That Probably Doesn’t Matter

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caveman fire
Do you have ANY idea how much better life got once the cave folk discovered fire? (Image/

“What probably doesn’t matter?”

Most things. Most things don’t matter.

Whatever has you stressed. Whatever you’re doing instead of playing with your children. Whatever you’re doing instead of the things that make you feel joy. Whatever you read in the news that pissed you off this morning. Most of the things you thought about, and most of the things you said, and most of the things you did today. (Not all! Just, most.) None of that shit matters.

Here’s a thought experiment most of us have probably done before: (Don’t cheat. Do it. Yes, especially you.) Imagine an asteroid of the world-ending variety is barreling toward Earth, and that you’re NOT the kind of asshole who is going to loot stores for flat-screen televisions and diamond rings. It doesn’t matter when impact is. Tomorrow. Three months. Take your pick. The experiment works either way.

Now, even though you should write this stuff down and look at it every day for the rest of your life and live accordingly, I know you won’t because you’re too busy like me worrying about things which don’t actually matter. So, instead, just think really hard and try to remember it later when you’re contemplating replacing your family room TV with something bigger and more high-definitiony. “OMG, my 50-inch 4KTV is soooo grainy and shitty compared to Randy’s new 60-inch 4KTV!!! Watching ‘Force Awakens’ on Blu-ray isn’t even fun anymore!!!”

You, everyone you know, and every stranger you meet has a fast-approaching death sentence.

Who do you want to be, and who do you want to be with?

What are the things you want to say to people you know and love?

What do you want to experience, and why?

In a non-apocalyptic, real-life scenario, what’s stopping you from doing those things right now? Okay, back to We’re All Gonna Die…

Are you still pissed about that thing you saw on Facebook?

Are you still stressed about whatever you’re stressed about?

Are you still hung up on politics, your favorite sports team, that argument you had over the weekend, or work “problems”?

If you’re dead next month or next week or tomorrow? Those were rhetorical.

Maybe we can make better choices.

OMG, Let’s All Freak Out About [Insert Stupid Thing Here]!!!

Last week, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer was released, and it was pretty awesome but that’s subjective and not why I mention it.

I mention it because it only took humanity via the internet about an hour to try to ruin it for everyone.

“OMG!!! ANOTHER female lead?!?! WTF, Star Wars?!?! Are we ever going to see another male lead?!?!”

No, Guy Who Is Super-Mad About a Second-Consecutive Female Lead in a Star Wars Movie. Every Star Wars film from now until the end of time will have a female lead, you know, except for the Han Solo and Boba Fett projects which have already been confirmed. Settle down, shit eaters.

Some people got worked up because the writers included a martial arts expert in the story and had the audacity to cast an Asian man for the role.

One guy on Twitter counted the number of male and female actors appearing in the ‘Rogue One’ trailer, categorized them by race, reported the numbers, and used them as evidence Disney is secretly racist and sexist.

I wonder how many of those people would give a crap about racial quotas, and how many actual racists would measure people by skin color if that asteroid was showing up tomorrow.

Sometimes, people care about stupid things

I did something important for me and my son Saturday on a one-night Cub Scouts camping trip.

There was a decent-sized group of parents and kids staying at the campgrounds. We rented two cabins. One with a kitchen with all necessary appliances, running water, central heating, two bathrooms, and located right next to a parking lot; and one thin-walled wooden ice box with visible gaps under all the doors, large bugs crawling around, super-uncomfortable cots, one fireplace for heat, and some rickety open-air outhouse toilets at least a football field away that—even in a biological emergency of epic proportions—were so uninviting that I would have chosen death by dysentery before using them.

My son and I drew the short straws and were asked to stay in the Haitian shanty while 90 percent of the Scouts and parents were staying in the well-heated Bellagio. In total, four dads and five sons were asked to stay in the rustic cabin.

The overnight temperatures were in the low teens. Very, very cold.

Because of a no-show, two beds became available in the Bellagio cabin late in the evening. The head Scout guy asked whether I’d like to stay there with my young son, and even though I secretly wanted to say yes, I did the right thing by declining.

“I have electricity and climate-controlled air every day of my life. We need this,” I said, truthfully.

My son, who has never known life without the mobile web and unlimited on-demand video content, was forced to entertain himself by laughing with his friend in the neighboring bunk, making faces at each other in the glow of the fire.

I slept next to a three-inch-thick non-insulated wooden wall, purposefully avoiding the bottled water on the window sill next to me because there was no simple way to biologically purge it. I can’t overstate how cold, wet, muddy and all-around uncomfortable it was outside where wild turkeys and deer kept their distance from the howling coyotes.

When you don’t want to drink water (which many in the world don’t even have easy access to) because “using the restroom” is more trouble than it’s worth, and you feel cold in your bones when not under several blankets even though you’re well-dressed for the conditions, your brain starts working better.

Functioning thermostats are neat. Insulation is neat. Running water is neat. Appliances are neat. My bed is neat. The ability to go to the restroom whenever and without stepping outside is neat. Kitchens are neat. Pavement is neat. Overhead lighting is neat.

You get the idea.

Perspective. A change in focus. Like we’d all have if that killer asteroid was heading this way.

Wives: ‘How Can I Be a Better Spouse?’

Relativism is a funny thing.

For wives married to shitty husbands, I stand with them in their intolerance of hearing bullshit comparisons in defense of lousy spousal behavior. “I don’t cheat on you like Rodney does on Kathy!” or “At least I’m not drunk every night like Gary!” or “At least I provide this nice house for you to live in unlike Trailer Park Bob!” as if those things somehow magically offset shitty husbandry.

Guys, just because you know other guys who score F grades on the “Am I a Good Husband?” Test does NOT make your D+ or C- something to brag about.

But on the other hand, a wife using relativism as a tool to achieve perspective? Might that be useful? I think so. I think seeking out the good in people and situations is the surest way to avoid feeling miserable all the time, which is really important to avoid.

Wives ask me all the time via comments and email: “But what about ME?! I can be a shitty wife, too, sometimes. What more can I do?”

Some people really are married to shitheads. I know this.

But, sometimes? They’re married to pretty great guys and have spent years ignoring many of the good things about them, choosing instead to focus on the “bad things,” or on everything that’s missing.

Sometimes, wives are so pissed that Netflix is buffering in the middle of their show, they forget to remember and be grateful that they’re watching high-definition video on-demand for $8 a month on a kick-ass TV made possible by the technological miracle of readily available internet access and electricity.

As comedian Louis CK famously said: “Everything’s amazing and no one is happy.”

God knows I’m not asking wives to just grin and bear it if they’re dealing with abuse or neglect. But everyone needs to accept more responsibility for their lives and how we feel about ourselves, and that, by definition, includes married women.

Look around and see how others live. Recognize things about their lives you’re happy you don’t have to deal with. Feel good about those things.

Look around at what you have. Recognize that MOST of it consists of things most people around the world don’t have but wish they did.

Even the aforementioned Trailer Park Bob lives like a king compared to millions.

This isn’t just a wife thing.

EVERYONE needs to work harder at gratitude.

EVERYONE needs to work harder at recognizing that how we feel about almost everything is based less on each thing’s individual merit, and more on how it compares to something similar, or our preconceived expectations.

I’m 37, and I’ve already heard four generations lament the loss of the “good old days.” About how something from our particular childhood was somehow infinitely better than every other generation’s childhoods in human history.

It’s because we’re ego-centric, selfish, ignorant, lack humility and always forget to ask the right questions. You know… relatively speaking.

But I don’t think we have to be that way.

Because if the asteroid was coming, we wouldn’t be.

And since none of us are getting out of this alive, you might say that it kind of is.


30 thoughts on “That Probably Doesn’t Matter”

  1. kirstencronlund

    Thanks for this, Matt. I’m feeling low for no legitimate reason today, and it helps to have the reframe.

    1. “Legitimate” is a relative term.

      I mean, I just wrote this, but before the day is out, I’ll have a completely irrational reaction to some bad driver, or sporting event outcome, or who knows what.

      But yes. What if we remembered throughout the day, every day, to constantly reframe?

      What if every time our children upset us, we considered how blessed we are to have them in the first place? What if every time someone we loved annoyed us, we thought of the thing they do or provide for us that we’d miss intensely if they weren’t around?

      I know it sounds dumb and motivational-postery when some days you just WANT to feel pissed.

      But when I spend a lot of time evaluating life and my choices, I realize quickly how much energy “things that don’t matter” truly get.

      It’s a little bit scary.

  2. I have a sign on my wall that reads expectations are just premeditated resentments. I read it every day – and I still forget to appreciate what I have and focus on what I expected instead at times. You are right – we can do better but not without a lot of work. Or maybe that is just me.

    1. I think it’s a lot of work for everyone. But like muscles and fitness and skill-development in general, I think repetition makes everything easier and more natural. I think we can make it a habit. I’d like to be one of the people who does.

      For selfish reasons alone, I think it would make everything a lot better.

      Literally, everything.

  3. Best thing I’ve learned so far in life. Unfortunately sometimes it takes my own tailor made asteroid to remind me again. God God I love reading your ramblings

    1. This is super-easy to say, and when something not-fun happens, hard to actually do.

      But I’m getting better all the time.

      Thank you for reading and saying nice things. )

  4. I was going to write a lengthy response but then I decided whatever I was going to say doesn’t really matter. LOL

      1. At the end of the world, I think we can agree that only three things civilization ever produced really matter – John Gottman and Reba McEntire.

      2. The third thing is either central heat or Doritos. Or maybe a phone I can type on.

  5. Wow. You’ve got a good grip on your sieve of sifting-down-to-things-that matter. I’m curious as to you know when you’ve found something that does matter. I realize it might feel like it matters, but how will you know?

  6. I really enjoyed this post. The whole what’s important verses what’s expected theme and how that affects our individual perspectives is one of my (many) favorite things to think about.

    One thingsm about my divorce that I’m thankful for is how it changed my perspective and helped me reassess my priorities as a parent. It essentially created the asteroid-hitting- the- earth mentality in my day to day life.
    My life is crazy, insane in the membrane! There are so many demands on my time and attention that I have to conscientiously pick and choose what I give both to. A mom friend once asked me how I “do it all”. I told her I don’t; there’s a lot that most parents do that I just don’t get to. Usually it turns out that that stuff wasn’t necessary anyhow. For example I don’t study my kids’ spelling lists with them. This blew the other mom’s mind a little. There’s so much pressure to do what’s expected that sometimes we forget some of that stuff is meaningless bullshit. (Not that spelling tests are bullshit. Well, they sort of are but whatever.)
    I decide on a daily basis what is important and focus on that; it’s a surprisingly liberating way to live.

    Of course I do sometimes get ungrateful and whiny still…

  7. I received a perspective recently from a sermon I heard…’we often get STUCK between our EXPECTATIONS and our EXPERIENCES’.
    We have these expectations about how things should be, and our experiences don’t quite measure up, so we get stuck in the entangled difference which is most usually a shortfall from our expectation. Gratitude is where you come to terms with your experience…shoot for the expectation yet find satisfaction in the experience.
    Thanks for the perspective.

  8. “And the days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations
    Well, I have really good days”. These are some lyrics from one of my favorite songs. The song is called “Mother Blues” by Ray Wylie Hubbard. It is about thinking you know what you want in life. But in the end the things that make you happy we’re right in front of you the whole time. Great read again Matt, thanks. Oh, yes a guy that listens to kick ass Texas Country Blues music also reads this blog. Huh, who says I’m not well rounded, lol.

  9. “But everyone needs to accept more responsibility for their lives and how we feel about ourselves, and that, by definition, includes married women.”

    Great post, Matt. Perspective really is everything. It can sound kind of simplistic, but the fastest way to fix a marriage really is constant gratitude followed by excessive good manners. I drove my husband nuts when I first started, he didn’t trust me when I said I was grateful for something he had done, and all the “please” and “thank you’s” sounded formal, forced, fake. Eventually however, he began to imitate me and today it isn’t fake at all, we are genuinely grateful for one another and there are dozens of thank you’s everyday.

    Sometimes when you just go through the motions and say the words, your brain soon follows, and before you know it, you’re actually feeling it. If we’re thinking negatively, speaking negatively, we’re going to wind up feeling negatively too.

  10. I went to Costa Rica 10 years ago, where the people in the mountains still have dirt floors. It was one hell of an experience. Considering I went with a Biology class, our main focus was the flora and fauna. We were staying a reserves and listening to nature. It’s a funny thing, when you really allow yourself to appreciate nature you are able to see that everything and nothing matters. Everything alive matters. Everything in civilized culture, latest TV shows, whether the guy or girl calls you…none of it matters. Connection to the earth and to people you care about matter, that is all that matters. ??

  11. I’m 65 and this article reminded me of “the Asteroid” episode in my life. One day, shortly after my wedding I was in town waiting for the lights to change at the ped. crossing and I had a sudden thought that a huge asteroid was about to smash me and everything into oblivion and the first thought that came to mind was “where’s Jenn?” my wife. followed by how quickly can I get to her. Nothing else mattered.
    Thanks for the wonderful blogs.

  12. You are an incredible writer. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. For me, it seems like you speak what’s true in most people’s hearts, but we have no idea how to live it anymore. We work and live for comfort, and it turns out that it leaves us completely discontent! Thank you for the reminders, and the motivation, to live for what matters.

  13. Honestly, this is how I try to live my life. It’s weird, because growing up I was the dark gloomy teenager who sat around his room drawing while listening to The Cure, Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, and my general mood and outlook on life definitely reflected the darkness of my musical choices.

    I moved out at 19, and somehow managed to support myself working full time while being a fully time student. Those years were damned hard, and I think somewhere along the way the struggles I went through made me more appreciative of things in general.

    The first experience that changed me was a trip to a third world country where I stayed for a month with my girlfriends family. 3 generations, 15 people (17 with us) living in a house that wasn’t much bigger than my apartment. Walking the streets I often saw people begging because they had lost limbs due to land mines, and there were no social services.

    But the people there weren’t down, they weren’t handing their heads at their lot in life. That was life, and they lived it to the best of their ability. Coming back from that gave me a much greater appreciation of the things that I had around me every day.

    I tried to hold onto that appreciation, but even still you tend to lose it to a degree. The second thing that hit me was walking outside with my first son when he was just over a year old. We were out for probably an hour, and we only made it about 4 houses away. He was so amazed at everything, and just watching the delight in his eyes as he touched trees, grass, bugs and cracks made me realize how much beauty there is around us that we just look past every day.

    When I’m feeling down, or sorry for myself I try to think back to those two moments.

    The other thing that has worked for me is taking a long term view of things. Yeah, things may suck today. But where do I want to be in 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? Am I doing things that will help me get there?

    It’s easy to get pissed at your partner over something that is happening right now. But are they someone you still want to be with in 10 years? If so, how will you look back on this incident in the future? Is it really a big deal?

    Those are some things that help for me.

  14. I have never left a comment before, but I have stumbled across your blogs for awhile, and even posted links to a couple in FB before finally figuring out how to follow you …

    I really enjoy your writings … you give me a lot to think about, and I like that.

    THANK YOU for being willing to share your journey … even the hard, stretchy, awkward, scarily vulnerable parts … or maybe I should say, ESPECIALLY the hard, stretchy, awkward, scarily vulnerable parts …

    1. Thank you so much, Sue, for taking time out of your life to read things here, and for making the effort to follow along. I really appreciate it.

      It’s my pleasure. I probably get more from it than all of the people who thank me for doing it.

      All of the people who say: “Hey! I think and feel like that, too, and I sometimes feel like the only one!” gives me that important feeling that I’m not alone.

      I’ve read that kind of thing so many times now that I can publish things confidently knowing someone out there will identify with it, and that person is always worth the effort.

      It’s only scary to talk about the beneath-the-surface stuff, because we’re all afraid of judgment. But if EVERYONE did it, it would cease to be scary. It would just be “the way.”

      When we share the important parts with others, we change lives. Ours and theirs.

      I can’t emphasize enough how valuable of an experience writing here as been on a personal level.

      It feels silly to read you thank me for something that has been such a predominantly positive experience for me.

      I’m grateful for your time, Sue. Thank you for reaching out.

  15. Fromscratchmom

    I spent 12 hours of my day driving yesterday, and three hours in the middle engaged in physical movement that I wasn’t healthy enough to be engaged in, all to help loved ones in need….said they really needed help in a very immediate way. I was (and am now) suffering with back pain, throat pain, and several other kinds of general yuck. But you, know, it is totally true that in the greater scheme of things the germs that have invaded my system will be fought off successfully at some point and forever afterward will be the stuff the really never mattered. The part of life where you understand the people you claim to love, you love them through their struggles, you help them in meaningful ways, that part of life matters.

    In the process of all my feeling good about caring and helping which does matter and trying to not pay more attention to my physical problems which don’t matter at all beyond having to be some what careful just how much stress I put on myself in the exertion I was involved in, I received a couple of text message attacks from someone who barely knows me and was mad that I was helping. In fact one of them seemed to imply that I was a kidnapper. I had to let them roll off of me. I had at least a little warning that crazy might happen and I’d basically volunteered to take the hit of negativity if it did. The fact that it bears no resemblance to reality aside, it really made me realize that some people react to suffering by deciding that they are victims and that other people are evil. This is difficult for me to get my head around. Seeing it from such a ludicrous and personal yet still distant angle did a lot to educate me. Its true. Just because I’ve known that EVERYONE has troubles and struggles in life since I was an elementary age kid and that the trick in life is to remember that even with the people whose lives look perfect from the outside you have to remember that they too have hidden problems, doesn’t mean that everyone else understands that. Some people get to nearly fifty years old and still haven’t the slightest clue that everyone else around them in the world has suffering and struggles. Some people live their whole lives and never realize how their ego-centric-I’m-being-hurt attitude is causing them to hurt everyone else or even to hurt their closest family members who they think they love.

    These things you are sharing with the world about empathy are important and they mean a lot even beyond what they can do to make marriages so much better. I used to have empathy for others but not be very good at receiving it. Now even the awkward “I’m so embarrassed” reactions and the “I’m too needy and worthless, how does everyone else keep it together so well” reactions are dropping away. And I thank God for that! Everyone needs more people in their lives who have empathy and fewer people who don’t.

    I’m good with it that on my end a friend of mine knew this was a big strain on me and was praying for me and reaching out to ask how she could help. I needed that. And I know she’s good with me knowing some of her struggles in life and with the fact that I’m often praying for her. Love and empathy are where it’s at!

    1. This was a really great comment. Thanks for being brave, walking the walk, and also for, just, getting it.

      I don’t have any idea in what way in going to attempt to relay it, but today’s post is to be about empathy.

      It’s to be the message of what it is, what it’s not, and why it might just be the single largest factor in whether someone has good relationships and a good life, or bad relationships and a shitty one.

      I want men (and women!) to understand this outside of just the “dishes” example which many still didn’t get.

      I’ve slept about four hours, so I’ll need a lot of coffee. But this is what I must do today. I need at least one person to identify what empathy really means and how powerfully important and life-changing it is despite its nuanced nature.

      That may or may not work out. 🙂

      I hope you feel better today! It’s awesome that you went though so much simply to unpopularly (not quite a word) help someone you love.

  16. I’ve been working on this, too – more from a perspective of chucking kindness out at the universe.

    I’ve been angry for a long time, it seems. And it’s wonderful to let some of that go.

    Was I angry at the world? At circumstance? Not really. At the core of it all, I’ve been angry at…myself. Yeah, I projected, I blamed, I threw it over the fence like a random squirrel slaughtered by the neighbor’s cat so I didn’t have to deal with the real issue.

    Now I face that nasty carcass head-on and dispose of it properly. The result is nicer neighbors. Proverbially, anyway. 🙂 Interestingly, I’m noticing I don’t absorb the projected anger of others so much anymore, either.

    And I have a lower tolerance for it in my home…so I’m hoping the hubs catches up.

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Matt Fray

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