Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Little Things

Last week was very busy, one of those in which "life" intruded on my plans, resulting in very few checkmarks on my To Do List. All of a sudden, it's the middle of another week, and I wonder, "Where did the time go?" If you're like me, there are times when it seems too many things demand your attention--those pesky "urgent" things that hound you during the day and keep you from falling asleep at night. Suddenly, mole hills become mountains, draining energy like a hole in a levee, until you're drowning in a flood of undone tasks, including overdue blog entries. Yet, it seems that when we are caught up in busy-ness, it's then that we are more likely to feel we haven't accomplished anything, and life seems empty.

The other day, while reading my Twitter feed, I came across this comment by Mariel Hemingway: "Life is full when you pay attention to the little things." Is that what's missing, I wondered? Do we get so caught up in the multitude of demands on our time that we fail to notice the "little things" that make our lives worth living? Those things that, if we would pause for a moment to notice, would add joy, laughter, and balance to an otherwise stressful day? What would happen if we consciously looked for those things, took even a minute, off and on throughout our day, to seek out the little, everyday, extraordinarily ordinary things?

Weekend before last, I wasn't looking forward to my week. It began on Monday with a dental appointment--just a regular semi-annual cleaning and checkup. No big deal...except that, from the time I was a child, I have felt panic when facing a dentist, my earliest experiences having been just short of torture. It has taken me fifty years to get to where I can sit in the chair without shaking, but there is always that underlying apprehension. Fortunately, my dentist and hygienist understand, and do everything they can to minimize my anxiety. The appointment was uneventful--no cavities, no problems, no shaking chair, and my teeth will remain in their place of origin. So, what "little things" helped to transform a highlly stressful experience into a much less stressful one? Things like my hygienist keeping the back of the chair elevated more than usual because she knew my back was hurting that day, giving me a second cup to rinse out in so I didn't have to twist to use the sink (I can't stand the squirt and suction option), and chatting with me about my kids, her kids, our pets, so that the time passed quickly. As a result, I forgot to be nervous! Her little attentions and accommodations to my needs made all the difference.

Tuesday, we not only had to take our new cat, Micau, for her first vet checkup, but our dog Mindy had a slight problem that needed a professional hand. I was grateful that they were able to squeeze her in before Micau's appointment so that we didn't have to make two trips. Our vet, too, does "little things" that make us and our animals more comfortable during our visits. She bubbles over with love for her job and for her patients, and you can't help smiling as soon as she enters the room. She takes time to pat and talk to them, to answer our questions, involves us in the decision-making process regarding their healthcare, and isn't afraid to show emotion when an animal has to be put down. Her willingness to make herself vulnerable, and the genuine love she shows for our animals, in addition to her skill, makes me trust her and puts our furry companions at ease. Oh, and another "little thing"--she tossed in a complimentary nail trim for Micau.

Thursday, I was scheduled for a bone density scan and spinal x-rays. Knowing I'd have to lay flat on my painful back, I was dreading both. Although it hurt to lie absolutely flat with my feet strapped together for the first test, the technician talked with me the whole time, reassuring me that it wouldn't take long and that I was doing great, and asking me questions to help keep my mind off the discomfort. From there I went to x-ray, where the technician not only gave me an extra pillow, but allowed me to bend my knees, relieving the stress on my back. She, too, made sure I was as comfortable as possible and worked quickly. The extra kindness and compassion of those two women made an uncomfortable experience much less so, and the whole process took less than an hour.

Other things that made my life full last week were taking time to watch Micau jump and play with her new little catnip mouse, cuddling with her as she nuzzled my neck or touched her little pink nose to mine; Meisha, our other cat, seeking me out and curling up beside me at night, using my hand for her pillow as she purred us to sleep; Mindy, my service dog, picking up a paper I dropped on the floor without me giving her the command to do so, and coming in to help me in the morning as soon as she heard me stirring; hearing a favorite piece of music on the radio; the beauty of a bouquet of flowers reminding me that spring is not far off; discovering a new artisan bread that is gluten-free and deliciously chewy; finding an exercise DVD that I can do while seated, and being able to actually DO all of the exercises! These things have little, if any, monetary value, but I wouldn't have traded them for the world. They provided the moments of calm in a hectic, painful, stressful week.

Kindness, compassion, caring, affection can't be bought, they can only be given and received. They may not pay the rent or put food on the table, or get blog entries written on time, but life would be unbearably bleak without them.

What are the "little things" that help you get through a stressful day/week/season of life, or that simply put a smile on your face when you need it most? Please share in the comment section.


  1. The little things that get me through a stressful time are coming home to Louie, having him listen to my day, hold my hand, and make me laugh. Sylas curling up on one side of me, Mimzy on the other, and Hector beside Louie while all of us are on the couch; my friends who say goofy things or do goofy things to make me laugh when I need it most; having time to read a book before bed, to escape for a little bit and do something not related to reality for a bit. This spring is extremely hectic and busy for me, and it's sometimes easy to feel overwhelmed. I am excited this week, though, because I'm finally able to check 2 major things off my spring to-do list! I'm mailing my scholarship applications tomorrow (just in time for the deadline!), and I've booked my certification test for Network+. I'm very excited about both of those things, although also nervous about actually TAKING the test! But it's finally out of the back of my mind and now I have a definite date and time, and I will either pass it or not. Regardless, at least I will have taken it.

  2. I hear what you are saying about the little things. Many of us forget to notice the little things and how important they are.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I enjoyed your post on appreciating the little things, and the Muriel Hemingway quote. Very nice. Thanks.

  4. my kids' laughter gets me every time!!! whether it's the 4 year old pure giggle because a cartoon or something was funny or if it is just something out the air that the 16 year old says or does (like tripping UP the stairs) that make me chuckle. A giggle from a child always makes life better!

  5. Sarah, you brought out a good point about a balance between togetherness and alone time (sitting on the couch w/Louie and the cats vs reading before bedtime). We need both in our lives, and it looks like you're achieving that. Congratulations on being able to check off two things on your spring To Do List! Because of last week's hectic schedule, I haven't yet sat down to list my February goals...hopefully, can do that tonight. It's great that you have a date for the test, too--makes it more "real" and gives you a time frame in which to work. I value your contributions to the discussions here.

  6. Vada, thanks for dropping by. It's important to take note of the "little things" because the comprise the majority of what makes up our lives, and it's usually those things that are the most important to us--the things we remember and treasure--as we grow older. I don't want to miss out on any of them. Thanks for your comments, and please drop by again.

  7. Beth, thank you for stopping by and posting your thoughts. Mariel Hemingway also has a new cookbook out, "Mariel's Kitchen: Simple Ingredients for a Delicious and Satisfying Life." What caught my eye about it is that the recipes are made with fresh, seasonal, organic, gluten-free foods. I can't wait to get it and try it out. I hope you'll visit again soon.

  8. Anonymous, kids have a way of helping us enjoy life through their eyes and bringing out our inner child. And tell your daughter she's not the only one that trips UP stairs. When I was in high school, I was a guide for our parents' night open house. Imagine my embarrassment when I tripped while leading one group upstairs and fell at the feet of a group headed down! Sad to say, I still occasionally trip up our stairs at home...thank goodness for handrails! I always enjoy your comments.

  9. These little moments, not the big moments, stitch together the days of our lives.

    I just walked my husband of nearly forty-years down the street at 9:00 p.m. because he has dementia, COPD, and a host of other health problems. I'm his caregiver.

    An older writer friend told me I'll remember these days fondly later....

    Right now, it's a grueling routine, with all the care involved.

    I just woke up from a much needed nap so that's the good thing. A little thing, but a good thing.

    I enjoy your post! It was a nice pick-me-up!

  10. Maxine, I like the way you said the little moments "stitch together the days of our lives," especially since there are times the fabric is frayed and seems to be unraveling. I was one of my mother's caregivers until she died in 2008 at the age of 97, so I know it is a physically and emotionally stressful job. Do you have a support system of family and friends that can lend a hand so you can have some respite time to take care of yourself? One thing that helped me when caring for my mother was journaling about it--her journey through dementia, and from being a very independent woman to being dependent on others, my feelings and frustrations as well as hers, the occasional glimpses of the woman she used to be, and the roller coaster of emotions. I'm sure there will be things you will remember fondly, but that doesn't make today any easier to bear...or tomorrow, or the next day. Be gentle with yourself.

    Thank you so much for dropping by and sharing your comments. You will be in my thoughts and prayers, and please visit here as often as you like.

  11. It's my little thing with four legs, Cassie, my Corgi that get s me through rough patches and tuff days. Thanks for the reminder, there are many other little things that soften harsh demands in life.
    Hope your weekend is filled with lots of good little moments!

  12. Anonymous, thanks for stopping by and sharing about Cassie. Pets can make even the darkest days brighter. Thank you for the weekend wishes. I wish you the same, and hope you'll visit here again.

  13. Late posting last week's gratitude journal, but here it is:

    1/29--for the beauty of the night sky: the full wolf moon, Orion proudly standing guard, Mars with its rosy glow nearby, and a sky full of stars;
    1/30--for being able to join the Story Circle Network, an amazing group of women memoir writers who believe all women have an important story to tell;
    1/31--for the nice phone visit with my aunt who just celebrated her 92nd birthday on Jan. 29, and is blind; also, for the "talking books" that allow her to still enjoy reading;
    2/1--for a great dental checkup, new gluten-free foods at the health food store, and the gluten-free peppermint shampoo I discovered there;
    2/2--for our vet being able to see Mindy when we took Micau for her first checkup; for the helpful clerk at Pet Food Warehouse where I bought Micau some toys, a brush, and used the coupon from the Humane Society for a free ID tag for her; for my new exercise DVD with exercises that can all be done while seated, and that I could actually DO all of them;
    2/3--for Vanilla lattes, chicken stirfrys, and gluten-free jumbleberry pie--YUM;
    2/4--for kind, compassionate technicians during my bone density scan and spinal x-rays today, and for horehound drops that soothed away my slightly sore throat.

  14. Thank you for reminding all of us to stop and think about the little things that make our lives full. It's so easy to worry and not focus on all of the wonderful things around us. For me, a few of the "little things" that make a difference to me are:

    1. a song that takes me back to a memorable event in my life, or maybe just a time when everything seemed more simple

    2. the sound of the keyboard clicking under my fingers as I rush to write down a new plot twist

    3. that first sunrise of spring, when it is just warm enough to be outside and you realize that there are months of wonderful weather waiting ahead

  15. Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. Music is often a memory trigger for me, too. Love your auditory and visual images. Hope you'll drop by often, and keep those fingers flying.