Growing into small things

It’s good too be reminded that to live is to accept error and imperfection.

And yet even the famous “man in the arena” quote I like by Roosevelt has entirely too many big words. All that striving…and valiantly! All that great enthusiasm and devotion. The worthy cause. The triumph of high achievement. The daring greatly!

Dear godz, who lives up to all that?

Sometimes the big words become oppressive expectations, which is rather ironic in the context of trying to avoid and discourage perfectionism or self-criticism.

I don’t know about you, but the valiant strivings I can boast about on most days are rather repetitive and modest. Yes, there is passion and devotion in my life, but really, how much consistently grand enthusiasm can anyone muster on a daily basis towards such things as grocery management, cleaning, bills, and other assorted amusements for the gazillionth time in a row?

And yes, there are achievements, but they don’t  quite involve triumphant marches or parades. The victories I notice in my personal life involve preparing a meal that was thoroughly enjoyed, ending up with one empty laundry basket out of three, sharing some laughs and even managing a funky outfit on a grumpy day.

As for daring greatly, well, it sounds rather comical. Often, my domestic feats of courage involve things like writing when I think I can not, applying black nail polish in two coats, and making a proper sauce for dinner when I’m too tired to remember which child likes capers and which one dislikes mushrooms.

And now I’m thinking…“My god, can my life be this simple and…and little?”

Seriously, where is the epic stuff? Where is the part where you and I and so many others get rich and famous and save the world?

I used to really like big words that inspire and make souls soar. They seemed to me like the eagles in the LoTR and Hobbit films who come to save the day.

Yet looking over the years of work, study, parenting, friendships, and everything else in between, I see the magic of little things. All the big words in the quote I mentioned actually refer to small things of great value.

What matters to me most are not the conventional victories that get put on resumes, framed on walls or deposited in the bank. I find myself forgetting about the big accounts, the mountains of well-organized paper work, the awards, the diplomas…even the times when my kids made honor roll or won something in school.

What I never forget are notes from clients happy with a beautiful trip or great product. Or the smile on our doorman’s face in my Manhattan office building on the day he became a father. Or the way any one of our rescued animals first came to cuddle, with a sigh of relief, in a safe bed. Or my little boy’s hands wrapped around my neck. Or the way my older son’s toes wiggled in his tiny sandals when he was a toddler. Or the way it feels when you discover a photo you are going to create. Or the way you witness a bunch of feelings growing into words late at night, while the dogs sleep and you have a craving for rice cakes of all things.

It is good. And so necessary. To be inspired and reminded that to live is to accept error and imperfection. Instead of being dwarfed by too many big words (even nice ones), I think it’s so much better to grow into small things.

Because really, this is where the magic happens.

I still like Roosevelt’s quote, but these days I would choose something softer. Mother Theresa’s words come to mind…“be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies.”

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