I could write 100 blog posts about the movie “Stranger than Fiction.” God willing, I probably will as it is one of my all-time favorites, owing in no small part to the presence of one Emma Thompson, who is not only a delightful, British actress but also happens to be a fantastic writer herself in real life.
Setting aside the completely unique premise, the narration, how succinctly it captures the experience of writing, and, of course, the presence of Emma herself, (which makes the film, but I’m getting off track), the movie also has a brilliant lesson that, like so many good lessons, is almost entirely unexpected.
Little things can save your life.
There are numerous examples in the film, but I cannot share too many without ruining the story, and it’s an amazing story. Please go watch the movie.
The lesson itself isn’t even the central premise, yet it rises so well out of the narrative. Again, I could go on and one, but suffice it to say the idea is that the little things, the “simple, seemingly innocuous” events, hold great value.
Wristwatches and Windsor knots. Books and baked goods. Friends and flours.
All of the normal and the ordinary are actually incredibly important. As Emma’s character explains in the closing narration:
“And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives.”
It’s a beautiful idea that I’m learning the truth of a lot these days. Because it’s easy to discount the little things. We often emphasize, look forward to, reminisce about the big events, so it’s no surprise that the everyday bores us. But the big moments are few and far between. They often disappoint, precisely because we build them up in our minds. And there are times when it is very hard to find anything to look forward to.
But the little stuff is always there. In many ways it’s what carries us towards the big moments. It’s what sustains us to get there. And, I’m learning, it’s likely not a coincidence that the little things are usually the first things our anxiety and depression convince us to stop doing.
Don’t buy yourself a frappuccino; you can’t afford it.
Don’t watch that movie, there are more productive things you could be doing with your time.
Don’t go out, there’s nothing there for you.
Depression, anxiety, negative thoughts, whatever it happens to be for you, they lie, and they lie because they know.
It’s easier to stay in your funk if you are alone.
Yes, you’ve seen that movie a thousand times, because it never fails to make you feel better.
And the frappuccino or the frosty or the chicken biscuit is an expense, but it’s also food, and sometimes all you need is a snack to make you feel better. They call it comfort food for a reason.
The truth of self-care is that sometimes you need to treat yourself, and self-care is often built out of the little things. The things we think we can’t do because they aren’t important enough.
But they are. They are infinitely important. Not just for us. The simple gesture. A kind word. A letter. A thank you. These might seem small on our end, but they could very well be the things that save another person’s day, another person’s life.
Little things can save your life. Because the truth is, the little things do more than help us live our life. The little things let us live our life.