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Seeing the forest for the trees during the holiday season

People who whistle.

People who hum.

The line at the grocery store that says 10 items or less, when it should actually be 10 items or fewer.

It’s safe to say I’m easily annoyed by the small stuff, all that stuff you’re not supposed to sweat at all.

I once stopped dating a guy who never read past the jump in newspaper articles. I think it’s reasonable that people who chew gum loudly should face the death penalty. Those who leave time on a microwave without clearing it? Life in prison.

But recently I got one of those reminders we get periodically in life about what really matters.

My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer last week, and right away that aggravating driver in front of me who didn’t seem to realize that turning right on red is a thing became less important.

It’s advice most of us are given often, and we probably even say it to ourselves. There are a handful or more cliches to choose from — let the little things go, appreciate the time you’ve got, live every day to the fullest, be grateful for what you have…

They may be trite but they’re true. Yet so often it takes something huge to make us live them.

While we’re hopeful about my mom’s prognosis, I could have happily gone on for many more years before being forced to consider her mortality. After all, to me, she is no mere mortal. She’s the single mom who raised my sister and me, who cleaned stranger’s houses when she couldn’t find a teaching job, who taught through example that the one person you have to rely on in life is yourself, so you better learn how to change the oil, put furniture together and pay your bills all on your own. I never did let her convince me to learn to drive stick shift, but I probably should have.

As we head into Thanksgiving I’m particularly thankful for my family this year and will be hugging them all a little bit tighter. And I’d like to try to keep my gratitude and my perspective on matters both big and small — and OK, even the very-minute-but-really-irritating ones — going a little longer. (And just for the record, my own allegedly annoying habits are charming).

I don’t know if I can really let all the little things go, so I think I’ll start a bit smaller. Notice it, dislike it, but not let it ruin my mood. After all, I think I can be grateful and thinking of the big picture, but still have enough energy to honk at drivers who go the wrong way down a clearly-marked busy parking lot row and then refuse to move over, forcing me to. I just won’t waste my energy calling them a $?!**?!!%$ anymore. Surely that’s a reasonable compromise? Or for every thing that raises my blood pressure that I really shouldn’t be so bothered by, I’ll make a point to look around and notice something beautiful — Christmas decorations, a fluffy cloud, a fall leaf on the ground that’s the exact same color as a sweet potato.

In honor of my mom, who is so positive that I often have to tell her to stop “Pollyanna-ing” a situation I’m complaining about, I’m going to make an effort to be a fraction as accepting and easygoing as she is. There is no better role model.

So wish me luck.

Just not by texting or calling late at night or early in the morning, or in the busiest part of my workday. That really annoys me.

Kate York is the news editor at The Marietta Times. She can be reached at kyork@mariettatimes.com

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