Monday, November 28, 2011

LITTLE, NOT BIG


Tiny things have come to make life worthwhile for me. I remember napping on a hillside during a break at a retreat. When I woke up, my cheek was imprinted by the grass and an acorn and overhead were the best kind of clouds hanging in a Montana-blue sky. All quite wonderful enough, yet it was the chipmunk four feet away that capped it for me. He froze when he saw my eyes open, but after just a few seconds, went on stuffing seeds into his mouth. Great creature I, had the wonder of a peek into his universe.

Once my husband and I found ourselves at an entirely different movie from what we had thought was playing. It was at an aging cinema house and a film history buff had pasted together dance scene clips from dozens of old films.  The dance community obviously knew about it because we were surrounded by hoofers of all ages in the long line outside the theater.  They were tapping on the sidewalk as the queue moved forward and they tapped sitting in their theater seats too.  Some of them got out in the aisle and danced with a scene as it went by. There was joy, joy everywhere in that theater that night and the pure serendipity of the encounter makes me recall it as one of the highlights of my life, though I'm no dancer and never have been.

Serendipity and sun have a lot to do with happy times for me. I can drive down the street on an ordinary day and see the the fall leaves illuminated, or look out my window and watch the sun tease a bunch of weeds in the wild area under the bird feeder and joy will arrive: unannounced, unanticipated, un-asked for and in my younger days, I would have added, undeserved.

But you won't hear me say that any more. The ability to feel happiness is both a gift and a learned skill. I myself was born happy and I lost it and had to find my way back. I've spent a lot of decades on that journey and nothing--not age, not misfortune, not MS--will ever again make me think I don't deserve joy or keep me from finding it.  I swear to you, all I had to do was look for little pleasures instead of great, dramatic events and it came back to me.

I was addicted to the Big much of my adult life: big dreams, big gatherings, big drama in relationships.  Everyday life was just boring, it was something to get through until the next xxxxxx came along. I lived for excitement and if a person doesn't care if it is positive or negative, just so it's significant ... well, as you can imagine, there is plenty of that to go around.

Of course I crashed eventually and then there was no Big, not even the hope of Big. There was only slogging through grey days and TV nights. The chipmunk was the beginning of the change. It was the first time in a long time that I had remembered Little. I was stopped for a weekend, there was no running, not even trudging, only being at that retreat and time for a nap on a hill.

I don't think I had to deserve it; I don't even think I had to work for it; I just think I had to want it and be willing to be open minded about what it might look like. I've paid my dues in the unhappy department so it's irrelevant to me that my happy days also encompass a chronic illness. Just lucky for me that life contains a million little wonders; they never run out.

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