In June of 2017 I blogged about a new personal mantra, The Little Things Are the Big Things. At that time I was thinking about it against a backdrop of Big Things: graduations, weddings, births, and other milestones.
But this summer is rougher. This summer I am working harder to maintain my smile. So when I sit and muse on things that make me happy in the short term–things I could classify in my bullet journal under self-care–I come up with a new list of Little Things that I am trying to maximize or cultivate in my life.
The first thing is MORNINGS. My life runs on an academic calendar, so during the summer I am tempted to sleep in. For the first couple weeks I did pretty regularly, and it felt incredibly indulgent. Sleeping in definitely belongs on my list of Little Things that make me happy. But even more than sleeping in, I cherish the mornings I wake up but don’t have to go anywhere right away. These mornings I can make coffee and sit on my back patio. Something about a quiet, cool morning is even more restorative to me than extra sleep. My inner five year old still prefers waking to sleep; I don’t want to waste my time sleeping. But my inner octogenarian values the space and stillness and light and doesn’t need to play.
The next thing is BOOKS. During the school year I read a lot, but it’s mostly texts for class, research, and email correspondence. I choose my books well, so I enjoy a lot of this, but email correspondence is rarely soul-stirring. In the summer I can read poetry with abandon, read novels I store up all year, sink in to non-fiction and learn something completely different. I do more internet reading than I ever plan to, but I also find something wonderful and unexpected every summer. In truth, I didn’t even get to the novels I put aside this year. I found more books and articles and comics serendipitously and read what I stumbled across instead. Maybe next summer.
DRINKS. During the school year, coffee is consumed like a vitamin. In the summer it gets to be an event. And I seriously had multiple tea parties this summer. I drove my kids to Camarillo for a formal one, but we also just had several times where a pot of tea was a focal point and everyone sat and enjoyed it together. I found myself chatting with friends and welcoming a new colleague with wine several times over the long, hot days, and my partner has started brewing his own beer, so home-brewed milk stout was a new delight. I did not see that coming, but he’s having so much fun and being so adorably industrious, everything about it is a small, good thing.
Lastly, which should be first, no doubt—PEOPLE. The generosity of friends and strangers never ceases to amaze me. People have sent me links and stories, jokes and support on social media. One of my favorite things about social media is how easy it is to be generous and thoughtful. How many more birthday wishes do we get now, for instance? And that’s just one aspect. Literally as I’m writing this, a friend recommended that I follow a favorite nature photographer. She thought of me and reached out, and on the one hand it’s a very little thing, but on the other it is not at all; someone I admire thinks fondly of me and knows me well enough to recognize something will give me lots of little moments of joy. That’s huge, actually.
Virtually-transmitted generosity (shall we call it e-generosity?) aside, I have also been the recipient of much very practical, physical goodness this summer. Sometimes it’s a small business operator adding a bonus to my purchase (I’m thinking of a lovely artist whose work I’ve bought before, and who this time included an extra piece for free). Sometimes it’s the really random fact that three separate women from quite different places in my life all gave me a big supply of cardstock. My hobby is papercrafting, and for no good reason at all, within a month I got so much raw material, I am thunderstruck—glimmery cardstock, colored cardstock, some scored, and envelopes of all sizes–all freely given to me with the hopes I could put it to use. I will. I promise.
All of this is to say that I feel very lucky, very fortunate, very blessed—however you conceive of that emotion. At a time when I’m deeply discouraged by the greed of institutions and people in power, countless individuals are working non-stop, like little unpaid elves, conspiring to bolster my faith in the magnanimity of my fellow humans.
There are many more examples, even from this summer, but I’ll stop there and invite you to take stock of the gestures of good will you have been shown this summer. May they be many. May they lift you up and lighten your load, and reveal themselves to be Big Things in Disguise.