A Reminder of the Importance of Small

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of small lately. Over the most intense year of the pandemic, when for days at a time, except for long walks, Stephen and I stayed at home, it became abundantly clear how noticing small moments of beauty or connection sustained me. With so much of the interaction and stimulation of ordinary life denied, I was more observant than ever and more likely to feel my own responses deeply. A nod or a wave from a masked passer-by, another walker’s eyes crinkling into a smile as they passed our dog, the first miniscule dots of green on a stem or branch, one tiny leaf lost on the sidewalk, a trail of rust from a nail on a fence—all triggered an upsurge of joy. I quickly learned to pay deep attention to these moments, aware that my well-being depended on them.

As the months passed, I realized that I was feeling more and more grateful for the smallest gifts life was offering me. The pandemic was taking so much away from us—and to be sure, I was losing much less than many others—that whatever I did receive felt exalted. For the first time, I think I truly understood the power of gratitude to turn our thoughts away from darkness.

In the last few weeks, much has changed. With two vaccinations, the world has opened up again. We can have doubly vaccinated friends in our house, I can finally step into my favorite shops, and I have spent precious time indoors with our grandchildren. So many thrilling moments. And each day brings more. Today I will meet a friend I haven’t seen in person since last March for lunch. We’ll eat outdoors, but it’s a beautiful day, and eating under the blue dome of the sky and the bright yellow orb of the sun will be a privilege. And yesterday, while on a long walk, Stephen and I dropped over to visit friends.

With a flurry of new pleasures in my life, I would have expected to lose sight of small, at least for a while. But that has not happened. In fact, these days I’m finding myself practicing small more than ever. At first, I was surprised by this need to slow down occasionally and focus on a small moment of beauty or connection, but I’m beginning to understand why.

The French have an expression, “l’embarras de richesses,” which loosely translates, “a confusing abundance.” We all love choice, but every once in a while, we may be faced with too much good, too many options, and instead of feeling happy, we feel overwhelmed.

I became accustomed to the limitations of sheltering-in-place and the quiet, predictable life it demanded. The clothes in my closet remained mainly undisturbed. Aside from appointments with clients, my calendar was blank. Stephen and I joked that our biggest decision each day was what to prepare for dinner. Now, after over a year, when this life had become normalized, I am faced with so many choices. Do I have time to meet my friend for lunch? Do I feel safe enough to attend a dinner party with seven other doubly vaccinated friends? What about having a meal inside a restaurant? Or seeing writing clients in my office again?

Last weekend, Amelie and Poppy spent Friday night at our house. And of course, I enjoyed each and every minute of our time together. But I kept wanting that time to slow down. Too much was happening at once and too fleetingly. I didn’t have time to savor anything. Thinking about this first overnight once the girls were back with their parents, I understood that while these new openings are thrilling, too much big was happening these days, and I needed to make a place for small.

Luckily, the 30-day program begins tomorrow. I’m looking forward once gain to focusing on small moments and giving myself the time and space to absorb the joy and happiness they offer me.


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