The Little Things Really are the Big Things**
As time zooms by, the little things become the big things in my life.
Posted Jul 15, 2018
**(disclaimer: I spent my academic career teaching writing and strongly urged my students not to use the word ‘things’ in their writing. Having said this, I feel it is necessary for me to use the word in this piece!)
When I was younger, I was often focused on the next big milestone, event, celebration, or purchase: birthdays, graduations, wedding, babies, jobs, cars. My days were often defined by what came next. At times, I anticipated even more than I experienced. Age has given me the gift of reflection and reprioritizing what gives me immediate joy as well as the ability to appreciate my todays. And, as time zooms by, the little things in life have increasingly become the big things. The older I get, the more easily I can recalibrate what is important in my life.
So, what are my once little things that are now oh-so-very essential to my daily joy? What are my priorities?
Walking My Dog
I’m not proud that I often used to hurry through my walks with our first dog, Teddy. Perhaps he didn’t realize this, but I knew. I was always rushing, telling myself I had to finish “the walk” before I picked up the kids, before I started cooking dinner, before I graded the huge stack of essays waiting for me on my desk. I had so much to do that not only did I not stop to smell the roses, I often didn’t even see them. I was constantly looking at my watch, searching for more time that quickly disappeared right before my eyes. When I finally I fell into bed, I didn't even stop to appreciate the softness of the sheets or the firmness of the mattress, let alone my glorious walks with Teddy.
Teddy has long since passed; our second dog, Emma, is already twelve-years-old. We walk daily and, now, my husband walks with us. Emma would have loved Teddy, who never complained when he was rushed through our neighborhood streets. Emma enjoys my more peaceful days, for she often gets two walks and they are never hurried like those of her equally beloved predecessor’s. I don’t have to pull her away from a tree because she is taking too long, nor do I look at my watch in anticipation of carpools, or work, or meal preparation. These activities are now part of my memory bank and continue to mean so much to me, only now without the anxiety that accompanied them so many years ago.
Sitting in my reclining armchair while reading a book reflects the luxury of my retirement. As a young mom, and when I was working, finding the time to read was incredibly challenging. When I wasn’t with my children, when I wasn’t involved in the daily workings of the house, when I wasn’t with my husband, perhaps then I picked up a book. Often, I would have to reread the pages leading up to my bookmark, reminding myself of what I had read days before when I ran out of time. Today, though, I can finish a book quickly and experience that pure joy of completion and the immediate loss of having finished such a delicious read. After some time to savor the joy of such prose, I can search for my next book, knowing that I can ‘attack’ the book very soon with nothing stopping me.
Playing with my grandchildren
Watching my almost four-year-old grandson walk around the coffee table in our den with his cars, zooming them and crashing them gives me complete pleasure. Sometimes he gives me my own car to play with so we can race together, adding another depth to my pure joy. Oh, to have this time to just watch him and participate in his wonder and creativity! Of course, I played with my own boys, but in the back of my mind, I always knew what awaited me: preparing dinner, emptying the dishwasher, and making sure their homework was done, among countless other chores… Now, all I have to do is be present. I can follow my almost eighteen-month-old granddaughter around the house, observing her as she finds meaning in her own little world. Like with her brother, my time is 100% theirs, so whatever they want to play with becomes my priority. What a gift!
Not Preparing Intricate Meals
Ironically, when I had less time at home, I cooked more. I followed intricate recipes and prepared complete dinners for my family and for company. Today, it is more important to me that I am eating with my children, my husband, or a dear friend than what I choose to cook. Early on, I wanted the positive strokes. I wanted the accolades of someone telling me my meal was outstanding. But, today, I don’t care about the feedback as much as I care about with whom I share the meal. Letting go of the need to prepare gourmet meals and all that the process entails is a sense of freedom that I appreciate. Little, average meals become quite important based on with whom I am spending time.
Drinking my first cup of coffee in the morning is truly a little thing that has evolved into almost a spiritual experience of great importance in my daily life. For non-coffee drinkers, this might sound ridiculous, but for those of us who look forward to that first sip of dark richness and who depend on the depth of flavor to awaken us fully, then this drink and this act are immediately identifiable. Such an experience extends to going for coffee with a friend or by myself (with a good book). Just walking into a coffeehouse, ensnared by the aroma as I walk through the door, enables me to recollect memories of my childhood kitchen and my father sipping his own full mug. A little indulgence like coffee just completes me.
I have always appreciated my days and the people with whom I share my time, but as the years go by, what I appreciate even more are the simple pleasures--the little things--that add such meaning to my daily life. Kurt Vonnegut’s well-known words, while perhaps slightly trite, ring true: “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”