Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sometimes We Need to Lose Sight of the Big Picture

Mara here:

Sometimes, when I'm feeling contemplative and have a moment of peace, I feel as if I've really accomplished some growth in my life. I feel like I've done some soul searching and really made progress toward understanding what the important things are to focus on and sorting out some of the clutter that doesn't need my attention.

I have a great marriage, my daughter seems reasonably well-adjusted for an almost adult teenager, and we live a comfortable life.

And then I hear a noise. It's a little clicking noise. Click. Click. Silence. Click.

And I slowly start lose my mind. I can ignore the first time I hear it. Even the second and third times don't cause me to stop what I'm doing. But after the fifth or sixth click, I can't stop thinking about it.

It's a fly.

The click is the sound of a fly bouncing off the long closet mirror doors we have in our bedroom.

It's a very distinct sound, like someone delicately throwing a small pebble at the window. And for some reason, this sound absolutely makes me crazy.

I know it's not very Buddha of me, but if the fly doesn't figure out within about a minute that it can't fly into the mirror, then I have to try and kill it. If reincarnation exists, I will be coming back as a fly.

The other day, as I was reading a book, a fly made the unfortunate mistake of getting trapped in our room. And sure enough, the clicks began pinging. This particular fly also made a very loud buzzing noise as it would swish by the bed on it's way to and from the mirror. Buzz, click, silence, buzz, click, silence, click, click, buzz, silence.

I felt my blood pressure rise, and my face flush. My mind raced into a blur of nothingness.

For an instant, I lost sight of the world around me. It felt a bit like the movie "The Matrix," where time actually slowed down and I had a split second of awareness outside of body.

Then as quickly as it happened, I snapped back into reality.

I felt a little shaky because I wasn't sure what had happened. The only thing I could feel was this overwhelming sense of not having any control.

In this whole big wide world, something as small as a fly could shift my entire being in just a few moments.

I'd love to be able to say that somehow that moment changed my entire outlook on life. I would love to have had a Byron Katie or Ekhart Tolle "Ah ha!" life-changing experience that suddenly made me a pillar of peace and well-being.

I didn't.

But it did remind me that I can't be so focused on the big things in life that I forget that small things also need to be attended to. It doesn't take much sometimes for small things to throw life out of balance. Sometimes I get so focused on the big picture, that I forget the big picture is just a million small pictures that make the whole image.

Here's what I asked my mom about this subject:

It would have been easy for you to have lived your life with your chronic illness, letting being sick dominate your existence. How were you able to get past the big picture of "being sick" to just being?

Great question. To be honest, some days being sick still dominates my existence. But I have some "go to" reflections and practices that help me get past the big picture to, as you call it, "just being."

First, a few years ago, I wrote a piece for Psychology Today on the very subject of thinking small! Here it is if people would like to read it: "What to Do When Gratitude Is in Short Supply." I give lots of examples of how thinking small can be helpful.

Also, I rely on the books of Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck. One thing she says is that the only thing we can truly rely on in this world is life being as it is. This has been helpful to me so many times. On days when I'm stuck in that the big picture of having been chronically ill for over 17 years, I remember her words and say to myself: "All I can rely on is life being as it is at this very moment. This moment, I feel sick; so be it. But there are other things going on in this moment too—my sweet doggie is by my side, my bonsai looking beautiful in the sunlight."

This allows me to let go of the "big picture" (years of life-dominating chronic illness) and let the small things of the moment that are a source of joy and happiness enter my heart.


  1. I got a 404 error message when I clicked on your article. Thank you both for writing. I find that most weeks there is something that really resonates with me. Also I have added a few books to my library list from this blog. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Gram. I just saw the error message a couple of hours ago and I've fixed it. Thanks for being such a faithful reader of our blog! Toni