Thursday, February 14, 2008

It all adds up.

I have some theories about relationships (and by some, I -- of course -- mean many). Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you, I take this relationship shit seriously. For real.

So today, on a day that's traditionally more mush than pragmatism, I'm gonna bring it: one of the ideas that I hold sacred about relationships. It's not mushy. In fact, it's the opposite of mushy. It's actually really clear. And I'm gonna illustrate my points by using sewing examples. Because I am A NERD!

So, here's something I hear people say all the time: "It was just a little thing, I don't know why we were even fighting about it. I should just let it go." And then they go on to talk themselves out of being upset about the parking spot or the remote control or the tape on the gift wrap.

I never hear anyone say: "It was just a little thing, I don't know why we were gushing over it so much or why it made us so happy," and then talk themselves out of being pleased about a smile or a thoughtful question or a made bed. Never. Happens.

There are at least two ways to make sense of this, it seems to me.

1. The obvious: Lovely things don’t capture as much attention as not-so-lovely things do. OK. Yes, people are short on time, and they have to pick and choose what they pay attention to. Sure. But noticing only the crap things? Not the smartest time-saver, frankly, what with the fighting and the bickering and the debating and what not. (The what-not? Biggest time sink ever.)

2. The not-as-obvious: The little things are meaningful. They just are. I really believe that they're kind of everything. Whether they're little things that go against our preferences and values (and therefore irritate us), or little things that make our life easier or make us feel safe or pleased (and usually go unnoticed), all those little things add up to make a relationship what it is. I mean, really, what else is there? (Yes. Sure. The big things. But how often do the big things come up really? If we're lucky, not as often as the little things, for sure, and even the big things are held together by little things.)

So, to be clear: I stand proudly in the I Will Sweat the Small Stuff, Thank You Very Much camp. And I think it's absolutely critical to sweat it all with care and love.

Which brings us to the sewing.

From the Department of All Things Duh and On-the-Nose:

In sewing, all the little (boring) things you do add up: cutting the fabric, sewing the seam allowances, pressing the seams, lining seams up with one another. Oh, the list goes on. Paying close attention and doing all those little things carefully and thoughtfully can be a slog at times. But all of it matters.

Here you'll see I cut some strips of fabric. I sewed them together, and it's a block.

Just a block of three strips sewn together. Fine. Lovely. Whatever.

But here's what never ceases to amaze me (and also does a pretty good job of illustrating my point): If you attend to all the tiny cutting/sewing/pressing details with great care and thoughtfulness, unexpectedly glorious things can happen when you step back and take a look.

Holy shit. It all adds up. Even the tiny moments where it isn't perfect, where seams didn't line up or squares aren't square, are overshadowed by the bigger picture -- a project that was obviously cared for at the level of the little things. All the saying thank you and phone calls from the grocery store and sharing a funny moment from work and the genuinely-asked how are you's? Well, when you step back and take a look, you've got yourself a lovely relationship, sir.

Here's wishing you millions of lovely little things in all your relationships!

(Consider yourself lucky you got the "little things in relationships" post, and not the one where I discuss how this

is also this

from another perspective.

I will take the romance out of anything. I tell you what.)


Pam said...

I'm with you on the little things --

Nano said...

Well said. Very nicely demonstrated. Love the quilt! Even the little patch with the warts n all.

And so sorry about the fall, but also, hilarious recount of said event.

Rose Red said...

I love that quilt. And you are right, the little things do matter (which is why we fight about them) but equally, sometimes the little things (like the snarled sewing) don't matter so much because the big thing is still so lovely. And you can fix the little thing (I hope...)

Dr. B. said...

Oh! To be clear - the snarled patch was my test run for the machine-quilting, and was not anywhere near the actual quilt. I'm a person who will test things out, so I've got that going for me at least.

Thanks for the propers, everyone!

Stacey said...

all the lovely little things add up to lovely big things!!

love the quilt - it always amazes me how standing back it looks so different than up close!

Kirsten said...

The best Valentine's post I've read yet! And that quilt? Well clearly the little things added up to something grand! Beautiful.

Ashley said...

It's lines! But then it's ZIG ZAGS! Lines that magically turn into zig zags! That is so cool. I heart quilting so much.

Anonymous said...

very profound dr. b
also must be said that I love that fabric! So vintagey feeling/cosy/nostalgic...makes me happy.

Stella said...

Hear fucking hear. (I apologize for swearing on your blog. I just had to get across just how strongly and happily I agree with you.)

And the quilt... it's like Ashley said. It's sort of magic.

RobynR said...

*sniffle* Beautifully put. Thank you.

Xian Gal said...

wow, yes, you are so right about the little things, and how we pay SO MUCH attention to the little shitty things and SO NO attention to the little graceful things, and that somehow seems totally backward to me. But yes let's sweat the small stuff with care and grace and hope.

Anonymous said...

I dropped the ball...of yarn. next year, you should enter:


tiennie said...

Uh oh on your sewing tension but yes to the little things! I'm firmly in that camp too. I so appreciate the little things!

Nora said...

Lines + zigzags = magic! Very well written, Dr.

francois said...

The best advice I ever got was to say "I like it when..." on a regular basis to keep you facing the right direction in relationships.

I like it when blog posts make me think.

Anonymous said...

ahhh, you have helped me put it in perspective. i am living with someone for the first time ever in my life at 40...and i find myself getting worked up about the small stuff....even though i believe in not sweating them. that is all theory now.

i will now have to figure out how to speak guy talk to get this across to "mah man."