Cathy Hamilton: Small stuff is just that

And to think I used to spend time worrying about the pack rat that lives in my garage.

Yes, believe it or not, I actually used to fret about the silly little rodent that scampers across the concrete, caught in the headlights when we return home from an evening out.

"When are you going to kill that varmint?" I'd shriek at my beleaguered husband. "It's stressing me out, I tell you!"

That rat was the bane of my existence until last week.

Now, not so much.

Truth is, I used to stew needlessly about all kinds of inconsequential things. I was the hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing queen of sweating the small stuff.

I had an uncanny ability to work myself into a dither over the tiniest issue - like whether or not my floors were picked up when a neighbor dropped by unexpectedly, or if the jeans I wore magnified my derriere. (If I had a nickel for every minute I spent agonizing over the size of my fanny, I'd have 10 percent more in my 401K. Uh, or not.)

There was a time when I wouldn't let my husband leave the house if his shirt was wrinkled. I agonized over the smallest little snag or discoloration on my clothes, or if my shoes were out of style.

Oh, I was a worrywart, all right. I could spend an entire day brooding about the sorry state of my upper thighs. And the age spots surfacing daily on my face? I devoted an entire column to them recently. Sheesh! Can you say neurotic narcissism?

In the past, if I were to wake at 2 in the morning to find my daughter's car missing from the driveway, do you know what I'd do? That's right, I'd worry. How silly was that? I would sit up and stew, in the dark - the only light provided by QVC - until she walked through the door, safely. It's ridiculous how much I'd anguish over trivialities like my children's personal safety.

Well, thank heaven those days are behind me. I am a cured woman. You won't find me getting into a fluster over the minutiae of the moment. Not anymore.

How did I do it, you ask? Yoga? Meditation? Xanax? Did I take some kind of Alfred E. Neuman Community College course called "Intro to 'What, Me Worry?'"

Nope.

With a nod to Mr. Neuman, I owe my new lease on anxiety to Wall Street.

It's amazing how losing a chunk of your net worth and seeing your retirement dreams dashed can completely change your point of view.

Forget sweating the small stuff. Why bother with garden variety worry and woe? This week, I ascended to the stratosphere of stress, and all those pesky little perturbations disappeared - poof! - like five years' worth of my savings.

Mental health experts - the ones all over the airwaves this week, feebly trying to appear calm - advise us not to spend energy worrying about things we can't control.

Apparently, that's what executives from insurance behemoth AIG were thinking on their weeklong retreat to the St. Regis Resort in California, less than a week after the government offered them an $85 billion bailout. The tab for all that executive fun? $443,000 of our hard-earned tax money! I'll bet all that wining, dining and otherwise retreating was really therapeutic.

I, too, will take the experts' advice and reserve my worry for the things I can personally affect.

For instance, I will keep my floors picked up, just in case company drops by unannounced and only buy jeans (if I can still afford them) that minimize my posterior. And if my husband's shirts have a few wrinkles in them, so what?

Perspective. It's a beautiful thing.

As for the stuff I can't control - age spots, my daughter's will, the stock market - well, I'm going to have to let those things go.

But that freakin' pack rat in the garage is another story. I'm going to pursue that varmint with a vengeance. And when I'm through with him, I'll be going after his brothers at AIG.

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