Focus on the Little Things

In the spring, Ron bought me some day lilies as a surprise. And it was one. He’s not a random present kinda guy. But he was out somewhere and saw them and thought I’d like the colour of the blooms. We decided where in the yard they should go, and I spent a pleasant time transplanting them. (Well, pleasant-ish, anyway. My yard is mostly rock, clay, and tree roots, so digging even the smallest of holes is a challenge.) We doubted they’d bloom this summer, what with transplant shock, so I was more than a little excited when they started to bud. I’ve been checking on them every day, and sure enough, yesterday one of them was in full flower.

I wanted to get a photo of it, but that area of the yard was in full sun at the time, and it was quite breezy to boot, so I decided to wait until I got home from work this morning. I generally get home shortly after sunrise, when the light is softer and the air stiller, which makes for better flower photos – or, at least, for flower photos that I like more.

And this is where we get to the real theme of this article. Because when I got home at around 6:30am after yet another crap night at work, the last thing I wanted to do was grab the camera. Or, indeed, do anything other than go straight to bed. And I knew that was a bad sign.

See, I’ve been struggling for the last couple of years and, like so many people in the current shitty world, it’s been worse recently. I started night shift a couple of years ago for mental health reasons, but the negatives (always being exhausted from going against my body’s natural rhythms, being on an opposing schedule to all my friends, struggling to sleep more than a few hours at a time) have slowly been overtaking the positives (it got me away from a bullying co-worker which in turn lessened episodes of suicidal ideation, a pay premium, a better commute). Along with an injury and near-constant pain that limits what I can do for exercise, which has always been my primary coping strategy, plus a drop in self-esteem with my body’s changes as a result, I’ve been … well, I’ve been giving in to that desire to do nothing but go straight to bed.

It’s the beginning of a spiral in which I work against myself. I fall behind on chores, for example, and tell myself that until the dishes are done, I can’t get the gifts I bought for friends weeks ago ready to mail. Then I end up doing neither, which makes me feel even more down, because now not only is the kitchen still a mess, I’m one day further away from seeing my friends happy because of some silly little thing that landed in their mailbox.

So today, I decided to break the cycle. My drive home was an exercise in self-motivation, as I told myself over and over again that I wasn’t allowed to go to bed as soon as I got home, but had to grab the camera and get a photo of the new lily. After that, I could do whatever I wanted. But whatever I wanted was on hold until after I had that damn picture.

I guess I was persuasive enough, as when I got home, I only paused long enough to change work boots for hiking boots before I grabbed the camera and headed back out the door. That it was a gorgeous summer morning probably helped. As did the fact that Ron was aware of my plan, and I knew that if I didn’t have a photo to show him when I got up that afternoon, I’d be on the receiving end of the equally dreaded and adored, “Oh, arsehole.”

And that’s when the really special thing that sometimes happens, happened. Because when you put a camera in my hands and tell me to go take a photo of that thing ten feet away, I am constitutionally incapable of only taking a photo of that thing ten feet away. So what started out as a sullen tromp to the backyard to fulfill an obligation became an exercise in distraction and exploration, as I saw shiny things along the way that I simply could not pass by without taking a photo. That’s how I ended up with all the photos I’ve shared above, when all I really meant to take was this:

It’s also how I ended up soaked to the skin from crawling around in the still-dewy grass well past my bedtime and, I suspect, why I got nearly eight hours of sleep for the first time in months. When I woke up, remembering how nice it is to actually do something even spurred me on to bake cookies, another long-neglected chore.

It feels good to feel good again, and while I have no idea how long it’s going to last this time, I’m going to try to keep the momentum going. I’ve already decided: before bed tomorrow morning, I’m doing a load of laundry. Because it’s going to be another one of those gorgeous summer mornings, and there’s little in this world that I find more satisfying than hanging a load of laundry out on the line.

It’s a little thing. But sometimes, when life gets overwhelming, remembering that there’s something we can control makes a world of difference.

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