When it’s time to go small

by | Oct 14, 2014 | Flourishing | 6 comments

photo 2Fall has come to the Northwest and with it the sweet-sad knowing that summer is officially over. Leaves are dropping, the rains are starting, and I have to let go of our beautiful Indian summer.

 It makes me think about how I can deal with the little losses that are always a part of life – the griefs that aren’t big enough to interrupt work – but still want and perhaps need to be acknowledged. Do I run from them? Get busy so I’ll forget? Wallow? Or find another way.

This week I experimented.

Thankfully, I haven’t experienced any big losses recently – the kinds of trauma that fill up the news, stop you in your tracks, and lead you to recast your life. But loss often shows up in small ways. There are good losses that open your heart…but still hurt.

A great assignment concluded on a high note, and because the facilitation I did turned out well and the group with whom I worked was really fun to work with, my sense of accomplishment was mixed with a sweet sense of loss. It was over.

A close friend came to visit and stayed two days. I took time off to just be with her – walking, talking, going to concerts, visiting museums, and, of course, eating. I was relishing the magic of being together – until it was time for her to go. As she left, my gratitude for her visit was colored with sadness; our house felt quieter and emptier.

Despite the big projects begging for attention, I couldn’t work. It was time to take a pause, breathe out, reflect, and talk a bit with the Muse, my personal in-house consultant. She had a timely message for me.

“Forget doing a big blog post today.
It’s time to go gentler. Slower.
Give yourself an afternoon to take stock and do something small. Just clean up your desk.”

(I’d been ignoring my desk in the heat of more urgent projects.)

She was right. Small was good. Cleaning up slowly, carefully, was just the ritual I needed. I put on some music by a Catalonian singer I’d just discovered: Maria del Mar Bonet. I made my way through the piles of papers on my desk listening to the sound of her haunting voice and lyrics I didn’t need to understand.

By the morning, I could go back to my project work.

What do you do when it’s time to feel the small, maybe difficult feelings of loss or grief – whether they’ve come in a happy or unwanted way? Do you have a ritual that helps you navigate? I’d love to hear what you do.

Can you give yourself space, at times, to slow the action and for a time – go small?

6 Comments

  1. Mary

    lovely post, Sally….thanks for sharing it’s nice to see what’s been going on behind the scenes over your yonder way.

    Reply
  2. Carolyn V. Hamilton

    Thanks for a thoughtful post that “gives us permission” to spend some time doing something that seems small and meaningless, but can be healing to the “work soul.”

    I find writing and doodling in my art journal can be relaxing as well as reflective. Even just a few lines about the experience that has ended will make me smile at a wonderful memory when I stumble back across them years later.

    A long time ago a Buddhist told me, “Art is a form of meditation.” I’ve found that to be true and art journaling is a way to combine two things I love, art and writing, in a way that isn’t a commitment to a big, time-consuming project.

    Anyway, that works for me 🙂

    Keep up the good work, Sally!

    Reply
    • Sally Fox, Ph.D.

      Art is such a beautiful way to give oneself time, space and beauty — all of which can get crammed out of our busy lives! Thanks for reminding us. Sally

      Reply
  3. Lauren Lizardo

    Sally – Love this post. Grief is a beautiful, necessary, and often overlooked thing.

    Reply
  4. Mark Sideman

    I have followed you somewhat since you presented at PNODN a while back. I have been impressed with your moving forward. I think I mentioned to you at PNODN that I did some semi-professional story telling so I was taken by your integration of this into the world of work and engagement. In response to this particular blog post going small is a critical part of my personal journey. In essence unearthing the small voice that was lost in growing up. In my particular process this small voice means a lot about connecting with the voice of my body which I find must be done very quietly. As with most things giving attention to this while learning as I go seems to be the process with of course some input from trusted others who are better at hearing their body’s voices.
    best wishes,
    Mark

    Reply
    • Sally Fox, Ph.D.

      I love what you write: “In my particular process this small voice means a lot about connecting with the voice of my body which I find must be done very quietly.” That’s part of my journey, too, so I appreciate the reminder.

      Reply

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