Embrace the Ordinary
December 1, 2021
I have a cognitive crush on Alain de Botton, founder of The School of Life. What he and his colleagues write about is brings me such comfort. I feel seen in all of their work. They describe their work as an offer of “insights in the key ingredients of emotional well-being: how to form good relationships, identify a satisfying career, minimise anxiety, acquire confidence and connect properly with friends.” Who doesn’t need a little help on any or all of those parts of life? Even at 54, I need a little help in all of those areas.
Growing (up), something I strive to do every day, has presented me with my ‘challenge’ to embrace the ordinary. I have always striven for excellence. I have felt a need to be ‘extraordinary’! Live an ‘exceptional’ life! So, when I am in Walgreens buying paper towels or flossing again or filling out that umpteenth form, I bemoan my life. Oh, woes me. Sigh. My mother often called me Sarah Bernhardt. I do have a love for the dramatic. And it gets me in trouble.
The School of Life gives voice to my challenge. “The ordinary has a very bad name. We’ve inherited a Romantic assumption that things that are unique, hard to find, exotic or unfamiliar are naturally fitted to delight us. Yet the paradoxical fact about happiness is how often it collects in some unprestigious places: a quiet evening in, supper with an old friend, doing the washing up with a child… This may be the true meaning of life. Before chasing an ideal future, we should be sure to be fully attuned to, and celebrate, the modest, beautiful, ordinary moments and things that are available to us already.”
Hmm… to not be ‘turbo charged’ and racing toward exceptional? I am listening….
As I dig into my propensity for comparison, the idea of anything ‘ordinary’ becomes too ordinary. I might become someone who is dull. Who lives a bland existence. Live a life of quiet desperation. (See how I can put a dramatic spin on things?) I imagine the amazing Greta would say this to me. “Blah blah blah.” She might just say a bit differently. “Get over yourself. Welcome to your life. Celebrate you have one at all.” And when I center myself, breathe, and take time to just sit still for a moment, I know this to be true. Modest ordinary moments are the best.
I recall one of my most favorite winter vacations was sipping hot cocoa while reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Which I did at home. In Palo Alto. Warm and snuggly and satisfied.
Two nights ago, the full moon appeared outside my door. Full and gorgeous. And right here outside my door.
Yesterday I had my carpets cleaned. The beigeness of this old carpet is a thing of beauty.
Blah blah blah, say I? NO! Beige is beautiful!!!
This winter vacation I wish for you a modest, ordinary, and truly remarkable experience. No photos needed. No dressing up. No big deals. Just being. Ordinary is extraordinary. Maybe I am growing (up). 🙂
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Some fun books and websites to check out over the winter break.
Sloww is your guide “to awaken and actualize the art of living.”
24/6 “In this “wise, wonderful work” (Publishers Weekly), Shlain offers not only her own story, but a riveting ride through the past, present, and future of our relationship with technology, from her unique perspective as being an Internet pioneer and tech enthusiast, who found a balance of how to live in our 24/7 always-on culture.”
Edge “To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.”
Recomendo A weekly newsletter that gives you 6 brief personal recommendations of cool stuff.