I waited six months to clean the inside of the driver’s side window in our car. We had the tinting removed in September, and there was a thick-sticky residue the mechanic had not removed.
This “small thing” became a “big thing” in far less time than a wisp-of-a-cloud becomes a hurricane.
So, upon the dozenth request of my wife (with increasing emphasis), I got my act together, got some acetone, and took it to the window. After five minutes, five paper towels, 50ml of acetone, and a small load of elbow grease, the sticky-smudge mess was gone.
As a hurricane dissolves into the sea, so did my sense of dread and my wife’s (well justified) sense of agitation.
After some reflection, I think of three reasons I put off the small stuff in favor of ambitions:
I am swept up in the possibility of each day and forget to tie my shoes. At times, this big-picture-vision is helpful and makes me a good literature teacher. But, before I can change the world—or someone’s attitude—I have to take out the garbage and do the dishes.
I chose never to learn (read: I ignored) Grandma’s law. Known in psych-circles as the Premack principle, the archetype, Grandma, has always taught the following: do the hard thing first so the preferred activity is more enjoyable.
“If you know you have to swallow a frog, swallow it first thing in the morning. If there are two frogs, swallow the big one first.” (Twain)
Frogs well-swallowed, the writing/reading/thinking time becomes more hallowed and meaningful.
I forget that the small things are fun. Again, in reference to Twain, the joy of whitewashing a fence is a matter of the attitude, not the task.
Now I recall how I actually took pleasure in seeing the residue on the window dissolve and melt itself into a dew, in what—in my naïveté—remains the wonderful alchemy of simple household products. And, looking back, it was probably the noblest thing I did that day.
Blogging and tweeting and talking and reading are all wonderful pursuits—prompted by the primal joy of connection and married to the technocratic Zeitgeist. But the small things— and there is probably one that you can do today—can often set me aright.
This “to-do” is most always something that sounds far less sexy.
And yet, doing that small thing, may not only be an act of love for someone else, but could contextualize our grandest pursuits, and remind us that there are many ways to practice love, and that the best ways start at home.
What is one small “have-to” that could improve your day or a loved one’s day? Let me know in the comments below!