The Small Decisions that Matter

If you want to make one choice today that will make you healthier and happier – pay attention to your connections with other people.” – Robert Waldinger

On a recent Monday morning I was settling down to work and I received this text,

Somehow the lack of punctuation made it seem all the more urgent.

The situation developed over the next hour so that it was clear that after the ping-pong accident, my 83-year-old mom was alert, awake and breathing, didn’t seem to have broken any limbs but was going to the hospital. There wasn’t anything for me to do but wait as she was loaded into an ambulance, taken to emergency, and my brother sat with her waiting for test results.

For me, it’s in moments like this that what matters becomes obvious – usually by showing what DOESN’T matter. Doing email, paying bills, cleaning the floor doesn’t matter (although sometimes I clean as therapy).

Eight years ago when the call came that my dad had died suddenly in a bike accident, I was in the garage working on a dresser. It was a hope project – creating a secret space in a dresser that I hoped the child I was not yet pregnant with would like.

Then I found out my dad was no longer in the world and what to do next was completely confusing. I don’t know how long my body stayed on autopilot and I just walked around in a daze but the next thing I remember was sitting with my dog next to my computer trying to figure out how to book a trip to Tucson, Arizona to be with my mom and siblings. A very simple task that had suddenly become so hard because I had to make decisions.

So I reached for the phone and called my oldest and best friend. It was only then after the tears fell as I told her and she held me with her words that I figured out what mattered – to be with the people in this life that mean something and everything to me.

When the worst happens and someone dies, I have found two things to be really clear. First, that you no longer have the chance to change the relationship in any way. Second, that the relationship they died with is likely one made of many small decisions to open up, turn toward, seek to understand, spend time with, or otherwise honor them. Or decisions not to – because not everyone merits that level of intimacy.

But for the ones that do merit that level of intimacy, it’s not just one commitment to them that matters but a lot of little ones. They happen every day, over time, and they build up.

When I think about the quote for this post, I think of all the little daily choices. I think of Jane Fritz’s recent post, “During this holiday season, think about capturing the gift of voice” and how grateful I am that I recorded conversations with my dad. I think of all the laughs I shared my dad, the home projects we did together and the time in the years preceding his sudden death which I spent asking him about his life. 

My mom is thankfully doing fine. She fractured a couple of ribs and is healing nicely. Overall, she chalks up the accident to her competitive nature getting the best of her comment sense. Which is another lesson altogether.

(featured photo from Pexels)

26 thoughts on “The Small Decisions that Matter

  1. As usual, Wynne, your writing grabbed me from the start. The detail about the dresser – your Hope project – was so touching. And the text message about your mom is a perfect illustration of how small things can make such a difference. Just a beautiful post! 🤍

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Kendra. Ah yes, that dresser. I’ll never be able to touch it or look at it without remembering that moment. And while it involves grief, it also involves hope and birth so it’s a beautiful feeling. I really appreciate you noticing that and bringing it out.

      So excited to be doing THIS project with you! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s the little things. As a youngster it was my job to make the oatmeal while my dad got ready for work. Dad would wake me and then shave etc and I would head into the kitchen and start boiling the water etc. If I fell back asleep, Dad had to run for the bus without breakfast so it was important. Many mornings it was just him and I eating breakfast. Looking back it was a little thing but one that I cherish.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That might be considered a big responsibility for a child. I hear you saying you embraced that task, knowing clearly what a difference it would make for your dad and yourself if you weren’t able to work together. Lovely memory to have.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Deb. I never realized until I was older how much I enjoyed those moments with my Dad or appreciated from his perspective how he appreciated it. Eating oatmeal every day was a tradition for many years for myself, my father and my grandfather. – I am grateful for your insights also Deb. – David

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s funny how those things that seem so important to us one minute — checking email, paying bills, cleaning the floor , taking care of work — go out the window in the heat of the moment. They really don’t matter all that much. What matters is being with family and friends in a time of need. Hope your mother is doing better. What a lovely post Wynne. I learn so much in your writing. (Sadly, it’s usually a reminder to my stupid self on how I should be acting instead of what I’ve actually been doing. Ha, ha,) What a great way to start “The Heart of the Matter” journey! Wonderful post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ha, ha, ha, Brian. You do humor so well! I can’t wait for all the things I’m going to learn from you in this meaningful journey! I’ve already noted one from today – to actually write my mom more notes instead of just sending texts… Grateful you signed up for this ride!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Perfect post for a new beginning! Congratulations on this new site!

    I agree, with everything you say. Sometimes new beginnings lie in those decisions we make.

    When my youngest granddaughter was rediagnosed with stage 4 cancer, there was no question in my mind that I wouldn’t be going out to help my daughter for the duration of the treatments, to try to keep the twin’s kindergarten lives as normal as possible. Little did I know that my marriage would crumble from that experience, and I’d end up moving in with my daughter and grandkids. It is now a few years later, and I see my original decision as being the best one I have made, over many other decisions. No regrets over choosing the people who needed me!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Wynne! I knew what I was doing in the moment, as was very happy to be able to do so! Of course, I couldn’t have predicted the final marital downfall, I saw it happening loke a slow-moving train wreck. I was as relieved to get out of that as I was to help my daughter and to be close to my grandkids.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think a lot of individuals use punctuation when texting. I know I am one of them…lol. I am glad your mother is on the mend. You are very correct in the two points about death, but thankfully as you noted we have the (beautiful) memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so interesting about punctuation. I never considered that was an option. Yes, thankfully we have the beautiful memories. Well said. Thanks for following us over here!


  6. Thank you so much for starting this blog. It feels like a healing space to me a ,”safe haven”.Many years ago when I moved to The States from India I used to call my dad regularly but after some time I made a(little ) decision to call him every day. He passed away three years ago .I look back and see that little decision has given me the fulfillment, and the memories to cherish forever.We bonded more in the last 10 yrs of his life than our entire life.Its beyond words to describe the contentment and strength that gives me to live my life today.Looking forward to connecting with other kindred spirits here and enrich my life .Love always !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, first of all, that it feels like a safe haven is one of the biggest compliments we could receive. Thank you.

      And of course I love the story about you calling your father every day. What a wonderful small decision that made such a difference to your relationship – and memory of him. Beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing that wonderful example of turning towards!!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Mindful1971…I agree with Wynne…there is no greater intention than creating a safe and welcoming place for all — right here in the Heart of the Matter community. Welcome, friend. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

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