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.