Big life?

Big day? Big week? Big year? Big life? 

Is life so big with all of the things you haven’t done and the thoughts you haven’t finished, and the friends you feel bad about not having seen, and the secret hopes, and the still-forming ideas, and the errands, and the bills and the mundanities and the unanswered questions and the loose ends and the climate and the state of the world and the fact that you pronounced a word incorrectly once at a party and you remember it suddenly at midnight when a sound outside wakes you and now you’re worried about the sound and also about the fact that somewhere on earth there is a person who thinks you are not only an idiot but also an overconfident one?   

Life is big. It’s true. And maybe you’ll grow into it. For the meantime though…

Take a seat. Let’s have ourselves some small.

This is a Public Service Announcement. Enjoy the small things. 

Enjoy cool evenings.

Enjoy other people’s laughter. Think of your favourite laugh. Try not to smile.

Enjoy the small moments in people’s lives. Like when strangers interact and find themselves helping each other do things. How to use a parking meter, for instance, or one of those parking apps on the phone. A stranger leaning over another stranger’s shoulder, pointing in a slightly theatrical way so as to avoid surprise. “I think it’s… this button here”. The way people compensate for other people by performing a version of themselves that helps the other person. “Ha! I know! These apps are so confusing!” The mutual thanks and fond farewells. Sometimes, these short, daily, almost-friendships are the most rewarding, because helping someone feel like a functional human in the universe isn’t that hard, and it makes everybody feel better. Especially people who are terrible with things like parking apps. 

Think of the voice of someone you love. Think of the thing they are most likely to say that makes you smile. Feel a bit happy that you’re the person they’d say that to. Maybe, if you can, tell them you’re happy to be that person. If you can’t, just hold it. It’s yours.

Enjoy hot drinks. 

Find a nice leaf.

Hold someone’s hand. 

Enjoy the fact that someone you know has, in all likelihood, come across someone else you know in a completely random circumstance and none of you will ever be made aware of it. Your mate from work walked past your old school teacher and did the nod-and-smile once on an empty train platform. Your two friends who had never meet and who will never meet once got the same bus together for three hours. A close friend you’ve known forever asked your dentist “are you using this chair?” in a cafe when they were one chair short for coffee and cake with the family. Your dentist said “go for it” and smiled those beautiful teeth from over the weekend newspaper. They felt that moment of mutual warmth strangers can feel for each other without it meaning anything much, and then they forgot about each other, and you were at home having a shower at the time and the universe just happens like this always, without you but also with you, which is a great thing because it means you are both insignificant (but a small character in a much larger play) and significant (had they been aware of their connection to you, their interaction would have been instantly more meaningful). Small moments, kind of big.

Try a new thing on a menu.

Be kind to someone you have no reason to be kind to. 

Listen to a piece of music that makes your heart swell like the surf and then remember that humans made that happen. They made it happen over centuries by experimenting and by writing dots on a page and pressing their fingers onto strings and thumping huge drums and blowing into tubes and using their own voices and writing whatever poetry it is that right now, this very moment, sends three to seven minutes of something that moves you right into the very middle of who you are. You, personally, whom nobody involved in the process has ever met. Just a little song. Such a big combination of things. 

Enjoy the small. The tiny looks, the stillness, the thoughts that go nowhere, and the cups of tea while staring into the middle distance.

Life is big but it’s made up of small. This has been a Public Service Announcement.


This column appears regularly in The Big Issue, which you should buy whenever you can because it supports people who are working hard to change their lives.