It’s The Little Things

ceramic frog carrying and dropping books and papaers
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

What are the things that get to you? For me, it’s the little things. But it’s also little things that can get me back where I need to be.

I’m one of those who, when faced with an emergency, tends to think calmly and logically, not reacting emotionally until everything is done and it’s “safe” to break down. But I let the little things, often unseen and unrecognized, eat away at me.

Let’s take time management as an example. As much as I like to blame my time chaos on interruptions from my husband, or phone, or such, it’s the little things I let in that derail me. I sit down to my computer to write a post and realize I’m thirsty, and I’ve forgotten a bottle of water or cup of tea. While in the kitchen, I might see something to snack on. But that’s junk food. I start searching for something healthier, like fresh fruit or vegetables. I settle on something, but it’s too messy to eat at my keyboard. So, I sit at the table to eat and start reading on my phone or tablet at the same time.

Soon, an hour — or two, or three — has flown by, and I still haven’t written a post. Or done the dishes or whatever task it was I set out to accomplish. Little things that grow and multiply and take over without my even noticing.

I’m not entirely sure why I do this. Part is simple procrastination. Part is behavior I learned from my mom. Part is issues with self-discipline. Part is rooted in old fears of not being good enough. It would be easy to pick one of those and say, “That’s it!” but like most things in life, it’s complicated.

“If you want something badly enough,” some coaches say, “you’ll find a way to do it.” Maybe. I don’t think that necessarily applies if you’ve always been told your ideas, wants, or desires don’t count.

I’ve been trying to get a schedule figured out that I can follow to accomplish some goals. I have yet to get past 1 pm without having to toss it. I may be one of those for whom schedules don’t work, but a task list might. I do know that I’ve been borrowing a lot of anxiety with this struggle. Things like:

  • What if I just get in the habit and have to toss it, because I get a job?
  • What if there isn’t enough time in the day?
  • What if, what if, what if?

Before I realize it, the What Ifs have taken over, little things that may never even exist but in my anxious mind.

simk full of dirty pots and pans
How long do you let them pile up? Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

Then there are the little things involving other people. Anyone who has ever shared quarters with a spouse or roommate or even family knows what I mean.

Night owls versus morning larks. Dishes in the sink versus in the dishwasher. I had a housemate who would get upset because my shower took 12 minutes to her 10. And the people at work who drive you crazy because they talk on the phone with their mouth full. Or never clean up after themselves in the break room. I’m sure you can come up with your own list without much effort.

Perhaps it’s because some of the big things seem so out of reach that I let the little things take over. We’ve both been out of jobs for three or more months now, in an area with 13% unemployment. I’m prone to panic attacks over job hunts, so instead I spend my time fretting over the cost of groceries. When I do work on the job hunt, I’m exhausted with the whole process. OK, that’s not such a little thing, but I let the process intimidate me far beyond what it warrants.

This is why I find it so important to find beauty and Grace in little things as well.

A dandelion that blooms out of a cracked sidewalk. The black-widow spider under my grill, her sleek black legs and red spot beautiful despite her deadly ways. Cheerful waves from masked neighbors working in their yards as I walk my dog. A boy of four or five running alongside his jogging mom, pointing out every new tree or dog or whatever catches his fancy as they go down the street.

Close-up photo of a feather with raindrops on it in wet grass
A little beauty. Photo © Marty Schafer, 2017

These are the little things that can help pull the others into perspective and into their proper place. I get so caught up in what might happen that I forget to stop, see, and enjoy what is happening today. Right now. Like my husband’s smile as he hands me my favorite ice cream bar from his trip to the convenience store as I type this.

In the past I’ve considered these as little Graces — yes, sips of Grace by the cup — but I wonder now if I discounted them too much. I suspect it is these mustard seed-sized Graces that grow our understanding of the Grace of God that touches each one of us and all of the universe. I want to focus on these little things instead of the others. How about you?

Grace, Peace and Hugs to you!

2 thoughts on “It’s The Little Things”

  1. Hi Marty, first a note about little things, plus and minus.

    First, on the minuses, I’ve come through some pretty big things basically unscathed so it is perhaps easier for me than for most to put things in perspective. Now I didn’t realize that about me until someone else said some things. I had hit a deer in the middle of nowhere at night, the car wasn’t drive-able (flat tire, radiator wrapped around engine, cracked battery, and more), no cell service, the pay phone booth I spotted nearby was empty, etc. I pulled off the plastic parts sticking in my tire, got the car out of the road, had dinner, and went to sleep early in the back of the car. Mañana would be fine. “My” deer and smashed up car were the talk of the Smiley Creek Lodge the next morning during really good blueberry pancakes. The waitress asked “first deer?” (yes), welcomed me to a real Idaho experience and loaned me the lodge phone to call AAA. And kept bringing me blueberry pancakes until the tow truck arrived an hour later. Insurance paid for the damage, the Hailey airport had rental cars, and I continued my trip. Dave, my SO, talking about the trip later was astounded. You weren’t upset? It didn’t ruin the trip? You are going back on that same road again? That is when I realized I look at things differently, basically low stress.

    On top of that, I’m retired, I have adequate funds, and I have a significant other who lets me be. In other words I have flexibility to avoid much stuff I don’t like. Stupid freeway drivers? Take a different road or time. Distracting church service next door outdoor due to pandemic? Move to a different room or have lunch out. In the rare times I really do have to (for example) drive to San Francisco during rush hour, I can laugh and shake my head for those poor souls who have to do this every day. And I’m happy my church neighbor is being responsible with their drive-in services.

    For the positives, I guess I get more than my share of joy from almost anything. A stranger smiles at me. Lizards hang out on my wheelchair ramp. Quail family evicted from their usual area by visiting turkeys moves to right by the front door, then scolds me. Two cats, well, cats are always good for a chuckle no matter how bad I think they are behaving. (Visitors invariably think I have “such nice cats, and so well behaved!” Right …) Sometimes I can see the Milky Way from my driveway. And if not, I can always find it on a trip.

    It is fun to cause the little positives. For example, I recently got some more masks, one is all turquoise sequins. Now who wears sequins? With oversized T-shirt and cargo shorts? But I was showing off the mask to some Sacramento friends and ran them on a WalMart errand. Boy was I given a lot of smiles and thumbs up. I wear that mask a lot since then.

    You asked for working through roadblocks.

    First, many evaporate when you retire. Others fall away when you are old enough to figure out that is someone else’s priority, not mine. You dealt with that in a way in your post about letting someone else define you. Money, unfortunately, is a real shortcut. I don’t like filing and paperwork, I hire help, same for housework. But the biggest difference in my life is probably when I figured out at some point I just don’t care what most others think of me. You don’t like something I did? I’m sure I didn’t mean to hurt you as that isn’t who I am, but if you are going to hold the grudge, fine, not my problem, I’m going to watch the hummingbird try to guard his territory of both back yard and front. Those little pleasures take the edge off bigger hurts.

    I don’t know how or when I started believing for real that I am truly trying my best to be who I want to be and not caring if you agree, but life is sure easier this way. Quicker, too. Worrying about all that extraneous stuff is just like TV and Facebook, it leaches critical thinking from your brain and causes time (the hours and minutes kind) to shrink until there is nothing left for yourself.

    Time management has been a big deal throughout my life, I’ve always done stuff right before deadline, which is probably not the best quality. I used to use lists, one item per post-it note or 3×5 card, put them in order the night before and don’t look past the top of stack until done. Now I use todoist for projects and repeating chores (with one priority 1 item and no more than 3 priority 2) and a paper appointment book for dated items such as meetings, travel, and putting flea stuff on the cats. It works pretty well. Especially since later this week priority 1 is going to be rejiggering a camping trip that needs many changes, and paying bills doesn’t have to be any priority for another couple of weeks, and those are because I like it that way. Besides, I can always (and often do) move today’s priority 1 to tomorrow.

    Oh yes, I do not watch TV at all (including imitation TV like Amazon Prime), and facebook gets a timer set.

    My life isn’t perfect and I do make mistakes, but overall I am happier and more satisfied than I have ever been before.That is a comment I could probably truthfully have said for the last 30 or 40 or 50 years (I’m 69).


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