‘Sweet Nothings’ Are Coming Your Way

Even when you don’t realize it

‘Sweet nothings’ are defined as loving, flattering words that someone whispers to you. Maybe it’s just me, but no one is even texting loving, flattering words to me, much less whispering them, so I’d like to broaden the meaning of the term.

What if we also defined sweet nothings as the seemingly trivial moments which comprise our emotional life on Earth?

The second that I get to hug my parents after living 3000 km away from them for six months.

The instant that I spot my friend’s handwriting on an envelope in my mailbox.

The joke that leaves my sister and me in helpless laughter.

We class them as common when they’re clearly not.

I’m as guilty as anyone of dismissing the moments that make life meaningful. For a large part of the day, my thoughts are on a Netflix show or the next thing on my to-do list. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it’s not going to lead me to lasting fulfillment.

Why then, do I pay so much attention to these things and so little to all that really matters?

I’m not going to pretend to have the ultimate answer to this question, but I’ve gathered some thoughts.

As John Gorman eloquently puts it in his essay ‘You’re not lazy’ — we’re all afraid. Afraid of falling behind in some way or not making enough money. We’re fearful of strangers, of the government, of aging and losing our health.

Being afraid and distracted means were starved of genuine human connection — so much so that we can struggle to appreciate when it happens. We know how vital it is to be vulnerable in our relationships but we’ve forgotten how to go about it.

We may just need some gentle reminding in the form of sweet nothings.

I stepped into a neat little cocoon of frustration and self-pity on a recent Friday. I was feeling uncertain about work, a health condition and a lack of plans for the weekend (is it just me or does having to make arrangements to have fun week after week feel like a burden? I always feel like I’m lagging behind on filling up my non-existent diary with social engagements for the next month).

I told myself I was too tired to go to the gym but somehow mustered up the energy to go anyway. When I arrived, I explained my situation to the instructor — for various reasons, I was going to take it a little easier — and watched him actually listen to what I was saying, and take it in carefully.

He looked at me with empathy (not sympathy — I could actually feel the difference!), smiled and said something that made me feel like it was OK.

It was OK to not push yourself all the time.

It was OK to want to rest.

NEWSFLASH! — It was OK to be mediocre.

Almost straight away, I felt a little better. And as often happens, now that I felt I wouldn’t be judged, I was even ready to challenge myself a little.

I love that these types of sweet nothings don’t have to happen only in romantic relationships. They come in all sorts of unexpected forms — thoughtful words shared by a doctor, a witty comment made by a friend or a compliment from a stranger.

They often arrive at the most unexpected times, when it feels like we’re mired once again in one of the many quandaries of living on Earth.

Learning to acknowledge and value them could help us carve a path back to humanity it feels like we’ve lost.

All it takes is a little looking and listening for them… and of course, making the leap to spread them yourself, so that you can lessen someone else’s load.

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