Tag Archive: Mindfulness

Little things


Small miracles are everywhere. They’re in the way the dogs dance when they go outside in early spring, their noses waking up to a thousand little mysteries. Or the way the cardinal in the bush outside my window just a few minutes ago bobbed and weaved in exact time to the song I was listening to, and then flew away exactly when it ended.

Small miracles. Little things. You can see them every day if you’re looking. Of course, I’m the kind of weirdo who you’ll see staring at the sidewalk after the rain stops, moving worms out of the hot sun before it’s too late. I like to watch ants celebrating an upcoming feast of cookie crumbs while working together. Little things. Except, of course, to the ants and the worms. Notice someone, and you have given them a gift. It may be the best thing they’ve received in a long time.

Lately more and more I’ve been noticing things that are usually reserved for people on acid trips. Maybe it’s from being in the dark so much, or maybe watching too much Dog Whisperer… Anyway, the exchanges of energy between people, well, creatures, are visceral but visual things. Just like anger, joy is catching. You can watch it flow. If someone is willing to meet your eyes, try smiling just a tiny bit, and you can see them lift up. You did that.

The effect of a smile can start in one part of the world and travel most anywhere. Small kindnesses are the things you remember and carry with you, so what makes you think nobody else notices? The cashier who was admiring my hair color the other day was amazed when I told her how lovely her highlights were (mostly grey and silver, nice highlights!). I could tell it was the first compliment she’d heard in a long time. It cost me nothing. In fact, it made me richer. I was having some real problems that day, and by some small miracle, my load was lightened by passing along a tiny bit of joy. And then she turned to the next person in the very long line with a smile on her face.

Mother Teresa said “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless”. I don’t even think you need words. I truly think just meeting someone where they stand, noticing them, smiling… I think that echoes too. So here’s to starting with the little things…


The good fight


So big and bitey.

Life starts out pretty simple for most of us. Eat, poop, interact. You spend a lot of time making sense of simple things like facial expressions and how your toys work. You learn to ask for help in ways most adults would never even think to try.

But eventually, for most of us, problems turn into Hydras. As soon as you solve one problem, three newer, more complicated ones pop up. This is how small things become large. So you spend your life wielding a sword, fighting the good fight, slaying and creating monsters. They don’t usually attack you all at once, and sometimes everything goes tame for a while. Life becomes simple again. But smart people have learned to keep their guards up somewhat. These are still wild creatures after all, who could go feral at any moment.

From time to time I get exhausted. Just very, very tired of fighting off a few Hydra heads at a time while hundreds more snap at me. I’m tired of knowing that any one of them could break me in half if I’m not careful. Getting tired happens. But getting so tired you just stop trying to even imagine you could win, that’s depression. You just let go, and let the mouths bite at you, and you don’t fight back. You don’t wait for a champion or try to negotiate. You need a rest.

I think genuinely happy people, and I’ve had the immense pleasure of knowing a few, would be surprised that I see a Hydra where they say they see beauty. I’ve had glimpses of that viewpoint, and I long for it, when I remember that it exists at all. Then I dutifully remind myself how lucky I am to be here, and I spread that message around. I tell people let yourself just feel the wonder of the breeze on your skin, just feel the sun, or the rain welcoming you to your home planet. Happiness isn’t feeling larger than everyone else, it’s delighting in the wonder of being an infinitesimally small part of something so large and amazing that our words fail us entirely. I’ve held that happiness in my hand before, but it’s a wild creature too, and it escapes me.

So yes, I get exhausted. And then I either rest or become so physically sick I have to stop doing most everything and concentrate on just staying alive. I have to  convince myself, even though of course I’ve always known it’s true, that life is worth the effort. This can take awhile because I’m thick. I just don’t know how to let go of the fight without giving up, how to see that my Hydra is just another creature like myself, a tiny little thing living in an incomprehensibly vast wonderland. Problems that want to swallow you whole are only able to do that if they can trick you into thinking they are huge. I’d like to learn how to put down the sword and walk on into the world with my problems, side by side. For now though, I just need a rest.

Being soft.

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut

I think Vonnegut is badass. He’s always had this tough guy ‘tude, and writes fearlessly. His stories stay with me, most for decades. And then there’s this quote, which feels like the boiled-down-to-purity essence of the struggles I’ve had everywhere lately. I’ve been growing bitter, something far from my true nature. I’ve let the bastards get me down, again, only this time it’s been more than just a peaceful dark withdrawal into self defeat. I’ve hated other people this time, sometimes just for taking up space, or more often for spewing hate themselves.

But I want this beauty, and the softness that is the hardest damn thing sometimes. It used to define me, it’s been used against me, but it’s who I need to be, somehow, again. I think this may be the real challenge of my lifetime, my measure of success. If Anne Frank could still believe in the basic goodness of human beings after being hunted and hated by so many, who the hell am I to write people off?

Still, my inner cynic is swearing about asshats right now, and she has a point too. Some people suck. Some people delight in creating chaos all around them. Some are just lost in ugliness.

But I don’t want to be one of those. I want to be part of that thing that Anne Frank saw in us, that Vonnegut sees in the beauty of the world. I want to follow my own advice, given often, to step outside and feel the air on my skin and feel the wonder of the world and of life and of creation, however it got created, because please, that’s not the point for me. The point is, just breathe, and be soft.

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