Design For Mankind | The Small Things
My eyes boast 20/20 vision, but my brain is another story entirely. I’ve always had a tricky time adjusting my perspective to see what’s just beyond my small, narrow frame and instead, I scan the picture as quickly as I can in search of a detail that I can grasp. Any detail. And many times, it’s the small one; the one that doesn’t matter. The one that doesn’t initiate growth of any kind.
When I was in high school, my new winter coat was stolen during a swim meet. It was an early Christmas present and fit like a glove, and I was crushed. But I remember my first thought being completely irrational: my favorite lip gloss – pear glace – in the right pocket was a limited edition. The lip gloss! Never again would I have the lip gloss. (It didn’t matter that I would bear the next 6 months of Midwestern winter with a hand-me-down coat from my father, or that I’d let my parents down by being somewhat irresponsible for not leaving the coat in my locker.) The lip gloss.
And when I was in college and an under-age driver ran a red light and totaled my first car, it was the CD in the stereo that I mourned the loss of – not my broken tailbone or bruised neck or bloody hands. I honed in on the seemingly mundane – my favorite mixed CD that was certainly replaceable but seemed like a monumental loss at the time. What if I forget a song when I try to re-mix it? What if I get the order of songs wrong? Everything will have changed.
Looking back, I realize they were just strange, twisted coping mechanisms. Complaining about the loss of a lip gloss and a CD was certainly easier than coming to terms with the faults of this world – misplaced trust in others, the fragile nature of life. It seemed easier to hone in on the details to avoid seeing the blurry of the unknown.
I laugh now when I realize how little I’ve changed. Last week, after a particularly exhausting week of work deadlines and toddler rearing, I took Bee out to a few summer festivals and promptly lost her travel snack dish – the only one we have – somewhere between the bounce house and food truck lines. And I was so intensely angry at myself for filling it with so many macadamia nuts b/c gracious, those things are basically one million dollars and now they would be of no use to us as they’ve disappeared into summer festival ether. I saw only the foreground: the last snack dish, the lost macadamia nuts, our lost composure.
And I forgot to look for the background. The beauty of summer festivals, the brilliance of golden hour, the talent of local musicians, the sheer genius of tiropita.
Of course, had I zoomed out even further, I’d have seen even more of the background: the gift of good health, the love and support of family and friends. The generosity of today, the freedoms of tomorrow.
This week, I’m searching for the small things that offer a clue to the bigger picture. I’m stepping from my minimalist, effortless comfort zone and – instead – am exploring color and pattern and texture and all things styled. (Elise Mesner is a great place to start.) Because sometimes, a life well designed takes a heavy dose of intention – whether we realize it or not.