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Every Tiny Thing

We watched a delicate, green hummingbird drinking from our new red feeder last week. It’s our second feeder, because no one visited the first one, which wasn’t nearly as ornate as this one. We saw it as a victory in a time when there seem to be few. On some days, the sameness of the routine and the view out my home office window blend together with everything else, and it’s hard to find something that stands out. In the background, the clamor of catastrophe, real or imagined, is impossible to ignore. The problems, whether in my virtual workplace, in the details of slogging through the pandemic, or in the constancy of cultural racism and violence, feel overwhelming. But if I grasp that as my overriding theme, it makes it tough to keep moving forward.

So, I’m reminding myself to pay attention to the even the smallest good things. On Tuesday, Remy graduated from puppy training (or third grade, as we’ve been calling it). It was totally silly on one level, but when I really thought about it, it was awesome. He’s so much more responsive now when we’re trying to get him to pay attention to us, and ultimately this will make him a better and happier dog. In the bigger picture, it’s no big deal, but the bigger picture is exhausting me.

Let’s find grace now in moments like this—and let’s reach out and remind each other that we’re doing this together.

It’s been one of those weeks filled with angst at work, scary situations for people I know in the real world, and just the basic ennui of trying to make life in the pandemic seem normal. Some days, I struggle to pull myself out of the mood that all of that creates, and it feeds on itself. The more frustration I feel, the harder it is to see the world around me in a positive light. And the grumblier I get, the harder it is to rise above it with grace. No amount of telling myself to “look on the bright side” can help. But I’ve discovered that if I take a minute to look at a particularly beautiful photo on Instagram—like a shot of Paris in the spring—or even a silly video of a dog—it kind of softens things. I usually get the same result if I listen to a song I love, like Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” or Steely Dan’s “Hey, Nineteen.” I don’t even have to hear the whole song; it’s just a momentary act that can change the tone of my day and remind me of something that brings me peace. When my head is a little quieter, I can meet the world with that same stillness, and things start to feel better.

It's hard to remember all of that, though, because I lose my perspective so frequently these days. On many mornings, everything seems equally heavy. I find myself getting riled up to the same level, whether it’s an annoying conversation or a real tragedy. I realized last week that it’s because I feel powerless, and frequently at the end of my rope. That sense of inadequacy tends to zap any resilience I might muster in slightly easier times. When we're all stressed, the required remedy—rising to the occasion, or just snapping out of it—seems enormous.

It helps to occasionally rest my gaze on the tiny things. It feels like what we might all need right now—a more regular appreciation of those small moments that remind us that we're okay. I find myself checking in more with my favorite people, relishing a bowl of popcorn, watching reruns of shows that make me happy. Maybe the phrase “unprecedented times” has lost its true meaning, but we will not soon forget what it was like to live in such isolation, frustration, and complication. So we do what we do to bring ourselves some joy.

Today, I stopped making coffee long enough to rub Nugget’s belly while she lolled on the kitchen floor. I didn’t have a meeting right away so I could afford the extra minutes, and it was well worth it. She loved it and so did I. Let’s find grace now in moments like this—and let’s reach out and remind each other that we’re doing this together.


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