Why Small Things Matter
“Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional” ~ Liz Vassey
In the last two years, I experienced a resurgence of some depressive symptoms.
In my attempts at overcoming and moving through this depressive episode, I discovered that concentrating on “small and simple things” helped me more than I could ever have imagined.
Caring for small things, being grateful for and focused on them and really “feeling” this in my physical body and heart, helps me realize my interconnectedness to all around me.
There are four small things I have become aware of in the last two years, that have enhanced my levels of happiness and my state of being in life.
Some of these things have come into my awareness and I have adopted as a conscious practice and others have ‘dropped” into my life. The awareness of these things has occurred in a synchronistic matter.
What all of them have in common is that they involve small shifts in consciousness that have led to large shifts in my quality of life.
- Acknowledging small and simple things grounds me back to earth.
The paradox is that being reminded of my “smallness” helps me feel “big” again and “melding” into nature helps me feel “whole”.
What do I mean by concentrating on the “simple things?
- Observing a tiny bird so small it could rest on the tip of a blade of grass as I was on my daily walk. The beauty and fragility of this caught my breath in my throat and caused my heart to ache.
- Meditating on the ocean as I walk each day along the pathway next to it, thinking about how the changeable sea reflects my internal world.
- Really “seeing” the colors in wildflowers growing in the long grasses next to the path, at certain times of the year.
- Thinking about how much it means to curl around the sleeping form of my husband, and being aware of his breathing and the warm comfort of his presence.
- Hearing the morning chorus of birds starting at dawn in my neighborhood, and focusing on the singing that starts my every day and what a gift this is if I truly listen.
- Caring for a wild fledgling bird that had fallen out of its nest, before it could properly fly connected to my heart’s sadness at being tossed out of my “nest” (my family) and my own sense of loss of belonging at a time when I was grieving my mother’s rejection. Caring for it helped heal my heart in some small way that was significant.
When I started to focus on the small things in my daily life and weekly habits that I was grateful for, I started to see beauty everywhere.
Things I previously dismissed and did not give a minute’s consideration to, I now started to see how important they were in my life at adding quality and lushness of experience.
If I stopped and thought about these things “not being there” I realized I would really miss them.
- How much I enjoyed the punnet of raspberries or blueberries in my weekly shopping cart.
- My regular phone calls with my adult children catching up with them about their lives, sometimes composing 5 minutes and sometimes an hour
- My bosses irreverent humor always guaranteed to put a smile on my face each day.
- The sound of the ocean I hear from my house every day.
- My morning coffee brewed just the way I like it.
- The particular brand of Apple Cider that I love to drink on a weekend.
- Taking my dog for a daily walk (even if only 10 minutes) and seeing her absolute excitement.
- Growing my own tomatoes, silverbeet, and herbs and being able to pick them each day.
- Having a branch of my neighbors lemon tree poke through our fence which means I usually never have to buy lemons.
- Finding a love note my husband left for me in my walking shoes, when I bend down to put them on my feet.
“There are some things that you can fulfill with money, but at the end of the day, these are not the things that make you happy. It is the small things that make life good” ~ Sebastian Vettel
3. Working for a disabled man
Going to work for a man who broke his neck in a surfing accident, and became a quadriplegic nearly 20 years ago, has had a profound impact on how I view my life.
He has run his own business for the last 19 years. He employs people as his “hands” and he is the “brain” behind his inventions and his business.
He invents tools and equipment that have made his life easier and also enable him to be less dependant on others.
He has a degree of acceptance about his life that is breathtaking. He does not rail against the “‘unfairness” of his situation.
He accepts it. It just is.
Once he fell out of his wheelchair after spasming and lay there for hours until a neighbor called at his door and heard his cries for help. He laughs about it now and says he “needed the enforced rest.”
He makes the best of what he can do and most importantly what he “can’t do”.
I wrote the article above after going to work a bit upset at things not going exactly how I wished they would on a particular day, and having him ask me when I got there to please “pull down his t-shirt” as it was riding up his back and making him really uncomfortable (and had been for the previous two hours before I arrived at his house).
Being appreciative for the simple gift of being able to adjust your own clothes when they make you uncomfortable brings you back to reality and a level of appreciation in a way not many other things can.
He could be a “stand up” comic if he could stand up! His sense of humor is one thing that has gotten him through the last two decades.
I laugh more with him every day we work together than I have in the previous thirty-five years put together of my working life.
He has taught me to appreciate:
- Being able to get up and walk each day (not be in a wheelchair reliant on someone else to get me out of bed).
- Being able to go to the toilet on my own without needing assistance in a sling and an enema (as cannot use muscles to push as paralyzed).
- Being able to have a sense of humor that rivals most able-bodied people despite the extra setbacks he has to overcome to manage everyday life.
- Not defining himself by his disability even though it is the first thing everyone notices about him.
- He has helped me appreciate how many able-bodied people are more “disabled” in ways that cannot be seen in the way they approach and live life (self-limiting) than someone with an obvious physical disability.
And most importantly he has shown me the importance of:
Thankfulness. Acceptance. Humor.
These things are sadly underrated and as I have learned, so important to my level of happiness in life.
4. Discovering the form of poetry known as Haiku
I recently discovered the fascinating simplified form of poetry called Haiku.
It is a traditional Japanese form of poetry that entails the use of only 17 syllables, arranged in three lines.
It attempts to compress the meaning of the world in simple patterns of poetry.
Words and phrases such as “perfume, harmony, echo, interdependence, connection, hidden hopes, subtle, delicate, transitory, impermanence and unknown” have been used in connection to Haiku.
If you have never heard of it before, then you may like to read this article I wrote when I was researching the history of Haiku.
Haiku is a way to describe what is most important using as few words as possible, loaded with the most meaning and arranging these words in such a way that a reader can infer their own meaning.
It allows you to cut out “the crap” and get back to what is most important. It forces your mind to focus and dig out the “heart” of a matter, and get rid of other words that clutter the main message.
It has, therefore, become highly relevant in this phase of my life.
I can see how my becoming aware of and acknowledging, and melding all these things together in the last two years of my life have worked in synchronistic harmony.
Beginning to focus in on, and appreciate the “small” things in my everyday life was the start. Practicing gratitude flowed on from this, and the more I practiced the more reasons I began to see I had to be grateful.
Accepting that “life is hard” and can be unfair, and appreciating “humor” were lessons learned from working with a man with quadriplegia. He also had to accept “what he could do” rather than “what he could not do” and once again it was the “small” things that added meaning and gave incredible value to his daily experience of life.
Learning the art of composing haiku poetry using the least amount of words to extract the greatest amount of meaning, has been a creative way of expressing value in simplicity and small things.
Big moments and goals are wonderful. I would never take away from them. The “big” occasions of life, involving birth, death, marriage, and major life changes are all potential pivot points, as they have been in my life.
The biggest shift for me in the last two years has been focusing on the myriads of simple small everyday moments that add value to my life (if I acknowledge them) and capturing them in my awareness, so I can appreciate how rich my life is with this huge tapestry of “small.”
The more I look, the more I find.
This is what has made a profound difference for me in the last two years.
“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.” ~ Vernor Vinge
If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy reading these which focus on some of the “simple things” I mentioned.