I have long held a theory that the appreciation of small things is invaluable to my state of mind. A bold statement perhaps, but not at all unfounded. By teaching myself to find something positive in every situation, to actively seek out the good, I can maintain a level of optimism even through tough times.
But more than that, I have found a confidence in myself I never knew was possible. I am able to let go of the things-that-might-not-be and concentrate my efforts more on the things that are or can be. Mostly...
In fact, it first dawned upon me just how important these small things were in a very dark time, when my dad was ill and I lived too far away to be useful on a daily basis. I had two under 3 year olds and was travelling the 200+ miles as often as I could, but they didn't understand where I was going and the stress of the situation was intense. I think perhaps what stopped me being utterly overwhelmed was indeed the appreciation of small things.
So I deliberately noticed the good in every day. The small things my children did that made me smile. The sanctuary of my garden. The way the light fell on the walls at a certain time of day...
Whether I would have begun this conscious thought process without a crisis of sorts I can never say.
Perhaps by reaching the lows, we are forced to focus on good things, however small, all the more?
One thing is certain, it has had such a positive impact on my life that I now actively seek those small moments. I have an inbuilt tendency to feel overwhelmed. Even during the big moments, I make time to notice the details because it helps me break down the overwhelm. And if you face the overwhelm from time to time, I thoroughly encourage you to do the same.
What has helped me most on this path is picking up my camera, determined to find something to photograph every day. However insignificant it may seem.
It is so easy to be swept along with the perceived expectations of a successful life, exaggerated all the more by the pressure of the 'perfect life' some folk might think they see on social media. In fact, we are all seeking a version of perfect in some way there, although to what end is infinitely variable. But I - as much as the next person - post a version of 'perfect'. Be it the best photograph or only the lovely locations, it is a heavily edited version of my reality and not at all the whole picture.
I'm sure it won’t be a great surprise to read that actually
my life is not perfect - & I'm OK with that
Nor (I suspect) are the lives of most other social media users. And if you ask me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with posting the best version of the best parts because escapism is also a valuable thing.
In fact, I would go one step further and say that this escapism for me is a big part of the appreciation of small things and one of the best things about social media. Because it regularly sparks a creative train of thought, whether I put that thought into action or not.
Perhaps, therefore, the appreciation of small things, escapism and creativity are somehow entwined?
Let me give you an example. I post a lot of wild flower photos. I have been photographing them for as long as I have been Instagramming and have no plans to stop. Because noticing the tiny flowers that others miss has become one of my favourite summer pastimes. And editing the photos I find entirely pleasurable. And posting the result is a pure escapist moment, because I can imagine the warmth of the sun and the sound of the skylarks as I am photographing them.
And behind the scenes, I remember how my youngest carefully selects a few flowers that she likes the look of, to hold while she tiptoes and skips through the field.
All small things on their own, but they make me feel good.
I am pretty sure most people drive straight past the meadow looking over it's long grass to the rolling hills and sea beyond. And there is nothing wrong with that either, becuase the view is lovely and it means I can keep my not-very-well kept secret a little longer after all...
As the words in the first photo say
"blessed are those who see beautiful tings in humble places where others see nothing"
I think Pissaro was on to something. His painters eye clearly trained to see beauty in the details.
We all face highs and lows in life. We mostly don't share them with the wider world - for 1001 reasons. I have kept plenty of things offline this last few years in particular.
What I do want to share is this. I have learned that by appreciating the small things, I am not necessarily waiting for better things to come along and can ride out the lows with a level of optimism in tact.
And I have stopped comparing my successes to my perception of others as they aren't walking the same path as me.
I have found myself to be most happy & creative exactly where I am.
While looking for a quote for a recent post, I found myself researching the butterfly effect. A theory proposed by Edward Lorenz, published in 1972. He suggested that the tiny action of a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could, in theory, lead to a tornado in Texas. Chaos theory at it's best - though that's a whole other subject!
But what occurred to me while reading it was how learning to appreciate the small things has gradually lead to my greater enjoyment of life in general. A small parallel to the butterfly effect, but a parallel nonetheless.
I notice the first flowers of spring. The first blue sky after days of rain. The message from a friend I haven't heard from in a while.. The beautiful form of wild flowers dried and gone to seed. The quiet cup of coffee while my children are at school...
It adds up to a more contented life, as I said, just where I am. I don't intend for this to seem in any way smug as that isn't how I feel. But I would say I am not clambering to have the 'must have' things, or be in the places instagram says I need to be seen. I don’t feel the need to compete. I am so much happier appreciating wherever I happen to be and actually, the things with stories and history mean so much more to me anyway.
And that feeling of contentment is not to be sniffed at, for as I have said before, to be creative I need to feel a sense of security in life. To step out of the box, I need to know the box stays safe...