Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day four hundred and ninety ... Doing the little things right.

We live in short sentences, six words or fewer.

Do or die.

How sweet it is.

Eyes on the prize.

One day at a time.

Live for today.

May the force be with you.

Live fast, die young.

Don't worry about it.

It's a decidedly American concept. We like our mottoes, our slogans, our chants. It's like we can't keep quiet and mindful for longer than it takes to think of the next thing and then we're off like a firework on the fourth of July. When they go off every year I sometimes feel as if they are a code of some sort--a speech or a monologue, ending with a rousing ovation by an already converted audience.

But we like to keep it brief.

And so, as a product of this culture and one of it's proponents (despite my frequent criticisms), I have one of my own.

"Do the little things right."

Yes. I know. It goes against the idea that we mustn't dwell on the minutia of the world--that the big picture is what is of most consequence.

But if the wall hanger that the big picture is relying on for support is installed with haste and indifference, then the big picture, as it were, is only one strong slam of the front door away from ending up on the floor with a shattered pane of museum quality glass.

Do the little things right.

I have some nice guitars; I've had some of them for more than twenty years. They're pretty durable, but each and every one of them are at all times under immense tension from six thin cables running lengthwise from tip to tail. They all have protective cases, but I like to have them handy so I can pick them up and play them when I'm home (out of sight, out of mind is a six word phrase that comes into play all too frequently in this situation). A guitar stand costs $25, give or take. I had a couple stands that each had a small but significant problem with them. It's possible that I could have used them for a long time without an accident. But I went out the other day and bought two new stands. I didn't want to spend $50 on something that I technically already owned. But the way I see it, if one of my guitars should fall and the neck should snap because I was using something that, by definition, did not, and could not perform its purpose (to "stand" my guitar up when I'm not holding it), then I just ruined something more valuable to me than one could fathom.

Do the little things right.

The coasters I own, if left unused, could ruin an otherwise flawless tabletop finish.

A price tag, if not cut with scissors but, instead, ripped out forcefully as I am so accustomed to doing, could--and most often does--rip a shirt collar.

A sink with a few dirty dishes could so easily be left at the end of the night for the morning. The idea is so delicious that I swear I get a high just walking away from them. But more often than not I will do them before I go to bed. I don't live in a restaurant. I don't have a night crew. I made a small, contained mess that is still malleable and open to a quick scrubbing ("clean as you go" is a four word phrase a wise man in an apron once told me). When I get up in the morning the last thing I want to do is dishes. No, I want to use them ... clumsily. And it makes the start of my day so much nicer when I'm not picking up from the night before. 

Do the little things right.

I'm not trying to write a self-help book here, unless you take the literal meaning of that and apply it to how I'm trying to impart the ideas and practices that I have used in my recent past to help myself improve. And I don't mean this to, in any way, be misconstrued as nagging or chastising to the reader. I just can't not talk about it, because it is so unbelievably simple and consistent that I feel I would be remiss to not focus on this seemingly small but ultimately monumental facet of my newly commandeered life. It works on every level. It only takes a little bit of effort to make a huge difference. And the best part about is that it gets easier the more I do it.

That piece of paper on the floor is still going to be here the next ten times I walk by it ... 

And the thing I like most about doing the little things right is that if you take care of the seemingly insignificant details of the average existence, then the big things don't seem so big anymore. They have fewer conspirators to compare themselves to. They have fewer places to hide, and, as a result, have more sides exposed leaving unseen weaknesses in plain view. And when that happens, they lose their swagger and pomposity. They lose their bravado. They become last year's model. They begin to cooperate. 

They become a littler thing.

Time is like a small child. If left unattended it may wander off or, worse yet, be taken away right from under you.

That said, it's time, once again, to do the little things right ...

Thanks for reading,


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