I look back at the landscape of the year gone by. Periods of growth tower like mountains. New relationships bubble up and grow like streams becoming rivers. Through it all are grand experiences of joy, fun, or excitement – billowing like great big clouds. Last year was quite a year. I have much to be thankful for.
But easily lost amid the big or exciting experiences are another type of event. They are moments so ordinary it’s easy to miss them.
They are moments of life like these…
My wife and I put on our coats and help our daughter get into hers. We put on our shoes. We pack the bag full of snacks and spare diapers. I pick up our daughter, and we make our way down the stairs and out the front door.
We walk down the street a bit, crossed to the other side, and reach the house of a nearby neighbor. We knock. He lets us in.
We stay there for a few moments – conversing about life, being parents, and other such simple matters. Heh. Simple matters.
Then my wife and I thank our neighbor and head out the door – leaving our daughter behind.
Tonight, we get to go on a date. I have my wife all to myself.
I nearly missed it – nearly didn’t go on a walk, nearly didn’t walk this far, nearly didn’t put up with the cold, nearly didn’t turn at the last minute to follow the lakeshore instead of the path, nearly didn’t brave the untouched snowdrifts, nearly didn’t notice.
The ice on the lake was thin. And the waves were too strong for it. It splintered. Sheets of ice broke into hundreds of pieces.
The waves kept pushing through. They drove the splintered ice toward the shore – crashing them against the dock. Crashing them against the splinters of ice already there.
The sound of cracking, of ice being pushed against ice, rang out in the winter air.
I stood for a long while, lost in the symphony.
There are about a hundred other things I’d rather be doing – give or take a few.
I’m prospecting for my business. That means sorting through long lists of potential clients, checking out their websites, tracking down their email addresses, and writing personal messages for them. The work is slow. It’s tedious. It’s draining.
I understand that it’s important work, and I understand that I need the projects right now. But it’s still not that fun.
When finished, I step back and evaluate my work. Hey, I’ve added thirty names to my list. I’ve made progress. Not bad.
(One of those people would eventually become a client. Not bad at all.)
I crash into my pillow. It flattens beneath the weight of my head – deflating as though giving out a big sigh.
I don’t want to think too much on the day. Not a lot went well.
The night before left me exhausted and grumpy. I don’t think I made any progress on my work. The whole day, I felt like a truck stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels to no effect.
But the day is done now.
Sometimes, making it through the day is victory enough.
It’s important to look back over the year and see the big picture, to see the massive highs and great victories.
But as you look back over the last year, pause to celebrate the little things too – the moments of beauty that brightened your day, the simple victory made you feel on top of the world, or the interaction with a friend that filled you with joy.
Then when you look back at the year, you’ll not only be able to see the high and sweeping landscape, but also the details of a thousand brilliant flowers.
PS: A practice I’ve found helpful in remembering these victories: every day, write down three things that went well. My thanks to Jonathan Fields for that one.