I was putting by bag into the passenger seat, there they were! My precious sunglasses had slid down the passenger side onto the floor side of the door. I cannot explain the elation I felt finding those silly sunglasses. Problem solved. I could head out to work with my eyes protected from the sun and not having to squint. I wouldn’t need to search Amazon or make several stops on the way home. What a relief. I immediately said out loud “today is going to be a great day.”
Why was this “little thing” such a “big thing” for me that day? Of course, there are many schools of thought on why finding something you lost can be so meaningful. Whether it be an object of great value, financial or sentimental, or an item you need, such as your keys or ATM card, the relief of knowing where the item is and that it still belongs to you is gratifying. That is what struck me — the feeling of being so grateful for just finding them. They did not hold great sentimental value, nor were they outrageously expensive. I recall buying them while shopping with my mom awhile back, which was a good memory. And I liked them. And I didn’t want to go buy another pair. And perhaps the idea of not knowing where they were or what happened to them was annoying.
Another possibility is the disruption of habit. They are part of my routine to leave for work. And then they weren’t. Finally, there is the self -blame of how careless I can be with my things. That I should be more mindful. Of course, it wasn’t like losing my phone. We all know how stressful that can be. Our virtual lives are on our phones. But even then, we know they can be replaced. What made me so happy?
In the article Mindlessness and Memory Slips: How to Find What You’ve Lost, the author, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD., January 25th 2011, Psychology Today, explores the frustration of losing a personal possession, cherished or ordinary, and the time it takes to either find or replace it. Dr. Whitbourne states that “the agony of losing is replaced by the ecstasy of finding.” And then there are the lessons learned. We know we can prevent loss by becoming more mindful in our daily tasks. We can pay attention to where we leave items, how we store them and verify our steps to when we last saw or used the item. There is the process we go through and the choice to either remain calm or to panic.
Within minutes of not being able to locate the sunglasses, I had gone through a plan in my head in the event they were not found. I didn’t like it, but I was calm about it. I’m thinking this made the difference. A mere annoyance or inconvenience is not a catastrophe. Life is full of everyday losses, big and small. It would be natural to worry about losing something very special that someone gave to you or someone charging up a storm on a lost credit card. It happens and the only thing we control is how we react. Life wouldn’t have been over without my sunglasses. It just made my day better by finding them and moving along and I appreciated it. And it did turn out to be a great day. So, if you are ever missing that pair of Kate Spade tortoise shaped “Hello Sunshines”, I see you.
Well-being Task Force Vice Chair, Mary Ashley, is a Deputy District Attorney with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. Along with being a Board member of NDAA, Mary is also a member of the California District Attorneys Association and NDAA’s Vice Chair of the Women Prosecutors Section.