There’s some pretty common advice you hear about the place: “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. Over the last week or so, I’ve been thinking it’s bad advice. The “small stuff” is where I’m finding the moments of my life lived. Lighting candles in the middle of the day pulls me out of the endless drudge of kitchen work and reminds me that this is me, here and now, in my one wild, precious life. A tiny round vase for 3.99 and an off-centre hole contains the wildflowers one of my sons occasionally gathers. I like looking at it the windowsill as I peel vegetables. Clearing the area around the fruit bowl of clutter, and adding in some nightlights has changed my perception of the whole room. (A little). And cleaning the powder drawer of the washing machine has made the process of putting on a load of clothes feel a little less grinding.
The Devil is in the detail. Have I heard “God is in the details” too? I’m not sure. Every adage has an equal and opposite adage, so that all things are wisely known to be true, and every situation can evoke an “I told you so” from the universe.
I guess there’s an argument to be made that if these things are having such an impact on my quality of life, then they are not small things, that the “big things” in life are self-determined based on your values. All the same, it’s hard to argue in favour of spending time scrubbing power out of the drawer of the washing machine when you need to be out the door and in work in 10 minutes, during which time you need to pack lunches, brush hair, use the bathroom and fling on a load of washing so that it can be hung later in the day.
Perhaps the value and small sparks of bliss I’m finding in these small things lies in their very superfluous nature; I can only take the time for them when I have time. And, despite the fact that it’s Summer Holidays ™ with infinite time (seriously, how did I get to be 5/12ths of the way through already!) I feel overwhelmed when I think of all the things I’d like to get done vs what I actually have time to do. So, taking the time – claiming my time – lighting candles, decluttering an unimportant corner, placing something pretty on a surface, all feels blessedly indulgent.
It’s funny how time works. I would often say that I “don’t have the time” to do things. Like, during heavy schoolwork days, I’ll feel I don’t have time to draw, read, cook more than 3 times a week. But that’s not really true, or it’s not really what I mean. I am not saying that it’s possible for me to squeeze more into my school-time days than I already do (although, maybe there’s a little bit of squeezable room), but the time is actually there.
What’s missing is the energy.
I guess if I had more time, then I’d have more recuperation time between tasks as well. I’d have the opportunity to get a second wind and indulge the other parts of me in the evenings. Once the evenings start to turn Autumnal and draw in slightly, the kids should be sleeping by 8pm, and then that time is mine. But usually by even 6:30 I have gone. The part of me that feels motivated and excited about life and filled with plans and projects has usually left the building by the time dinner is finished. I’m checking out of a huge percentage of my life. Sure, I’m not drinking it away anymore, but I haven’t really fixed that soma-seeking impulse in my brain.
It’s better now that it’s Summer and there’s all this breathing space around. You see, I think one of the things that happens during school-time is that some manager part declares “If you have energy, then what you should be doing is X, Y, Z [mundane boring household or schooltask]”. And so I switch off, and don’t even spend the time getting useful sleep so that I might have enough energy the next day. Oh I lie to myself that I’m heading to bed to rest and sleep, but 11pm rolls around and I’m still reading articles on the Internet, trawling for likes and ego-pings on Facebook, and/or absorbing the creative television endeavours of others.
And meanwhile 3 hours – 12.5% of my day – nearly 20% of my waking hours – have been squandered on nothing. The time rolls on, and the unaddressed mundane tasks become urgent enough that I force myself to do them, and I ignore all the unfulfilled stuff inside me. I ignore all the small stuff.