There Are no Small Things

Taking Note

In the course of a day or a week, we are inundated with small things. We most likely don’t like these things, so they grab our attention. You know, when the alarm doesn’t go off, or the puppy gets sick or worse, the car won’t start, or even worse, you work from home, and there is no internet. You hang up from talking to the tow truck and discover no coffee in the house. These things are a normal part of life, but we find them exceptionally annoying, as though they shouldn’t happen to us.

Like a pain in the neck, I’m not speaking about someone, but rather an actual pain in the neck. Having lived a primarily pain-free life (knock on wood), I now have a very stiff neck accompanied by pain. Nothing special, except it is new to me. For 76 years and x number of days, I never woke up and thought, wow -no neck pain. It was my norm. Believe me, when this neck of mine no longer hurts, I will take note of the wonder and miracle of a neck without pain. Of course, my gratitude and attention are bound to fade because unless I put effort and thought into my daily life and note what is working well, I won’t notice.

My friend Gregg wrote an article in Tricycle Magazine called Grateful for Nothing. “When things are going well, it’s easy to take for granted all of the unfortunate events that didn’t happen.” I am pre-disposed to look for the silver lining and be grateful for it, but I admit that today I am looking forward to looking back and saying something like, “I am so grateful that it is over.” This is probably not a good example of living in the moment, as I am very interested in a future moment. Quite attached, actually.:-))

But that’s not all that happened

If I left it there, you might think I am having a difficult time with my neck. You would be right, and that’s not all. Let me tell you about just a few small things that also happened.

Out of the blue, I received a lovely email from an old friend, a philosophy prof with whom I had lost touch, wanting to reconnect. An unexpected gift!

I got a call on Monday morning from my 12-year-old grandson, inviting me for lunch. He wanted to make me lemon sugar crepes. (he had the day off school) For goodness’ sake, was that not delightful and endearing and a complete surprise? How lucky am I.

An over-the-top gift from a friend for a very specific purpose. Encouragement, thoughtfulness, practical, generous and ever so caring words for a special trip I hope to make next year.

An appointment with a masseuse who specializes in necks. She, who doesn’t make calls, called. I, who never answered calls close to my webinars, answered. She, who doesn’t take new patients, gave me an appointment four days later.

The pictures today are my pathway between the avenue I live on and the next street. As I walk that way, I am transported to Oxford or some European town briefly. I love that short interlude, and it brings me joy.

Today spending time with my non-bookclub friends, who graciously welcome me, although I miss many of our gatherings and don’t get to read all the books. Still, the door stays open.

And the Magic Bag. You heat this in the microwave and place it around your neck for 15 minutes at a time. Three cheers and three deep bows to the creator of this soothing compress.

The beautiful red cardinal sings outside my study window every morning and turns directly to look at me. He is probably admiring his reflection in the window, but I like to think he is greeting me.

A workshop

The engaging poetry/drawing workshop I took on Saturday with a wonderful teacher from San Francisco. It exceeded all of my expectations by a mile, and I was left with a new favourite Haiku and a sweet and joyful daily practice.

I write, erase, rewrite

Erase again, and then

A Poppy blooms.

by Katsushika Hokusai

Here is the thing. All of these delights and so much more happened while my neck hurt. In retrospect, while I was doing the poetry/drawing workshop, I forgot about my neck as I did for many other moments during the week. I have forgotten about it now as I write this blog post. Of course, now I notice it again. But I can turn my stiff neck and see my magic bag close at hand, which means relief will soon be mine.

What is all this to say? I suppose it’s that we can be ok and not ok all at the same time. And where we focus our attention determines the extent of our suffering. I am not ignoring my neck. How can I? But there are things I am learning to do, including seeking professional help. We can provide ourselves with temporary relief by what else we choose to do. And if a good cry is needed, take it. Here is another new Haiku I love by Issa, one of the classical Haiku writers.

Napped half the day

no one

Punished me

On that note, I will say adieu, and I honestly hope all of you who are in pain seek help. It’s no time to be a stoic. And consider trying something new to give yourself a different kind of relief. For me, it was the poem/drawing practice that I now play with every day for 20-30 minutes.  We can learn to do many things, and I hope you find something that delights you.


1:) From Wildlife World – a common, cheerful, beautiful bird called the Chaffinch. Listen and watch here.

2:) Yesterday, the 24th, was World Penguin Day, and The Atlantic published a series of delightful penguin shots to celebrate. Here is the link.

3) For those who like poets Mark Nepo and James Crews, there is a free event on Friday at 1:00 PM ET. Here is the link to register.

4) I am thinking of people I know who have loved ones entering hospice this week. My heart is with you.

5:) And I am lighting candles for you all, especially my dearest cousin Sonya, who is having surgery on Friday.

6:) Thank you for reading my musings. You, dear readers, are part of my joyful moments. May you have many moments of contentment and courage. The poet David Whyte defines courage this way: “Courage is what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive.” Warmest wishes, Trudy


14 replies
  1. Carol+Ingells
    Carol+Ingells says:

    Thanks for this, Trudy. I shared it on FB. I have done “small things”, staying alone for 6 days, while Robert went on a trip with his daughters. With my mobility issues, it was work, but surely fits David Whyte’s definition. Hope the neck soon feels better. Love, Carol

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you, dear Carol. I like David Whyte’s definition too. He has a way with words. His essay on Friendship in Consolations is unique and a favourite of mine. Congratulations on managing on your own. Take a bow, OK. Warm wishes coming your way, Trudy

  2. Sue+Fitzwilson
    Sue+Fitzwilson says:

    Lovely blog, thank you. There are so many parts to the day and night. Going with the flow may be a cliche but it seems to work.

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you dear Sue. It always lights up my day to see you pop up. I still recall our dinner at Tomato in Vancouver. Gentle hugs, Trudy

  3. Janice+Falls
    Janice+Falls says:

    What delightful small things you have shared Trudy – photos, haiku, birdsong, and more, a reminder that there are so many possibilities. I have noticed that when I lie in bed at night before I fall asleep, I can be so much more aware of all my aches and pains – not because they are worse then, just that I’m not paying attention to other more pleasant (usually) things. Magicbags are gold – may your neck ease and improve. much love, Janice

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thank you, dear Janice. The magic bag is gold – I agree. I am constantly inspired by your attention to all the little things. When I go to bed, I mentally recite tiny poems and such, and I soon drift off. I also use my Magic Bag for 15 minutes before I turn out the light so I am cozy. Gentle hugs, Trudy

  4. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    So lovely, my friend. “For 76 years and x number of days, I never woke up and thought, wow -no neck pain.” Thank you for such a powerful attitude-shifter for me today. xx

  5. Jean
    Jean says:

    Bless you dear Trudy!just reading this before I go to sleep with so many little gratitudes running around in my head.I also have a stiff,sore neck,with no reason for it and I agree-do something interesting and pain is forgotten. I don’t like ice but I find it helps with neck.take care.

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thanks for your dear note Jean. It is interesting how being occupied with something that engages us takes our mind off the pain. For me what is helping is warmth. Three cheers for the Magic Bag. Enjoy your week. Warmly, Trudy


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