How to handle all of the big things in life

Hello. If you’re reading this on the website (and not some RSS feed), you may notice I’ve changed things a little. Different colors and a different layout; I was limited in what I could do because I only have a free account on WordPress. The main change, however, is to the name of my blog. It’s now called STUFF MAKES STUFF. You can capitalize it like that if you want.

Some of you may not know where that name comes from. The original name of my blog, One Little Corner, takes its name from a song written by a man named Jon Troast. Troast is not only a musician, but a wanderer, and a doer of things. He’s a great example of someone who lives up to the calling of adventurer. Troast has spent the last several years touring the United States and performing “house concerts”; in simple terms, he comes to your house, performs an hour of his music, and if you’re nice, he’ll even sleep on your couch.

Right around when I was first introduced to Jon’s music, he released a song called “One Little Corner”. The song starts with this strumming guitar and crooning of a violin and I think I immediately fell in touch with it. The sweeping melody picks you up and pushes you right into the first verse: “When you feel helpless / Your life’s a mess / You’re so tired / But you can’t rest / When you’ve gone crazy / You’ve lost control / Your feet can’t find the floor”.

So let’s stop right there. How often do you feel this way? So completely overwhelmed by everything, helpless, hopeless, unable to move forward or press on. I think for the wanderer and the doer of things, life feels this way all the time. You want to pick up and go, but suddenly you remember your car payments and work schedule and family dinners and laundry that needs folding and kids that need kissing and friends that need to grab a beer, and suddenly…your adventure seems impossible because of all the impossible things you need to get done first. As Jon puts it in the second verse, “Well, soon enough / It’s twice as high / Cause stuff makes stuff”.

I recently interviewed Jon about how he wrote the song, and the story itself is excellent: “Winter of 2008, I had been doing some touring that fall, and I got back, and before I had left I had put a bunch of stuff into storage and was going to be moving into a new place when I got back from that tour. So I got back and the new place wasn’t quite ready…there wasn’t an official move-in date, so at the time I didn’t have a place to live. But I talked to a friend of mine and he said I could stay with him for a week or two until the new place was ready, so I was at his place and feeling very — I don’t know — unsettled, just because some of my stuff was still in my car and then I had a few things stored at his place and a lot of my stuff was in the garage at this place I was moving into, and I was getting ready to set up another tour, and I just felt like I couldn’t undertake that in my current surroundings.

“So instead of getting overwhelmed with all I was trying to take on, I thought if I could just start on something, just one thing, focus on that and then move on from there. So I really just kind of poured myself into songwriting, and I wrote I think a song a day for six or seven days in a row. And one of the songs I wrote during that week-long period was “One Little Corner”, which talks about not getting overwhelmed with the big tour you’re setting up, or the fact that your stuff’s scattered all over, or the fact that you are looking for a job and trying to find a house, or, you know, whatever your circumstance might be. Fix the toilet and the sink and the water heater; just focus on one — whatever you can get done for that next little while, and when that’s done start looking around for the next project or step or whatever it may be, and just not get overwhelmed with the whole lot.”

The chorus goes: “Just find one little corner / Put it in order / Stay there till you feel like you’re alright / Then look out to the others / Soon you’ll discover / The peaceful little corners of your life”. And this here is the key. It’s why my blog was named after the song, and why it steals its current name from one of my favorite lines ever written.

If you ever find yourself in a place where all this stuff is weighing on your head — bills and relationships and interviews and lack of sleep and the drive to work and that paper you need to write and the hurts from the past — slow down, take a breath, and pick one of those things. Do one little thing at a time. As Bill Murray would say, “Baby steps.” If you look at the whole mess as it is, you will be overwhelmed and you will stay overwhelmed until you stress yourself out and end up really being hurt; but if you break that mess up into tiny chunks, and just take on a tiny chunk at a time, eventually, you will learn to handle bigger chunks and bigger corners and soon you will discover peace. I’ve learned this through the stress of failed relationships and failed classes and failing health, all of which hit me at roughly the same time last year — just taking one little corner of one of those things and working on that helped make the stuff not so much and the whole mess seem a lot more manageable. I know the last few posts have been about taking huge steps forward and adventuring worth into the world, but sometimes we need to take those adventures on step at a time. I’ll leave you with this quote from Mr. Bilbo Baggins:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”


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One thought on “How to handle all of the big things in life

  1. Tessa says:

    Excellent post Hayden. Keep writing!

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