Some time ago I was going through a bad personal moment and I felt sad and lonely. On the worst day of this dark period I got a valuable help from the most unsuspected person.
Maria, an old woman from my village, came to talk to me totally out of the blue. She was like those coins that we sometimes find on the ground and that end up to be an unexpected little treasure. She talked about her difficult childhood, in those times when children did not have almost anything to play with. However, Maria still remembered those wonderful afternoons when she and her friends used to make ragdolls with button eyes. They spent hours celebrating the christening of the new “baby”, and they even baked a cake for the occasion!
“You know, Paola,” she told me “even now, at my age, when I feel sad, I think of those beautiful evenings and all that joy comes back to me, cheering me up.”
Thanks to Maria’s wisdom I was given one of the keys to happiness: to focus on those “small things” that, after all, are the pure essence of our life. We often remember only the “big events”: our graduation, our wedding, the christening and communion of our children… but we seldom value those little moments that warm our hearts.
Let’s retrieve those instants, let’s live them again, let’s feel them. Let’s find in our memory those afternoons spent playing on the street, those moments when we have laid silently on the ground watching the stars with a special person, when we have been stroking our children’s hair while they were asleep, or when we have laughed hysterically with our friends in front of a glass of wine.
This is an exercise we should get our minds used to. We often get tangled up in a labyrinth of negative thoughts. I myself realise that I frequently argue in my head with people who upset me and with whom I did not have the chance to express my anger. Let’s try and turn the situation around: when we realize that our mind is conducting grueling abstract conversations, let’s stop and breathe. Let us immediately seek a pleasant memory, a small detail of the past, a moment in which we have felt loved, happy, confident, excited. However, let’s not just get it out of oblivion. Let’s relive it and let the wave of love and joy reach every cell of our body. Remember: our mind can’t distinguish whether an experience is real or created by our imagination, so by the time we perform this exercise our body and our mind will consider these sensations are TRUE, it will be like living that moment again.
Proust had already described this sensation in his work In Search of Lost Time, with the example of the madeleine: the first bit given to that small cake so often tasted at Aunt Léonie’s house did not remind him of the past, it suddenly catapulted him back to his childhood. All the smells, sensations and images of that period got back to him in a few seconds. He was not remembering the past, he was reliving it. It is a simple and wonderful exercise that everyone can do and that has a beneficial effect on our whole being.
It proves that nothing disappears. Everything keeps on existing, forever, nestled in our souls, waiting for us to rediscover it, ready to give us incredible emotions that we thought we might never feel again.
Those small things have always been celebrated in the artistic field. Let’s acknowledge their importance, let’s give them a central role in our lives because they have the power to make our existence special, to fill us with joy, to comfort us. They give our hearts, shaken by the ups and downs of daily life, the will to live.
Cover photo by Fabrice Van Opdenbosch