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The breadth of a small life


I wake up to birdsong and soft light streaming through a window that no curtain can block. I drink coffee and read a book, winding down the day. Work begins with a conversation. The woman interrupts at the right moment. The doorbell rings, the dog barks, life goes on. She wants to mow my lawn in exchange for being able to pay the bill. I say yes and go back to work. The kids are playing upstairs and I’m trying to concentrate.

This week is scorching hot, but still kind of lovely, like a blanket you don’t need but filled with memories you can’t let go of. I go for a walk for no particular reason at any time and it’s awesome. A woman walks by with a baby in a stroller, and we both nod in acknowledgment, as if to say, “That was a bad idea.” We smile at the absurdity of our poor planning and then resume this silly game of pretending that life is always less than perfect.

I’m going on a business trip, and it’s colder in the new place, but the sun is still shining. I feel tired and miss my bed and window with sunshine. I eat too much and drink more than I should, watching my stomach sag above my waistline every morning while experiencing new pains in strange places. I think this is how aging should be.

My body remembers high school and the taunts of the older boys I foolishly thought were wise; a familiar shiver of shame runs through me, drawing attention to the parts that no longer feel young. I go to get ice cream and forget about my problems, noticing that I’m still here, smiling as the wind caresses my face, not bothered by my tiny melodramas. The tension in my body is released without prompting, and with it a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

Who knew such a simple life could be so sweet?

I come home. It’s raining here, but only for a minute. The food is prepared by my hands on the new grill that sits on the patio. It is served with care and love, and before bedtime, the whole neighborhood stops for s’mores. The children want to see their mother, and I arrange to make a stop the next day.

When we meet, they hug and cry and say goodbye while I watch from the porch. Homecoming is filled with golden moments of the sunset reflecting off the green hills of Tennessee in a beautiful and unforgettable glow. And yet in an instant I forget everything, because I need to make more space for the next moment.

These days my life seems smaller but richer… There is nothing I would change because I can’t find anything wrong with it.

The night wraps its cool arms around the car as it speeds along the country roads, stopping at the corner of a station for a bite to eat before driving into a cul-de-sac. We are here. Everything is as it should be, despite dwindling bank accounts and children who accuse in one breath and squeal with joy in the next – and a father who does not know what to do about it. Everything is fine.

These days my life seems smaller but richer. I suppose there are parts of my story that some may regret, details others would like to change. But this is my life and I love everything, even the things I don’t understand. There is nothing I would change because I can’t find anything wrong with it.

I am loved by a woman whose love I cherish and whose honor I defend. We have a dog in our care who, according to the doctors, is dying. However, they have been saying this for months; and at this point he is chasing stuffed toys thrown deep into the dying lawn. Ten o’clock in the evening. After each toss, he returns the frayed ball of fluff as the street lights illuminate our view, offering a spotlight to the grown-up conversation.

There was a time when I wanted fantastic feats and extraordinary experiences, a life lived to the fullest. Now I can’t find any part of me that desires such things. I don’t have room for anything more than that. It’s everything I could have wanted, filled with more than enough wonder. And yet, there is always more. To be attuned in this way, to be here for everything from this, you feel like in paradise. And as far as I know it is.

If I could offer some piece of observation, some rough advice, it would be this: What fills your life you. No amount of success will give you a sense of satisfaction that you don’t already have. A small life can contain a whole universe if you know what to look for, and that means learning to look.

Every grand achievement I’ve ever faced has ended up disappointing me in some way, leaving my soul in a state of even greater confusion. When the glow of accomplishment faded, what remained was the life I was trying to get away from, the one that kept staring back at me. Eventually I had to face it and what a lovely face he had.

Despite what self-help clichés claim, you really can’t choose your life. No matter how hard you try, you cannot control what happens. Each of us can learn to live— to be in this life, all the way, as much as possible.

When we do this, we discover that the little things are bigger than we thought. We begin to see that it’s all here, right now – a firework of greatness in every breath. And we realize that the life we ​​were waiting for was actually waiting for us.

Listen to the podcast episode that accompanies this post here.

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