Those Tiny Details

Each year my mum hosts a family potluck at her home before Christmas. So far the weather has always cooperated and she’s never had to cancel. We have lots of great food and plenty of laughter. This weekend was no exception. There were twenty-one of us there, and in Mum’s small house it made for a LOT of people.

Although Mum looks forward to the potluck each year, it also ends up being very stressful for her. I have yet to figure out why she allows worry to overshadow what should be an enjoyable occasion. She worries that there won’t be enough food to go around or that someone will notice that her floor needs to be swept (even though she will sweep them several times that day) or heaven forbid, she might have forgotten something crucial, like napkins, and we might have to improvise and use paper towel. She wants everything to be perfect.

Here I am with Mum, my sisters, and brother. You have no idea how difficult it was to get a few family photos. We just couldn't seem to stop laughing.

Too many times we allow ourselves to get caught up in the unimportant details in life as we struggle to make everything perfect. I question whether the perfect moments in life are the ones that are finely orchestrated by us, contrived down to the tiniest detail, or do they happen spontaneously without an ounce of anticipation? Do those details we feel the need to control really make a difference so long as we reach the desired outcome? Are there times when we get so caught up in the details that we end up ruining our chances of reaching a certain goal because of our preconceived notion of how thing should unfold? I guess what I’m trying to say is, does it really matter which path we choose so long are we find the way home?

Writing can be like that, too. Sometimes I get caught up in the finer details of a story that I overlook the fact that the story I’m working is not progressing.Even though I may have a clear idea of what will take place, in my efforts to get the wording just so, I stay stuck on the same few chapters. I’m working to overcome this, settling my mind on the end result, working to get that first draft complete. Later, I can go back and polish to my heart’s content, decide what scenes need to stay and which ones need to go but before I can do that I need that story— beginning, middle, end.

I’m hoping that one day my mum will come to realize that it won’t be those tiny details that we’ll remember in years to come, it will be the laughter and the fun, those spontaneous moments that she had no part in planning. Those will be the memories that we will savour and remember in years to come.

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14 Comments

  1. Madison Woods

     /  December 20, 2010

    Great post, Laura. I also struggle to get past the details that bog me down, both in life and writing. Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
    • Sometimes it’s simply a matter of reminding ourselves what the really important issues are, Madison. We all need this reminding from time to time.

      Reply
  2. Sadly, it’s usually lost that reminds us what is important and what isn’t. I know when preparing for my family to visit I worry that the house isn’t just right. Then I remember what it looks like when they leave and realize they won’t even notice if there’s a few more dustbunnies than usual.

    What wonderful memories, Laura. I envy you. My parents have been gone over a decade, my brother lives 1000 km north, and our son is 2000 km east. Thank goodness for Skype!

    Reply
    • You’re right, Joylene. I think we become more aware of what is important in life when we have gone through loss. I’m sure my sisters and I sometimes take the fact that we are all handy enough to get together during the Christmas season and that we get to visit with our mum, so thank you for that reminder, Joylene.

      Reply
  3. This post came at exactly the right time for me, Laura…it’s five days before Christmas, and I don’t have everything done. I’ve made the decision to just do what I can, and let the rest go…it’s all I can do! Thanks!

    Wendy

    Reply
    • That’s really all any of us can do Wendy. Christmas Day will come and go whether we have every little detail attended to or not. There’s no stopping it. Guess we might just try to enjoy it!

      Reply
  4. The desire to have everything perfect seems to affect most of us, but the one year I just couldn’t do it all was a great revelation for me. Simplifying expectations is freeing! Selecting the most precious traditions and taking time to enjoy them is more important than perfection!

    I hope you have a blessed, joy-filled Christmas, Laura.

    Reply
    • I agree with you, Carol. It’s pretty difficult not to get caught in that trap at least occasionally. Keeping our expectations simple is a great way to keep the stress levels down. If we’re so stressed out about these things just how much enjoyment will we derive from them?

      Reply
  5. You are so right about memories. They will not be cherished for the taste of the food or the perfect table settings but rather for the the quality of the companionship shared with family members. It is very sweet of your mum to provide a get-together for family each year before Christmas. She may never be able to stop worrying over the small stuff, but she is a great mum.

    As for the writing, I, too, have a tendency to dawdle on word choices before the appropriate time. I see the foolishness of it when I decide discard a scene that I spent hours fiddling with. Ha! Blessings to you…

    Reply
    • I also think too, Carol Ann, that one day these annual potlucks will be a thing of the past and all we’ll be left with are those precious memories. There is so much to be thankful for!

      Reply
  6. Cottentail

     /  December 20, 2010

    What a wonderful blog.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Merry Christmas and All the Best in 2011.

    Reply
  7. I think our strive for perfection takes away the peace. You’re right though, we always want tomake sure all the tiny details are taken care of, and in the long run the memories will have nothing to do with those details. This is an excellent post. I will try to remember this when I host my next gathering. It looks like you all had a wonderful time.

    Reply
    • It definitely does take away the peace–so true.Those little details are often nice. I have a friend who likes to entertain and it is often a delight to see what all she has thought of to include for her guests, but it is the company and the fellowship that are the important things. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

      Reply

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