Monday, July 27, 2009

The Little Things in Life

Sometimes I feel like I spend so much time planning and looking forward to the "events" in my life, that the little things go unnoticed and unappreciated. I started thinking about this after reading a post written by my daughter Laura called Weekend Notes. (Like blogger, like daughter.) She talks about how simple, unplanned days can produce especially satisfying dividends, and she's so right.

I feel like I'm always looking past the things I do every day because they are not momentous enough. I tend to lump them together as routine, and worse, boring. When's that next vacation, or that big family wedding? When do we go back to Atlantic City or even out with friends to the new restaurant we've been dying to try? The funny thing is that a lot of these events don't live up to our expectations for them. We plan, make reservations, and build these things up so much that by the time they're over, it's like that old Peggy Lee song: "Is That All There Is?

The same could be said for living in the past. I love nothing more than to reminisce about how great it was growing up as a kid in Brooklyn. I know I am probably looking back through rose-colored glasses, but I can't help it. These were the days when I was young and strong and had the whole world before me. Nothing ached and nothing seemed impossible. Someone asked me at dinner last night if I could go back in time, would I change anything I did in life. I answered truthfully that the only decision I ever made that I was 100% certain of was the partner I chose to share my life. Everything else is a roll of the do what you think is best and move on.

I like to work in my little backyard garden. Staten Island's red clay soil pretty much repels anything planted in it. Over the years we have found some extra-hardy perennials that can stand up to it, and thankfully every year they poke their tough little shoots out of the clay as if to say: "C'mon, you wanna a piece of me?" I also plant veggies in the much friendlier environs of planter pots filled with real soil, and these have produced nice yields of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. I rarely stop to think about how much pleasure it gives me to see these things grow, knowing my weeding and watering helped them come to life.

I am lucky enough to have a very special family. Like most Italian families we get together often for holiday dinners or for any reason to enjoy a meal and some good wine. I sometimes take these occasions for granted because they are routine for us, but the pleasure of looking around the table and seeing how happy they all are, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, not only for themselves but for each other, is something I should cherish. So many families don't enjoy this togetherness and it should be savored for the beautiful thing it is.

I'm not saying we shouldn't get excited and suppress all expectations for the things we think will bring us pleasure, or not look back and think about where we came from that helped make us who we are, I'm just giving myself a much-needed reminder to not let the past or the future rob the present. Here are some people who expressed this idea far better than I ever could:

"We are always getting ready to live but never living." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It's but little good you'll do a-watering the last year's crops." ~George Eliot, Adam Bede, 1859

"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." ~Alexander Graham Bell

"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present._ ~Babatunde Olatunji

"We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow." ~Fulton Oursler

Go stitch that on a pillow my friends and live for today.


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Joseph Del Broccolo said...

You know, writing a blog can be important, if the message is there. Today it is there. Today you hit upon a truth, that today is here to spend, not dismiss or throw away. God gives us today to use, and we waste it often upon what makes us happy. If we take the time to smile, relax and let life happen, there are no needs for expectations, just appreciation.

Jim Pantaleno said...

After 67 years on this Earth Joe, I'm still struggling to learn this lesson. I hope I'm making progress. Thanks for your insights.