Don’t Miss the Small Stuff

details strawberry“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.”
– Pema Chödrön

In the late 90s, there was a whole series of books based on the sentence, “Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff.” At the time, it was everywhere: on coffee mugs and t-shirts and bumper stickers and of course in all those books. I’ve never read a word in that series except that one sentence, but I think I get the sentiment. Chill, relax, don’t get worked up. Everything will work out. And I get that. As someone who has worried about everything from the weather to what to wear, and gotten her panties twisted about any number of inconsequential things, it is advice I appreciate.

But lately I’ve been reveling in the small stuff. Delighting in it. Being amazed by it. My breakfast of nuts and seeds and berries — every single one a little miracle vehicle of energy. The stone tiles around my bathroom sink – an intricate web of cream and brown shapes and with tiny pock marks I can barely feel. The way Bonnie Raitt plays her guitar on Love Has No Pride – a little flutter of notes that sounds like heartbreak feels. My hands – with callouses from yoga and burn marks from the stove and uneven nails that each have a personality of their own.

The deliciousness of noticing the details, the intricacies, all the small stuff is intoxicating. One might think it would turn into a nauseating navel-gazing fest. But instead of narrowing my perspective, being awake to details opens not just my eyes and ears but my mind. I see all the people, all the talents and energy and effort that made my bowl of breakfast possible. I appreciate my artisan husband who imagined, designed, and built our bathroom and our home. I recognize the practice and the passion that goes into Bonnie Raitt’s music. Instead of wanting them to be younger or softer, I have gratitude for my tattered hands and everything they allow me to do and feel.

Poet Robyn Sarah reminds us to “make much of something small” and how the noticing of one detail can lead us to another. It is a practice that feels like going from regular TV to high definition. Instead of moving through my hours in a fuzzy blur of sights and sounds, making much of something small heightens my senses and tunes me in more clearly. I notice the bright pink and red pattern on my friend’s shirt … and the tears in her eyes when she talks about her kind-hearted son. I can see that another friend had her hair highlighted … and that her face is drawn with sadness and worry. I hear the excitement in my partner’s voice as he talks about his project … and I see that he folded all my dance clothes into a neat, colorful pile. I feel the softness of my pants against my legs as I dance and I notice that I’m not standing tall as I do front kicks.

The practice of making much of something small, of paying real attention to the details is one of deepening intimacy. Our culture glorifies hyperbusy multi-taskers carrying bag-fulls of beeping devices. It’s a revolutionary act to take time to notice the small stuff. And it is where the juice is, where the wonder is, and where the connection is — with the world around us and with ourselves. It’s what makes the difference between coping and managing and really living.

This week, we’ll be dancing the details. The details in the music, in the movements, and in sensation. Whether you’re with me in the studio or dancing through life, don’t miss the small stuff. There is magic in it.

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4 comments
  1. Jen Lucas said:

    Beautiful, Susan. The word that sums this up for me is AWAKE! You are awake to life, eyes wide open. Thanks for the beautiful description which is inspiration.

  2. YES, that’s it exactly. Awake and engaged…regardless of what is happening! Love that. xoxo

  3. Caroline said:

    Magnificent, Susan! Thank you for sharing your insights and opening the door to witness all the art and beauty that exists in every being (animate and inanimate). C=

    • YES! This is an aspect of living life as art, for sure. As I sit here right now, I can see the details of the picture my niece drew for me for mother’s day (oh my, you should see the boobs and hair she gave me!), the label on my kombucha bottle and the grain in the wood of my desk. All beautiful. Especially the boobs. xoxo S

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