The small things… the smell of freshly brewed coffee, a bath with candles, a sunset, a smile from a stranger, a belly laugh with friends, a hot day and submerging yourself in the ocean, kicking your shoes off and walking bare feet on grass, that feeling when you wake up and realise that you don’t have to go to work and can just lie there…
I recently saw a fox in the lane by our house and pointed this out with great enthusiasm to my big (tall) younger sister. She looked at me like an over-excited child and replied, “I see foxes all the time in London”. Oh.
Isn’t this what we all do to some extent as an adult; once we’ve seen/experienced things once or twice we often stop seeing the wonder in it, take it as just another thing or get bored? This wasn’t always the case; you’ve only got to see a child and how much fun they can have with the wrapping that came off that really expensive present that you bought them, that’s now lying lonely and disregarded on the floor.
How often do you pause long enough to notice the small pleasures in your life? Think back to your breakfast this morning, can you remember what you ate, what it tasted like, what the texture of it was in your mouth? Or was it a rushed stuff-it-in-your-mouth and run out of the door, hurry-hurrying to get somewhere?
Partly this is an evolutionary design; we have non-conscious learning systems in the brain so that we learn, through repetition, how to do everyday tasks without having to re-learn them every time. It is also true that in the West because we are using up so much “mental” energy maintaining our sense of being an individual, our ego structure has become so strong that we are predominantly in our heads, meaning the brain needs to use a ‘de-sensitising mechanism’ to tune down our perception of the outer world so we have more energy for our mental processes (1). Yet if we become too desensitized we lose our connection to magic of life. Life can then feel boring, repetitive and mundane; for some, it can feel meaningless.
Being ‘busy’ (thinking about how much you have to do, running around looking busy, putting on 6 different social media sites about how busy you are, running yourself ragged over the things that you absolutely must do, using up 30 minutes of your day telling 10 people how busy you are) is a great inventive way to not only avoid the small things in your life, but also the BIG questions like: do I like myself? Am I happy doing what I’m doing? Is my life meaningful or I am just running from A-B being busy because that’s easier?
I was also Miss Busy. I lived on a frantic diet of over-thinking, coffee, sugar and back to back lists of tasks and socialising, and spent a large chunk of my time hung-over or planning when I would next be hung-over. It comes as no surprise then that I used to periodically get very ill. I’d start with a cold and end up with flu for 4 weeks. I once got post fatigue syndrome for 8 weeks which took another further 6 months to fully recover. Even now when I get too overloaded I still get those symptoms. To wear yourself out to such an extent seems insanity, cruelty even, yet people do it, every day. Misery is a wonderful motivator. It can motivate us to think up all sorts of wonderful creations to avoid those horrible feelings of emptiness in-the-pit- of-your-stomach: over working, drugs, gambling, over exercising, over eating, under eating, alcohol, over socialising, over analysing, cleaning, web surfing, shopping for things you don’t need, spending, relationships, planning for the ‘future’, filling your diary so much that there are no spaces in it to breathe let alone think… When we need to feel full up, just about anything will do, even if it’s just for that brief second and then we go back to feel empty and ashamed. So we need to do it all over again, until… we crash.
Not much of a life, giving yourself a battering on a regular basis is it. Misery is also a motivator for change. This is often where I see clients; when they are so fed up with how they are living their lives but they aren’t sure how to change. They need someone to accompany them through, to open up a few more options. But how many of us are that brave? How many of us just keep going on living a life of busy-ness because it feels too hard to admit what we are doing isn’t working?
The last time I got really sick, I made a pact with myself. I just wasn’t going to go on like that, I was going to take care of myself and listen to my body. Whatever would come up as a result of the silence, I would deal with. It had to be better than living like a stressed out, half dead zombie all the time. And guess what? My life is so much better. I do less and yet my life feels fuller than ever. I not only get to address the big things in my life, I also get to notice and appreciate all the small things that I was too busy being busy to notice before.
So, ask yourself: what would happen if I gave myself permission to just slow down a bit, if I opened up a bit of space in my diary to just be, if I let myself have the space to look around and see all the small things in my life? What if you gave yourself permission to have the time to ask myself the big questions, even if you didn’t like what I see?
Life’s short, we don’t know what is around the corner, but we do have now and you can do a lot with now. Examining who you are and what you want is never as hard and exhausting as avoiding it and what it does give us is a choice to choose a life that’s worthy of living.
1. S. Taylor. Waking up from Sleep. Why awakening experiences occur and how to make them permanent. Hay House: London (2010)