The first time we did it, I led her down the road. The constant rain of the past month had now cleared, and the gravel road was crunchy and stony under foot. Nadia followed delicately behind me, picking her path through the stones and finding the best landing place for each hoof. She stopped a couple of times to check things out. She wasn’t completely sure- the tightness of the muscles in her neck and the look in her eye spoke to that- but she was brave enough to continue on in spite of it.
I get it, I told her. But you don’t have to be afraid.
We got to the bottom at the T-Junction where the road meets the inlet. Turn right and after 10 km or so you would find you yourself in the closest town centre, a sleepy port where you can buy food for double the price you would pay for it only a few minutes further on.Turn left and you find yourself fairly shortly at the ocean. Nadia and I took neither of these turns but made our way forward to find an opening in the bank where we could both gently tumble down onto the flat expanse.
The inlet. A big, oceanic amphitheater. At high tide, the water rises to about waist height, save for a long, snaking channel that’s always over your head. At low tide, it becomes the world’s biggest arena; a packed mud flat that affords us passage all the way out to the sea.
For horses, I imagine this place to be quite primal. First, there is the salty scent and taste of the ocean, mixed in with the earthy dampness of the hills that surround it. The shape catches the sounds, and a conversation or the drone of a car in the far distance, given the right wind, can be clearly heard. Underfoot it pads and squelches, every step marked by a hoofprint that gets quickly dissolved.
There on the inlet, you are exposed, on show to all around. To a horse, I imagine that feeling to be quite vulnerable.
For Nadia and me, this was the next step in our self-imposed brave challenge; our commitment to regular adventures for us to know each other better, to broaden our horizons and to encourage courage in each other. If we’d been working to empty the worry cup, the time had come to fill the brave bucket. And how do buckets get full? Through single drops at a time.
I jumped up and down on the spot three times and then leapt on bareback.
Riding on the inlet that day was for us a big little thing. It was a push past a threshold that I had been previously reluctant to take. And now, even faced with our readiness, I felt an inner apprehension. Would it be ok? How could I be sure?
The truth was, I couldn’t. But I could trust that all the big little things that we had done up ‘til this point had positioned us well to take the next step forward.
I pulled out my phone and recorded snapshots of our adventures. We sang. We walked through the water. We were free.
A Big Little Thing. Another drop in our brave bucket.
In my professional adventures, I often see people hold back on sharing the Big Little Things. The get hidden behind justifying clauses such as:
I know it’s not a big thing but…
I know this isn’t a big deal for many people but…
Smothering their Big Little Thing behind a mountain of no-big-deal-ness.
But here’s the thing. The Big Little Things ARE big deal. In fact, it’s the series of back to back little-deals that make up the things we would consider to be, well, kind of a big deal.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at some common trip wires that get in the way of us celebrating our Big Little Things so we can celebrate each point along the journey with the kind of adoration they deserve.
Reason #1: You don’t celebrate your little big thing: Comparison
Of all the reasons that we fail to celebrate the little big things, this one surely tops the list. Even if we do experience the flash of joy that comes with expanding your courage muscle, it’s very easy to see it crumble into dust under the brutal lens of comparison.
It’s not really a big deal, we might tell ourselves, people do WAY more than this all the time. It’s silly to celebrate something that is so clearly nothing.
Let’s back the truck up for a second.
First up, I hear you. In the case of Nadia and me, people ride on the beach all the time. That in and of itself is not a huge deal. What IS a huge deal is that Nadia and I don’t ride on the beach all the time. In fact, Nadia has never been in any situation like this before, and we certainly haven’t as a combination. And given the emotional state she began with, being able to ride out bareback like this is actually a huge deal. Massive in fact. So Imma taking it.
The thing is, there is always going to be something or someone you can compare yourself to. If you use that for inspiration, fantastic. That’s a healthy use of comparison that adds value to your journey and highlights what it is you would like for yourself.
If comparison is used for denigration or diminishment, however, then we need to check ourselves at the gate.
Is this a big deal to you?
Is this important to you?
Does this feel good to you?
Then, my friend, you have just found yourself in the midst of a Big Little Thing.
Reason #2 You don’t celebrate your little big thing: Perfectionism
A big turning point for me in understanding perfectionism was to realise that perfectionism wasn’t, as I had previously though, a striving for excellence and self-betterment. It’s a hyper focus on the things that aren’t working, leaving us in a situation that’s basically self-abuse.
If you identify as a perfectionist, you aren’t looking at for what’s working in an attempt to make them better. Instead, your picking apart all the pieces that you believe fall below the mark and using them to reinforce a feeling of not-good-enough-ness.
I know that sounds harsh, but perfectionism is harsh. It’s a yardstick that’s impossible to live up to and that sets you up to fail. It also robs us of the myriad of things that are going right, including all those Big Little Things that are necessary to acknowledge and reward.
If you are a recovering perfectionist, follow the simple prescription of noticing what feels good. And then celebrating it.
Bring to front of mind the Big Little Things that stand out as part of your regular horsing adventures; soften the edges of your resistance and open yourself up to good feeling and experience.
Reason #3 You don’t celebrate your little big thing: Embarrassment and Shame
It can be a split-second ride between feeling kind of stoked with yourself and then feeling embarrassed that THAT is the thing you feel stoked with yourself about. The conversation in your head might go something like this:
Oh yay! Me and TimeBomb just trotted, whoot! But it was only a trot. I can’t believe that’s all we are doing. Trotting. That something that simple is something that I thought about celebrating for a moment. Is this what I’m reduced to? Everyone else out there is qualifying for the Olympics and I’m having a good day if we manage to get the trot going? Sheesh. I need to get a grip and get some perspective.
You are correct, you DO need to get perspective. Celebrating where it is you are on your journey with your horse is not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. It may not be where you want to end your final chapter, but that doesn’t mean that where you are isn’t completely valid and worthy of celebration.
We become our own joy-stealers when we refuse to acknowledge the good in what’s happening and prevent ourselves from creating momentum behind better feeling and experience. You celebrating your Big Little Things gives others permission to do the same.
And hopefully, the day is not too far away when we realise that the whole dash gone lot was really just a linked chain of Big Little Things anyway that we’d grouped together in our mind as that one big thing we call life.