My Mom always had many humorous and unusual expressions. She was brought up by her elderly English grandparents which put her in a generation a bit behind herself and many of her contemporaries. One of my favorites among those expressions was, “You’re just no bigger than a minute.”
She always said that when picking up a small creature; a newborn baby, a puppy, a kitten etc. I’m not certain I know how big a minute is besides being 60 seconds, but I know it isn’t much, but like pennies can add up to a larger sum. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, “Take care of your change and the dollars will take care of themselves.”
We live in the age of the jumbo jet, super stores and largess in all things. We often confuse piles of material things for meaningful lives and buying in volume is considered prudent, even if we don’t ever use whatever it is, we bought. Our shoppers’ eyes fall upon piles of goods we buy out of compulsion, hunger, habit or competitiveness.
We must have them. Cardboard boxes fill our basements from ordering online and we belong to shoppers’ clubs that allow us to make money while spending money. It’s crazy out there my friends, “plum crazy.”The pace of life is fast in order to keep up with society, have what others have and we are forced to earn more money to buy more things we probably don’t need, really don’t want and may not use. Mr. Jefferson also said, “Never buy anything you don’t want just because it is cheap.”
In all of this wild spending, owning and possessing we forget about the tiny things in this life. When many of us are forced to take another look at our lives and reassess our belongings due to accident, loss of jobs, loss of health and a hundred other life altering events, we begin to slow down and count the pennies and the minutes. Instead of trampling on that tiny dandelion flower, so yellow and perky working its way through a small crack in the sidewalk, we step around it and are forced to pause and reflect. What is truly important in this life?
I, like many of you my readers and friends, have had to pause, step back and reflect about many areas of life. It’s as if my former life is all king–sized, jumbotron and high-pitched volume compared to my current life. Gradually, over the years I have been forced by my physical pain and illnesses to stop, pause, slow down and give a great deal of thought to what really matters to me. Reflection is necessary in order to live any kind of a meaningful, clean, orderly life. One cannot drift through life. There is little reward in drifting, accomplishing nothing and never having that feeling of self-worth brought on by achievement, in even the tiny things in life. Drifting ends up in piles of clothes that need to be washed, a home that is a clutter with piles of nonsense, unopened mail but then there is the hunger factor. Eventually we have to eat. I’m not referring to hoarding, although I know that’s a popular subject, thanks to television. I’m simply referring to the normal acts of life like combing one’s hair, washing up, doing laundry and moving life along.
Thomas, and I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him Thomas, also said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Most of us were taught that as children as we picked up our toys and clutter, folded doll clothes, picked up a million tiny Legos or blocks and made our beds each day. As adults we don’t have an allowance therefore the incentive has to lie in the act of doing. Incidentally, my generation didn’t usually get an allowance because it was just part of life, the dreaded chores.
To get through a day I have to start with a list, knowing when I made it out the night before, that I would probably not be able to accomplish everything on it. I tried living this compromised existence without goals, a list or even a clue. I didn’t like it. I have often tried to just be the poor patient as I would lie around, filling my days with self-pity and my nights with a heart searching for some way out considering what my body was doing to my life. Jefferson, one of my favorite foundingfathers also said, “Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.” He knew the secret.
Therein lies the importance of dusting off a shelf, picking up a pot in the kitchen, folding a towel fresh out of the dryer and a hundred other daily acts of survival. We also do ourselves a disservice because it is these small bits of physical activity that add up at the end of the daystrengthening out bodies, muscles and circulation. There is a profundity of hope in any achievement. If you live with pain and illness, you and I need hope, boy do we need hope. It is far too easy to fall into despair and depression without it.
Many of us who live compromised lives, physically, would challenge Thomas but far too often, I rely on my husband or someone to do something for me when I could at least try to do it. Of course, there are times of severe illness or pain and we all know about those crises when we simple have to cry “Uncle,” humble ourselves and seek help. I am often concerned as a friend and as a retired registered nurse, to see many invalids, whether temporarily so or long term, expect the “queenie”treatment from others. This is especially true among those of us who are elderly and ill. We’re tired and think we’ve earned a spot on the couch. Perhaps we have, but then what?
When do we separate our importance and value from another’s life and value? That attitude, when taken to the extreme can hatch a whole pile of trouble not only for the patient but for friends and most of all a loving spouse. Marriage is supposed to be a 50-50 arrangement but anyone who is or has been married knows that not true. It’s always a bit off balance as we care for each other in this life. I like to think of it as leaning on each other and must not push that balance too far or we both tumble down. It’s like being on a see-saw when balance and trust areeverything.
I have discovered when your life is halted like mine has been these last many years, I have to keep my head wrapped around not just survival but survival with respect for my family, self-love and dignity for all. I often remind myself, using the tiny puffs of hope that I am not “The sickest one of all.” There is always someone more ill, more pooremotionally. When we are always in pain, are constantly ill and face a necessary slower pace of living, we have time to see the dandelions and generally enjoy the tiny puffs of hope life always has for us. When we are zooming from place to place, we do not have time to not just smell the flowers but we don’t even look at them. If there is no one there to appreciate the intricate pattern of design and color in a flower does it still bloom? Yes, it does but how much glory is lost in its very short-lived existence when we could have shared a tiny puff of hope in the form of beauty.
These tiny puffs of hope can be found watching your dog wag his tail due to some simple pleasure, or look into a cat’s eyes at all the tones of color to be found in that minute space. We just need to open our own eyes and behold the little things in life which denote something else is alive, thriving and savoring all they live within. I find it fascinating this spring season when I take a tiny, somewhat wilted plant in its tiny black plastic container from the nursery, place it into a hole in a pot or the ground and see all the roots wrapped around the contents. Those roots are tiny puffs of hope. They are actually a promise waiting to be fulfilled.
We have explored the importance of those pennies and minutes as they add up to a greater sum but there are other tiny pieces of life that lead to something much larger than themselves. One of these is the profound nature of our bodies particularly muscles that never just vegetate. If we aren’t using our muscles, even the simplest among them, they are dying. Muscles are made to stretch, carry blood, attach to our joints and also keep our heart, the greatest muscle of all, strong and doing its job. Of course, I have days like many of you do when I can’t lift that tiny weight due to a problem of some sort but I have learned the minute act of scrubbing my arms or another part of my body many times builds strength. Try scrubbing your arms twenty times instead of just the quick soap and rinse in the shower. Scrub your scalp an extra minute and you’ll feel strength from other arm muscles, waiting to be used. We have hundreds of muscles and use so few, you know, kind of like brain cells. It would be a pity to waste them, don’t you think?
I urge you my friends to open your eyes, open your hearts as well and look for the tiny things in life whether it is for their beauty, their odor, the sheer magnificence of their existence because everything in life offers us hope. Of course, when we are not well, we are low on energy, hope and faith but when we meet life half way and get off that couch, sit up in bed or move from the bed to the front porch, clean up, read something inspiring, call a friend who needs encouragement or just change something in your life, it helps.
If we can concentrate on the tiny things, tiny acts, tiny objects, the bigger challenges in life will fall into place much more easily. We often look down that long road ahead as if we can change what will be but can we really? That’s when we have to have faith; faith in ourselves, in the future or faith in a higher being of your own hearts choosing. Tiny puffs of hope are everywhere but only if you take the time, energy and interest to see them. Enrich your lives my dears, enrich your lives one moment at a time.