Living Life Small Leaves Room for Growth

It may have been Oprah who coined the phrase, or at least popularized it: “Living life large.” I remember her show where I first heard it. Oprah rang the doorbells of homes in and around Chicago (if I recall correctly), surprising families with a visit. One couple gave her a tour of their backyard with its extensive brick paths and patios, neatly manicured lawn and gardens, and built-in pool.

“You’re livin’ life large!” Oprah proclaimed, as only she can do.

I was envious of the neat and tidy yard and home. (Some other day, I’ll tell you my thoughts on envy, a fully human emotion). And, while I didn’t covet the family’s obvious wealth, I envied what I assumed to be their lack of financial uncertainty.

Living life with uncertainty.

My husband will tell you I’ve always worried about money. My Oprah-watching years, from around 2001 to 2008, were the worst. Our son, Matt, was living life with a brain tumor—diagnosed in 1997 when he was 11—and his comparatively minor impairments made every day a challenge. It finally dawned on me that I’d have to leave my school-counseling job to coach and mentor my child if he had any hope of graduating from high school. Matt, 33 this year, may disagree with that assessment, but, as his mother, I knew it was the truth. So I became a “kept woman” as I joked, and our family began our lean (but still privileged, compared to many) one-income years.

Although Oprah’s show made me yearn for a neat and tidy, financially secure existence, the idea of “livin’ life large” felt unsettling. It seemed to be what society valued. Why didn’t it feel right for me?

That was before I had done the work to accept who I am.

In this short blog, I can’t even begin to explain what led to my self-acceptance; I’d have to write a book. (Oh wait. I did write a book.) Suffice it to say I’ve realized I prefer to live life small. Small is where the growth lies for me. Small is where I blossom, where I find purpose, where I’m more productive and content.

Embracing small has opened up room for incredible growth, including all that goes into finishing my memoir—the creativity, the discovery of hidden talents, the relentless hard work, the roller coaster of rejections and accolades. In addition to my writing, I’ve grown in my relationships, my faith, my self-acceptance.

Good things come in small packages.

The Tiny Love Stories book in the photo was released by the New York Times this month. It’s an anthology of 100-word stories, including mine, from the past few years.

My hundred words–“My Son, The Homeowner,“–tells about Matt buying his first house in 2019, and my astonishment and pride at his accomplishment. “My heart. It’s bursting,” the story ends.

I bought Matt a copy, and in the inscription, I wrote, “There’s nothing tiny about my love for you.”

Living life small speaks volumes.

Like many, your pandemic life may have grown uncomfortably small this year, out of an abundance of caution, out of necessity. I hope in those tiny spaces, you have found room for growth. And in this difficult, unprecedented season of endings and beginnings, I hope you find peace, joy, and love.

P.S. Check out my new page on this site: Ten Signs You May Be a People-Pleaser. How many did you check? I’d love to know!



  1. Mike on December 16, 2020 at 7:54 AM

    Very good blog dear. I love living life small with you, wouldn’t have it any other way. Truth be told – I never worried about money, I’m perfectly fine with a simple life. We were incredibly blessed and still able to put two sons through private school during those years……who needs to drive a new car?!?

  2. Francine on December 16, 2020 at 9:23 AM

    I love this! When I was in college I met a funny, handsome guy in the library. We went out a few times, and one day the conversation was about favorite colors, or so I thought. His favorite color was green, and I began talking about the spring grass and the farms I like to ride by and relish the different shades of green. I then told him how I loved the orange of a sunrise and the midnight blue of the night sky with the stars peaking through. He interrupted me and told me he was talking about money. Needless to say it was our last date!

  3. Sheba Olenik on December 16, 2020 at 10:08 AM

    I love reading your posts. I feel such a connection.
    I believe as mothers we make lots of compromises and sacrifices for our family.
    I found I maybe a people pleaser as well… I said yes to 6 on your list.

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