Tiny Beautiful Things

IMG_5959“Something really good is going to happen tomorrow,” he told me. And I believed it, because whenever we sensed the epic en route, it often arrived at the doorstep. So we waited. Went about our days. The gardens. Dinner with friends. The laundry and gardens and stuff of a random weekend in May. And at midnight the following day, the email came: subject line, “oh well, nothing much.” And I sighed an ‘oh well,’ too, and wondered when something would indeed ‘happen.’ Because it always did.

But then I remembered. Something good had in fact occurred. My left hand had been crushed in the car door the night before, and I had walked away unscathed. A tiny miracle that I could squeeze my hand into a little ball, and move my fingers across the piano. Everything had turned out well. Really well, in fact.

When I told my friend this story, he relayed how something amazing actually had happened in his realm too. That very day, he said, a relative had narrowly avoided catastrophe on the highway. “A miraculous escape,” he said.

So why hadn’t either one of us registered these events as the answer to his “good” premonition?  Why had we raced past these events, these everyday small miracles?  And I began to wonder, why don’t we register all the ‘stuff’ in the foggy ground of the ‘middle’ – between the polarities of really good and horribly bad?

Seems too often we move through our days waiting for experiences akin to boldfaced punctuation marks. Those events marking the timelines of our lives with a big red Sharpie: landing the new job; meeting the girl; hearing a loved one has cancer.

We love to bookend our stories – telling one another the tales of how these big things began and ended. But what about all the scenes and nuance and tales in-between?

What possibilities for happiness are passing by our radars, if all we are listening for are the loudest, most overt signals?

Waiting for the “big,” we become ambivalent to the beauty in our everyday. The graceful arc of an amused eyebrow, or the slipping of your toe into a tub. The smell of an apple cake baking in the kitchen. Or the sound of a song and the memory it brings of an old lover.

It’s like we are holding our breath, eyes shut to the inspiration of all that we have right now. And we forget to hold in wonderment that which we would miss the most if it were gone. Things like the memory of when your eyes first met and you knew something was destiny. Or when your baby smiles back at you for the first time. Those things we take so much for granted – that your legs can bend and move and carry you wherever you wish. That you are graced with the gift of speech, and sight, and that your ears allow you to listen and reflect and hold one another’s worries and fears and dreams and hopes.

I’ve had more days than I’d care to admit, too preoccupied to notice all that is truly with me. Consumed with worry about where the next paycheck will come from. Fears about my health. Or anxiety that loved ones will someday leave me. Letting the day’s gifts slip away unnoticed.

And I wonder how different life would feel if we really paid attention to the smallest things. Witnessing what unfolds in every tiny moment – the beauty, the suffering, the bliss, the connections.

Last April I’d been taking care of a nasty wound on my ankle. It was truly a punctuation mark – hitting hard when the surgeon told me she couldn’t stitch the wound shut, and that it would have to “heal on its own” for the next 8 weeks.

In pain, and off my feet.  Stuck, scared, and distracted, hoping for my own version of something good – not knowing what to expect or how and even if, this wound would heal. Wanting with all my heart to see the finish line. The end – back on my feet running fast and hard.

But sometimes – often, actually – it’s just not that simple. And you realize you have no choice but be in the moment, witnessing some beautiful miracle called healing. When you lean into that, you are given the gift. You come to grasp that healing moves forward in microscopically small steps. That it’s an open-ended journey. And it can only be measured in the tiniest of steps.  You wake up to a pure understanding that when you are afraid, and wounded, and trying to heal; that on a lot of those days, all that matters is knowing you are moving in the direction of good.

So today, amid hoping for bookends and exclamation points, look for what’s simple and profound. How the leaves dance with the wind outside the window. How the sky gifts us with its crimson sunsets. Things as ordinarily extraordinary as the skin on your body, and the blinking of an eye. A tiny feather in the sand, and the soft sheets covering you as you sleep.

Perhaps I can reframe how I experience the pains I’ve suffered – wounds from the past that are now beautiful scars – and make them gentle reminders that hearts still beat and bodies heal.

And see how every moment is both simple and profound. Mysterious and revealing. Tiny and beautiful.

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