This morning a glint of rays filter through our blinds. I begin my day in usual fashion. My feet hit the floor as I grab my phone to check the time and make my way to the bathroom sink, where I brush my teeth. It is summer in the desert and as my daughter hurls toward double-digits, she’s learned to appreciate the slow cadence of mornings where school isn’t a pressing urge. She is sleeping, huddled next to her purple blanket, that she affectionately refers to as “cuddly.” I watch her as she sleeps and her look of innocence resonates in a way that I can only describe as holy. My head bends down toward her and I plant a kiss on her cheek. There is still no movement from her and my fingers move toward her shoulders, trying to nudge her to open her eyes and start her day. Some mornings her greeting is a smile, but other days there is a small groan and the request, “Can I sleep for five more minutes, Momma?” I usually give in and let her settle into a few more minutes of uninterrupted sleep.
The day eventually begins and today, in particular, I am writing at a small table in the corner of a room, while my daughter is practicing backhands and forehands at tennis camp. My mind reflects on the moments I witnessed in the morning and the seconds that tick away as I write these words. A question starts needling me in my ribs, as abrupt as the woodpecker pecking outside in the morning hours. It is a call to reflect. I pause and realize the smallness of my life. Most days the decisions and actions that percolate through my seconds flitter away into the ether, with rare moments when a few words might influence those that I love the most. Even that perceived influence is speculation because I can never be certain how my thoughts land in another. What I do and who I am will likely never make a global impact or universal change. Very few of us get that privilege. But then what?
Is living a small life enough? I intersected with an article that my writer friend, Christie, shared on her Facebook feed. David Brooks wrote a piece in the New York Times titled the The Small, Happy Life, in which he asked readers to send in essays outlining the purpose of their life and how they discovered it. He says that he expected that most people would respond by detailing the “big” accomplishments in their life reflected in our high-achieving culture. What he found interesting is that most people equated their greatest achievements in pursuing a small, happy life.
In my twenties, I fell backward hoping that my pursuit of a legal degree would brace my fall. What happened next, surprised me; I expected that working as an attorney and achieving some success would fulfill in a big way. After several years, I realized that pursuing this particular profession left me hollow and unhappy. My “big” achievement didn’t resonate the way I envisioned.
I thought about Brooks article and the backdrop of my experience. One particular quote from Terence J. Tollaksen impacted my thinking – “His purpose became clearer once he begin to recognize the decision trap – This trap is an amazingly consistent phenomena whereby big decisions turn out to have much less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.”
This rang as an epiphany because it cements my belief that the ordinary is where we do our work – making lunches, listening to a friend, buying groceries, chauffeuring our children to school, sharing an unexpected moment of laughter with our family, sprinkling a compliment on a friend and sitting in the middle of a room, writing a post that offers an ode to the ordinary.
The sun hits us again as we race to the car to escape the heat. My daughter offers a half-smile as I give her cold ice water, as she slides into the car. After a single gulp, she says, “Thanks, Momma.”
Pursuing a small life.
Image: The last shaft of sunlight by Saïda Hächler via Flickr.