Appreciating the Little Things…

By Jennifer Allen

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
~ Buddha


Once again we find ourselves within the shortest month of the year. A month where we celebrate everything from Love to the last few days of partying before some experience 40 days of sacrifice. Americans celebrate African American culture and raise awareness for Heart health. Every four years there's another day tacked onto it, much to the chagrin of those born on this odd day. Regardless, it is often seen as just a short time before we stride head first into March.

It made me think, however, about how much we as human beings tend to underappreciate small things that happen in our lives. In truth, our whole existence is made up of so many little moments that it can be difficult to give any of them meaning.

I was born when both of my parents were in their 30s. Ironic since many of my other relatives had had children much earlier in their lives. Because of this, I came into a world of family members already reaching their midlife crisis and beyond. By the time I was eight, I learned all too well about death as I lost my paternal grandfather. As the years went on and I got older, I spent more time at funeral homes and churches staring at coffins of lost family members than I did doing normal teenage and young adult things.

These experiences certainly offered me a unique perspective to life that many other kids at my age wouldn't think of having. I became extremely existential at 15 after my mother passed. I was certainly seen as a bit “off" to some of the other kids, even as my dad remarried and I was forced to finish my high school years across town with hardly anyone I knew.

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement. ~ Meg Ryan, Joe vs the Volcano

Around this time I also saw a movie that most people would normally scoff at as a silly comedy. Indeed a film named Joe vs the Volcano would certainly raise eyebrows to the point that it would simply be tossed on some video shelf to collect dust. The movie was the first partnering of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as the two romantic leads. It's about a man who learns he has some obscure incurable brain disease and then decides to go on an epic quest to the South Pacific in order to end his life in a more heroic fashion. In the end he finds out that he wasn't actually dying and that this whole journey and the people he met along the way made him appreciate all those little moments and his life in general. When you realize the true meaning of the story, it's a lot deeper than some film released for cheap gags.

Soon after, my journey went even deeper with an episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation's 5th season entitled The Inner Light. This episode featured Captain Jean-Luc Picard living a whole other life and learning about another culture in a span of about 25 minutes, though for him it felt closer to 40 years. In the end, this experience changes Picard as he becomes much warmer to the crew and, along with his experience with the Borg, helps him appreciate life to its fullest. Who knew that the reappearance of a little brass flute could make everyone cry so much?

Finally, while I was high school, I had the opportunity to play in a statewide student orchestra. We played many famous pieces from the likes of Mozart, Prokofiev, Dvorak, Bach, and many others. One piece that we loved playing was Schubert's “Symphony No 8". Also known as the “Unfinished Symphony" and is comprised of only two movements as opposed the usual 3 or 4 movements that most composers would create. While the piece is “smaller" than most, it doesn't make it any less special. I think with only two movements it makes the music more unique and therefore better appreciated as an orchestral masterpiece in its own right.

As my life has progressed, it certainly had its share of darker moments, but also quite a few tiny pieces of light as well. Those little moments, thanks to my previous experiences, helped me keep my chin up and appreciate my life, the world, and my place it in. Think about a time where you stopped for just a moment and noticed something out of the corner of your eye. A something that was out of the ordinary and yet couldn't help but make you smile. Was it worth it?

If you want more of those little moments, most of all in this little month known as February... then take that cell phone and place it in your pocket. Take your headphones off and simply listen for as long as you need to. Turn your game system off and go outside see what the world has out there for you to experience. Take a walk. Take a drive. Take a friend with you. You may just discover some of your own moments which you will no doubt cherish and make your life just a bit sweeter.