Auch kleine Dinge (Even Little Things)



Every weekend, my sister used to go to an outdoor market and buy herself a single beautiful rose. She would cut the stem short so that the flower rested perfectly on top of a bud vase. All week long she would keep this vase on her desk at work, a small pleasure that made her days a little brighter.

A song by Austrian composer Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) has been running through my head almost every day this week, and I am beginning to think it is trying to tell me something. It is called “Auch kleine Dinge,” which means “Even little things,” and the translation is as follows:

Even little things can delight us,
Even little things can be precious.
Think how gladly we adorn ourselves with pearls;
They are heavily paid for and are only small.
Think how small the olive is,
And yet it is sought for its goodness.
Think only of the rose, how small it is,
Yet smells so lovely, as you know.

Here is a recording of this song from a concert in 2003, before I had RA. (I’m the pianist on this recording, not the singer.)

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I have been in a flare since Monday. When this happens, big things like plans, dreams, and my sense of self seem to go out the window. My world shrinks down to the size of my own body, sometimes even to the size of a particular joint that is causing the most pain. It’s hard to be cheerful or optimistic or even just okay. Even when I am not actively flaring, just having RA has made my world smaller in many ways – activities I can’t do anymore, friends I don’t see because they were connected to those activities, parties I miss because I’m too tired to go, being unable to enjoy a nice glass of wine or a Mai Tai because of methotrexate, having to watch what I eat because of prednisone, staying home with my toddler too many days because taking him out is just too difficult…

It’s important to grieve those losses, and I am doing so. My songwriting is one way of working through these feelings, and writing and talking with trusted friends help too. I know that grief is not always a straightforward process, and that as my disease changes, I will probably have to revisit grief many times. But I also have a growing awareness of the good things in my life – not just the old things that I still have, but new things that have come along.

So I am trying to remind myself to notice and cultivate the “kleine Dinge” that add a little brightness to a difficult situation. Sometimes this seems very, very hard to do, but I think it actually makes a difference in how I feel. I also realize that I have been neglectful of this, especially when I look at people like my sister, who knows how to take this kind of joy in many things in her life.

Today’s “klein Ding”: My 21-month-old son has just learned how to give real kisses! He used to throw air-kisses, but the feeling of his little kiss on my cheek is something completely new, and amazing.

What are some of the “kleine Dinge” in your life?

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1 Comment

  1. Cheryl says:

    Chocolate. And music. Today it’s a little vocal element in a Michael Jackson song that, once I noticed it, just kind of made my day. And while it’s hot like today, I can’t think so much about eating… but music takes my mind off it.

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