Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

This Little Life of Mine; I’m Gonna Let It Shine…


At the end of May, I came across an essay titled “The Small, Happy Life,” by David Brooks. While it originated in the New York Times, I didn’t find it there. I don’t read the newspaper because it tends to depress me. But this little gem was shared on Facebook by Patti Digh, a writer and all-around inspiring person who I follow.

The author asked readers to send in essays describing their purpose in life and how they found it. He expected the usual onslaught of big dreams and high achievements. We do, after all, live in a culture that seems to award rabid ambition.

But what he found, more often than not, was that many people are living small and happy lives and are at peace with that. As one person wrote, “we don’t all have to shine.” This is in such contrast to what the media and society at large would have us believe. How many of us feel small and insignificant because we are unknowns – unknown authors, unknown musicians, unknown inventors, mailroom clerks, and so on in a world that awards the ones who are known? How many of us feel like failures because we aren’t where we think we should be in our career? Maybe you feel like a failure because you haven’t found your career but are wallowing through the days in a mere job?


This essay was like a cool splash of water for me – right in the face. It is okay to live a small and happy life, to NOT be famous, to not strive for higher and higher rungs on the ladder of success. It is okay to be comfortable and content where we are and there is no harm in accepting our current position as the final one.

Another person wrote in and said that they finally recognized that “‘big decisions’ turn out to have much less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.” Let’s just sit with that for a moment. The big decisions that we agonize over will most likely have less impact on our lives as the tiny decisions we make every day.

Now some will say a tiny decision to be less antagonistic, or to just be more grateful in our daily lives is not a “tiny” decision at all. The decision to be a good wife or husband or parent or friend on a daily basis is no small matter. The choice to be kind and generous of spirit is actually huge. Making happiness and contentment a priority in your life is not easy, and yet, it is the simplest decision you will make.

When Patti Digh shared this on Facebook, she had actually shared it from someone else – Nina Tovish, whom I don’t know. I googled her to see if she, too, was an inspirational writer who I would like to follow, but as far as I can tell she is either a real estate broker or a multimedia designer of some sort, or maybe she is just a regular person living a small and happy life who has no interest in having a web page. Either way, her sharing of this essay included the following comments and they sum it up beautifully:

“This. It’s more than okay not to be the world-beating titan of industry, the super-productive Energizer bunny, the leader-activist Genius Grant winner, the famous media star. Cultivate your garden. Serve your neighbor. Pet the dog and the cat. Cherish your friends. Marvel at how beautiful the world is. Make something and give it away. Teach a child. Share a meal.

Life is good.

You don’t need to be a super-special magical unique snowflake to do any of these things.”

Doesn’t that just take the weight off your shoulders? Doesn’t that put it all in perspective?

We decide what is important and what makes our life happy. If you are cut out to be a titan of industry or pop star sensation, go for it. But know that there will be days when all you need to be happy and fulfilled is a chunk of time hanging out with the cat and eating a bowl of ice cream. It is the small moments that make a life.


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