In Hinduism, there’s a deity named Ganesh with the head of an elephant who rides around on the back of a small mouse. I can relate to Ganesh; I put my whole life into the smallest moments, and because of this, I believe in the little things.
This time of year marks the eighth anniversary of the death of my father-in-law, and to think of all of the big moments he has missed is sorrowing: he’ll never meet his grandchildren, be at his daughters’ weddings or see his younger children graduate from college. It’s perplexing for me to imagine how many events passed us all by without his presence, and so I don’t think of these larger heartaches and concentrate on the smaller things.
Sometimes the smaller things are what make my life frustrating. This morning as I was getting ready in our tiny bathroom, I reached over to my makeup bag and my hand slipped, spilling the contents to the floor and splattering the white tiles into a Jackson Pollock homage of brown and black and pink. My first thought was to cry at how much had been destroyed in a fifth of a second. Then I reminded myself how it didn’t matter; it was just a trifle and I could replace all of it easily. I tried to focus on the bigger picture, the roof over my head, my warmth, my family, not broken cosmetics, but the big picture didn’t translate to my mind as well. My heart still capitulated to a bit of meaningless sorrow.
And so, I focus on the tiny moments of happiness to offset these similarly tiny disappointments, like my baby’s chubby legs, the songs my older son sings to me, eating warm popcorn while watching movies, and the four chords on an acoustic guitar strumming along in every song I love. I also remember weddings and funerals, but they’re the exceptions in my memory. I’m filled with these small moments of happiness and sadness that add up to the hours, days and months of my life.
I can still picture my tears on the day of my father-in-law’s funeral: at first I didn’t cry, and then only a tear or two, but by the end of Mass, my stockings were soaking and there was a small pool of water underneath my left shoe. All the moments I was hearing about from his family added up, creating a larger space of remembrance in my heart.
And so, I believe that elephantine-sized burdens can be buoyed on the backs of the littlest mice of happiness. And for this, I believe in the little things.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.