Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Petit à Petit

Attention, application, accuracy, method, punctuality, and dispatch are the principal qualities required for the efficient conduct of business of any sort… They are little things, it is true; but human life is made up of comparative trifles. It is the repetition of little acts which constitutes not only the sum of human character, but which determines the character of nations. And where men or nations have broken down, it will almost invariably be found that neglect of little things was the rock on which they split...Fifteen minutes a day devoted to self-improvement, will be felt at the end of the year.

-Samuel Smiles

I think Samuel and I would have been friends, were he around today (I actually have no idea who he is or whether he's still alive or not). I've always taken great comfort in the concept of taking things day by day, hour by hour, etc., and in the value that can come from the little things we do to fill up those moments. And yeah, I know that physically speaking we have no choice but to live life one moment at a time, but I'm talking about the mental attitude here, people.

I'm almost positive that my inclination to this attitude is something I've picked up from a few years of needing to cope. Where my fellow depressives at?! Can you all back me up when I assert that when you are depressed, you MUST live this way? There is no other way, you'll surely go crazy if you attempt to consider anything beyond now. Exhibit A from my journal a few months ago:

As cliche as it is, I continue to take the most comfort in subdividing my day into single moments that I must get through - taking it one day (or moment) at a time. Right now, I am focusing on getting through my next class. And then I will focus on getting through the hour between that class and my next class. And so forth. And even though it's easy to look ahead and feel overwhelmed at all the thousands and thousands of moments there are to get through, it is sometimes enough to take it just that gradually. It's not only enough; it's sometimes the only way I can fathom doing any of this.

I always thought Michael Cunningham expressed it perfectly in The Hours:

But there are the hours, aren’t there? One and then another, and you get through that one and then, my god, there’s another. I’m so sick.

So that's where it comes from. Even now, though, when things are better and I am functioning normally, I find that I need to have specific plans to pass my days. No, not only that, but I must have tangible items to cross off my to-do list every day or else I will feel like crap. And since I also tend to be very quickly overwhelmed, sometimes my to-do list consists of things like “shower” “take meds” “feed Mo” and “go to bed early”. It works for me. So be it. And when I'm feeling especially stable I try to do as many worthwhile, self-improving things as I can. I figure as long as I do something, or a combination of things, every day, that improve me in some way, then I am doing ok. Great things happen over time anyway, right? It has to be that our day-to-day to-do lists are micro and unimpressive. This is what I say to reassure myself. This is why I think Samuel and I would have been friends.

And meanwhile, I continue to strive to inhabit each of these moments, and to love each one, knowing that they are all mine, and all I really have. The Hours again:

I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.

1 comment:

Karrot Soup said...

Wow, apparently I need to read The Hours. I'll put it on my to-do list...
Glad to hear you're in a stretch when you can lift your head up and look a little farther ahead. We'll see you in two months!