“Raindrops on Roses and whiskers on kittens.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.”
You probably recognize those song lyrics from Sound Of Music. It is easy to dismiss that song as a bit of tuneful fluff with charming images. Another way of viewing it is as a gem of musical wisdom on how to survive the tough times of life.
In the song you may remember that it was a stormy night and the scared Von Trapp children ran to the bed of their new mother, huddled together in fear while cheering up to the message of the song. A thunderstorm is scary enough but these were children who had recently lost their birth mother. Soon they would have to leave their home and everything familiar as they flee the Nazi Regime.
Little things in our lives are not fluff. They can sustain us in times of trauma as well as delight us in all times. What are those little things for you? What lifts your spirits, touches your heart, gives you relief from emotional pain, strengthens your overall sense of well being?
Many years ago I went to a workshop on Joy. The leader suggested that participants engage in daily mini-moments with each of our senses. Everyone present had a great time thinking of things they liked to see, sounds of all kinds, favorite smells, the tastes of delicious foods, good experiences with touch. All kinds of memories were evoked — the smell of fresh baked bread, sipping hot chocolate on a cold day, glorious sunsets, a mournful cello playing a haunting tune, petting the fur of a favorite animal. We went on for several minutes and the room began to fill with wonder as we remembered our favorite things.
It is so easy to forget the little things that can mean so much to us in all seasons of our lives, especially in times when we are hurting and long for comfort.
That workshop was three decades ago and I still remind myself almost daily to stop and tune in to something that touches at least one of my senses. A powerful aspect of those little things is that they help us to be mindful and present centered. So much of the time when we experience grief we are in the past, worried about the future or distracted, lost in the brain fog so prevalent during traumatic times. Coming into the moment can make our lives more manageable.
Little things can be in harmony with any mood state. There may be times when you want to stay in grief and experience it fully. Cuddling with a teddy bear or listening to mournful music might match your mood in a comforting way without taking you out of your feelings. Other times when grief seems overwhelming the power of a special moment — a favorite thing — can be uplifting or a needed diversion . One support group participant described the importance of her morning coffee, sipping leisurely while reading the newspaper — a pleasurable ritual to start the day.
Sometimes we forget about our favorite things. Often stopping and taking in our environment can open our heart to what is right in front of us in the moment. We can smell the flowers, feel the breeze, pet the dog, hug a friend, listen to the music.
If you have a hard time finding those simple little pleasures, take a mental trip back to childhood and revisit your early “loves.” What did you do in your free time? What were your hobbies, toys, games? What delighted you, made you laugh or touched your heart? What was your comfort when life was difficult?
Many people find their favorite things outdoors in nature — making a garden grow, looking at the moon, greeting the sunrise, taking a stroll outside, spending a day at the beach watching the waves go in and out.
Sometime we refrain from our favorite things because we decide they are time wasters — not lofty enough to please our inner critic. We feel guilty watching television or playing computer games or starring at the sky doing nothing at all. The reality is that time spent when you just “chill out” is a wellness activity.
So seek out those little things that ease the way, especially when you are grieving, troubled, overwhelmed. Little things can help. Little things really do mean a lot.
“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad.
I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”
(Rogers and Hammerstein)
Photo courtesy Helena Lopes