Get small, get calm, get happy with purpose


Standing on the dock at night, I could hear, but not see, my friend Gabby returning on the paddleboard. My eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the darkness. We exchanged places and out I paddled.

No wind, the water was utterly still. It was Sunday night and late in the season, very few lights from houses along the shore and only night crickets sounding. Quiet, slow dip of paddle in the water. The strongest stars seen in the sky only. Out to the middle – and turning back to the west…over the hemlocks – a waxing crescent moon hanging bright and low in the sky.

I felt very small among all of this openness, all this space. And it felt great. Freeing.

Whatever background concerns or worries my mind might have been chewing on unnoticed slid away into the dark water. I felt in that moment ‘right sized’ – what the poet Mary Oliver calls, “your place in the family of things.” This is the power of purpose – an opportunity to get ‘right-sized’.

The links between self-absorption and depression are now well documented scientifically. But it’s not just depression. Dr. Leon Seltzer says, “From a variety of phobic, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive impairments, to many depressive disturbances (including bipolar disorder), to various addictions, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and to most of the personality disorders, self-absorption can be seen as playing a major (if not dominant) role.”

When we’re anxiously peering in, each problem appears vast. What other size could it be? We aren’t able to get the benefit of connecting with something larger than ourselves to ‘right-size’. And we’re not able to give our best to a world that needs it so sorely now.

Instead, what we need most in moments of anxiety is space. Connecting with something larger provides that space.

I probably spent no more than 20 minutes out on the lake that night. Yet weeks later, I can immediately feel its calming, centering ‘rightness’ that helps temper my perspective even as I write these words. A small time investment, a huge payoff.

Here’s to you cutting through your background noise. And here’s to you finding the peace and connectedness that a right-sized perspective and larger space provides, right her, right now.

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