When I was in my twenties, my gaze was always focused on the big things—finding the “perfect” partner, the “to-die-for” job, the “huge” book deal, or getting into the “best” graduate school. Little things didn’t matter much; they were unnecessary distractions that I treated as rounding errors. I either ignored them or focused on what came before or after. Looking back, I can see that how deeply I was affected by films and operas. I was always waiting for the sweeping climax that would bring resolution, on a grand scale, to my life. I was young and eager to fit together the largest pieces of the puzzle of life, foolishly believing that the remaining bits didn’t matter.
But now that I’m well into my thirties, my view has switched. It’s as though someone pulled the telescope out of my hands and replaced it with a microscope. Now my life is all about the small things. My emotional landscape hinges on soft washes of color applied with the finest brushes. Faint details can render me feeling exalted or defeated. One stroke can make or break the image that I call my life.
This week was no different: The small things figured most prominently. My daughter Ayla learned to say “Up a tree,” her first three-word sentence used in the right context. She says it in our secret language—everyone else hears “Uh-tee” but I know she’s telling me that the chipmunk (“mah”) went up that tree. Ayla also learned how to wash her body in the bath. She waits for me to pour some baby wash into her hand and then scrubs her belly in large, rough circles. Tiny things, right? Nope. Only a parent knows that it’s northing short of a miracle when your child’s brain, muscles and synapses work in unison toward a common goal.