I have no idea whether or not I was the only participant in the Mental Muscle Marathon last week. If I was the entire sample, then the challenge turned out to be a rip-roaring success! My mental muscles got flexed!
The day that really struck a cord with me was Gratitude Day.
I’ve participated in a lot of gratitude work in the past as a component of my own personal therapy. And I’ve also been witness to the effects it can have on some of my clients when they actively practice gratitude techniques. But it’s not something that I have consciously been cultivating of late. I think it’s time I got back in to it again.
Because it reminded me to celebrate being ordinary and doing ordinary things.
I am an ordinary human. But at times I can get caught up in the struggle to be much more than ordinary. To live a life that should be extraordinary. Believing that if x and y and z were to occur my dreams of the ‘perfect’ life would occur. (And I claim to be a ‘reformed’ perfectionist?)
At times I hold so closely to the idea that I should aspire to greater things - travel more widely, make more money, engage in more community service, develop stronger connections with others - that I overlook the more normal things or smaller things in my life. I begin chasing what I think are ‘bigger and better’ things. I start believing that I need to ‘dream bigger’, ‘live loudly’, ‘do amazing stuff’, ‘insert motivational slogan from an active wear shirt here’.
I can be really boring and I love to do things that other people might find incredibly boring. I like to tediously cross stitch. And take long naps. And watch reality TV. And bake. And I get a sense of joy and relief from ironing.
These are activities that neither look nor sound amazing on the surface. Even with the right filter, they would make horrendous Instagram posts. They’re also little pots of time that will probably not add up to what society is going to call an ‘extraordinary life’.
And sometimes I feel the push/pull when I’m doing these activities. The thoughts about what I could be doing. Questioning what would be a better use of my time, squandering my capacity to enjoy getting the creases out of my dresses.
On Gratitude Day (and since then – I’m keeping my gratitude practices up) I’ve tried letting go of the chase and attempting to divert my attention back to the things that are just showing up. The things that are already there. Appreciating and accepting my existence as it is now.
Because if the belief that the ordinary is not good enough for me continues then I might run into even more trouble.
If we believe that being ordinary means that we can’t impact the world around us, we might fail into resignation, bury ourselves in avoidance and comforts. If we believe being ordinary means that we aren’t worth means that we won’t develop the gifts we have. But most tragically, if we work so hard at only being special there is no time to be human. No time to open our arms to the simple, the average and the everyday. To learn how to be content with what is already in our lives and with things as they are. To pay attention to the small things in life. The normal and the ordinary.
Which might just make life feel extraordinary.