Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

"You've got to find the extraordinary in the ordinary," said my friend Sioux this afternoon as we walked off a lovely lunch with friends and work colleagues. I had been talking about how much media we get these days on being more. We are told we are 'enough' on the one hand but on the other we are told that we can reach the moon and the stars if we try. There are women out there working full time, raising children, managing their wardrobes to look professional, sexy, athletic (depending on the setting), cooking up gourmet meals prompted by endless cooking shows and being told that if they do this course or that they can do more! They are exercising and reading the latest books and magazines, being community leaders, selling party plan in their spare time and doing Masters' Degrees by night. When will it all be enough? What is this drive to become or to be 'extra' ordinary? 

I have nothing against anyone taking care of themselves and their families and looking great and being well educated. I think it's great as long as it's driven by feeling good. If you are feeling stressed out because you're under too much pressure and getting sick because it is all too much; if you feel like no matter how much you do there will always be more to do or more you should be, then perhaps you could have a look at finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Slow down and take a look at what you're actually doing in a day, a week, a month. Write down all the work, the exercise, the caring, the activities you do. Write down everything you do on a nice big sheet of paper. What does it look like? Is it crazy? 

When you've done that, put a circle around the things you do because you love them or feel fulfilled when doing them. Put a circle around the things you do that make life worth living. If you can find the extraordinary in the things you love, perhaps you can lighten the load a bit and let some of those other things slide a bit. Who is your judge? It might mean you only vacuum every other day instead of every day, or perhaps leave the beds unmade or the book unread, if you don't really want to read it. I don't know. You know your life. I just know that there are a lot of stressed people out there and maybe we could look at doing things a bit differently; slowing down a bit.

How do you find the extraordinary in the ordinary? What does that mean exactly? Well I can only tell you what it means to me right now in this place, in this space. For you it might be something else. For me finding the extraordinary in my rather ordinary life is knowing I have made a difference in a child's life when I stop what I'm doing and listen when they tell me they thought up a new maths game on the bus on the way to school. Popping in to visit a friend out of the blue and finding them with a row of pills lined up ready to take. That turns an ordinary life into something special. I turned up at the right time without knowing there was anything wrong. That happened a lot of years ago but I'm really glad I called in that day. Sometimes it is extraordinary just to be in the moment and to notice just how good that hot shower feels on your skin...not thinking ahead to the clothes you'll wear and the drive to the meeting...or what you'll say when you get there.

Making time to just sit and look at a flower, a tree, the ocean, a face and letting go of the expectation that I must achieve something noteworthy in this life. If it happens that I achieve something noteworthy in the living of my life, then let it be through living the way I want to, and not because I have striven to be noteworthy!     

I know some ordinary people who have done or are doing some extraordinary things and I salute them, but for now I'm going to content myself with living an ordinary life and smiling when I see those little extraordinary things along the way. Perhaps in the end, it's having a willingness to slow down a little and to let life happen around you instead of always being in control. 

What sort of life are you leading? Have you been seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary?  What do you want out of life? Are you doing too much? What could you let go? Do you think there is value in working hard at something you really don't like doing?


  1. Am I doing too much? Hell yeah! Still working on refining that one. I was sitting out on the verandah this morning and realized I haven't been sitting out there much lately. As my health improves I forget to rest properly during the day, much to me detriment. You'd think I would've learnt by now! Still learning!