Ordinary Is Extraordinary

This week’s guest post originally appeared on her brilliant blog, Surviving Life’s Curveballs 

Jennifer is a writer whose heartfelt and open take on life, allow us to consider just how extraordinary everyday moments can be….even the ‘curve balls’. 

Often I find myself busy in everyday life, rushing through the simple pleasures. Instead of enjoying my favorite parts of each day, I begin looking forward to a long awaited vacation, three-day weekends, holidays, or any special events thinking they will be amazing, making up for the moments lost to the hustle.

The truth is, the extraordinary lies in the ordinary parts of everyday life.

                    Ordinary is extraordinary

The unexpected giggles as I crack eggs for breakfast before we rush out the door, enjoying the beauty of nature as we walk to the bus, the warmth of my son’s hand as he slips it into mine; these are the moments that make life worth living. Rich beyond measure, the little things are what fill me back up when responsibilities, overscheduled days and long hours of work have depleted my reserves.

As a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, full-time employee and so much more, the demands of life are plentiful. I see this reflected in the lives of my friends as well. We work hard to fulfill obligations pushing to the side anything we would truly like to do.

At one point last year, I had myself so busy that I began to sacrifice time with my family. I began missing dinners around the table, reading with the boys, evening games of badminton. My values no longer matched the priority of my to-do list.

After talking things over in depth with my husband he agreed I had taken on too much and I needed to simplify. Saying “no” to others would give me the freedom to say “yes” to my family. To myself.

The problem was, and still is, saying no is a monumental challenge for me. Helping my family, friends and community are exceptionally important. Being responsible and helping to take care of the community that takes care of me is how I perceive value in myself as well as others. How could I say no? How could I stop giving back?

It was my husband who uncomplicated that issue for me. He reminded me of my strong conviction of our actions speak louder than our words and asked me to think about what my actions were saying.

A very uncomfortable moment of clarity struck. My family, my beloveds, were not my first priority. I had bumped them down the list because they were the easiest to disappoint. They would wait for me at home, they would understand. Yikes!

What did I want them to understand? That other people and projects were more important than them? That, when they grow up and have families of their own their focus, should be elsewhere? NO! Absolutely not!

The multiple volunteer positions were the first to go, next were all the miscellaneous parties. I began attending only the ones with significance. With the additional time, I found myself back into the nightly routine of dinner, dishes, homework, baths and bed–loving every minute of it.

The daily grind sounds like such a mundane, horrible thing, but truly it is where I find the most satisfaction. Dinner around the table opens the door to deep conversations with those I love most.

Dishes are done by the boys giving my husband and I a few minutes of privacy to reconnect after the work day. Homework helps me check in with how school is going with each of the kids. Bath time offers one on one time with each of my sons to talk about anything weighing on their minds.

This is not to say that I have found the answer to life’s demands, our hectic schedules, or that our family lives happily ever after. What I am claiming is that my family is number one in both words and action now.

I still deeply struggle to say no when asked to join committees or attend functions that I don’t really want to go to. But I keep my husband’s question close at heart. I ask myself what my actions are saying because, in reality, that is my true self.

While I continue to look forward to escaping to the ocean for vacations, I don’t wish away the days leading up to soaking in the sun. Instead, I linger over morning coffee with my husband, delight in spontaneous trips to the apple orchard, and smile as my family snuggles up with each other on the couch to watch movies.

Now I focus on enjoying our extraordinary life in the everyday, ordinary moments.

If you enjoyed this post, pop on over to Jennifer’s site Surviving Life’s Curveballs and read more or check her out on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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Battle for Balance

It’s a coolish winters day. The kind where the sky is a soft grey blanket and even the sun struggles to get going.

Hibernation seems to be the only acceptable thing to do and yet, like all things, the day must move forward.

Jobs to do, people to see, places to go and a brain that struggles to switch off.

There are moments when we all long for, yearn even, for a lull in our life. A break from the steady stream of jobs to do and the onslaught of information coming at us in a mobile world.

I dreamed the other day of a retreat into the wilderness; a cabin by myself, without WiFi, phone or television. Without a job to do, washing to clean, meals to make, kids to taxi about….oh I could go on!

The day was stiflingly standard in its course: wake, breaky, bundle kids out the door, work, meeting, pick up kids, dinner done, kids in bed, clean crap, stagger to shower and bed.

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Lying in the darkness at the end of a day, with my free fleeting minutes of private thought, I even toyed with the idea of booking into a Buddhist sanctuary for some practice in soothing solitude.

Ah, to find some balance. To arrive at that place of contentment.

I’ve Arrived…Not!

We convince ourselves that a break away from the busyness of the everyday, is just around the corner; in our next lot of holidays or once this job is finished, but like all things in life, we never really ‘arrive’.

The holiday ended up being frenetic, the kids got sick and there is still a burgeoning pile of things to do upon our return.

That job ended, but now it’s on to the next one before I fall behind on things.

And of course in always trying to keep up, the lists grow long and time sensing this, seems to sink into the ethos.

I’m a hopeless optimist and without fail, at the end of a working week I convince myself that come the weekend, I’ll be able to catch up – ‘do it all!’.

As if by some curious magic, time will slow on a Saturday and Sunday and I’ll be at my most willing and able to perform any number of planned feats.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I will have caught up come Monday. Arrived!

But of course, it’s just a disaster on weekly repeat which only adds to that sense of failure in striking the illusive ‘balance’.

Planning fallacy I’ve discovered recently, is actually a semi-technical term given to this very real condition! It’s the tendency to underestimate the time needed to do things.

I reckon it’s indicative of how my brain works in also overestimating what actually needs to get done.

Is Balance Best?

So do we ever really get to that place of balance? A place of calm and contentment, where work and our private lives find some happy middle ground?

Do we ever really ‘arrive’?

There seems to exist (at least in my mind) a stubborn idea that life should never really be ‘go, go, go’ all the time.

And yet, THAT IS LIFE.

That is exactly its function: to be, to exists, to remain constant. The alternative is lifelessness. And, well….. that’s not going to work out!

So rather than wishing for it to all just slow down at times, it becomes this battle for balance – one

Photo by Maria Molinero on Unsplash

I fear we should never have attempted to engage in from the start.

It’s relatively unrealistic to imagine that ‘balance’ is something we could even hope to achieve, considering the nature of our lives today.

And yet we talk about ‘finding balance’ in our life like it’s the natural order of things. The right or best way to be.

Like our mental state, if we’re not of sound mind all the time, some thing’s wrong.

But of course, I’m yet to find anybody who’s all ‘there’, all the time. Each of us are just a little weird, up and down, unique entities in our own right.

Just so, our lives area a constant hum of activities that involve all aspects of us: our family life, our work, our relationships, our social interactions, all merging and melting into one.

The scales naturally are constantly shifting as we navigate our way through the myriad of roles we take on and stability remains illusive.

Just being OK with this, might lighten our load.

Perhaps like the seasons, we too should see this constant battle for balance, as our natural state.

The norm as it were.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Maybe then we could give up the futile fight for balance and our ambitions to ‘arrive’ in life and see the persistent tussle as the truest way to live.

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4 Simple Ways To Make Life More Meaningful

In a crazy, busy world the ‘noise’ at times can seem overwhelming.

The barrage of responsibilities appear endless, the news non-stop and that voice inside your head just craves a willing ear.

It’s tempting to turn to distractions; a glass of wine at the end of the day, a scroll through Facebook, a mind-numbing evening in front of the TV. I do and it’s nice, but …..

As comforting as they are they’re momentary, band-aid solutions at best.

Another day awaits and the cycle of time propels us forward.

We ALL want to enjoy our life. We all want to find a sense of purpose and meaning, even if we don’t openly acknowledge it in words.

So how can we do this?

There’s got to be more than just noise and news and nonsense going on around us and in our heads.

How can we make sense of it all and find some focus? Some perspective? Some meaning and purpose?

Philosophy, my friends! The simple, ‘Backdoor’ basics kind.

It is the ultimate internal instruction manual and offers us a filter for our everyday experiences in life.

It gives us perspective, guidance, awareness and at the very least, reassurance that we’re all searching for the same thing – understanding.

I am no academic scholar of philosophy. I never studied it conventionally, and I am certainly not going to go all ‘old school’ on you here.

Philosophy has always been about helping us to understand who we are and how we should live, through the simple art of thinking and asking questions.

Just like a personal trainer who helps whip you into shape physically, philosophy is a the ultimate form of fitness for our minds and souls.

“Seneca … conceived of philosophy as a discipline to assist human beings in overcoming conflicts between their wishes and reality” (Alain de Botton, ‘Consolations of Philosophy’)

What philosophy is and is not

First, let’s be clear…

It’s NOT all ancient history, Aristotle, long-haired professors and stuffy institutions. It can be if you’re into that sort of thing.

Ancient names such as Plato, Socrates and Seneca might start to ring a bell, but cause you to yawn at the same time.

There are plenty of reasons to read these guys and more, but if the aim of the game is to get to the core basics, then the ‘backdoor’ approach does the job just as well.

The ‘backdoor’ philosophy basics (as I like to call them) are nothing revolutionary but simply the easiest way I’ve found to apply philosophy to our everyday lives.

It’s a way of tapping into what can be a convoluted concept and making it work in a busy, time-poor modern world.

For me it’s about learning through experiences (with kids in tow), asking questions, reading stuff, writing stuff and thinking… about stuff, amidst the madness of family life. All in an attempt to simply ‘live well’.

The 4 Backdoor Philosophy Basics
1. Admit that there is a lot we don’t know

Traditionally, philosophy has been considered a ‘love of wisdom’, but I find this paradoxical. In choosing to be wise, we’re really acknowledging first, ALL that we DON’T know!

Ouch!

But as soon as that’s done, we’re open to learning and taking something new from each experience.

2. THINK

I once heard an educationalists say that if our brains didn’t hurt at the end of each day, then we’re not using them for what they were designed to do.

This makes sense when I think of other muscles in our body, during and after a workout of some kind. Our brain, just like our muscles are designed for action, use, toil.

And overtime, waking a little wiser, day-by-day, each chance you have to think more has a cumulative effect. Use it (your mind) or lose it, as they say.

3. Start practicing the art of asking questions

All kinds; the 5 W’s and the H, with the sole purpose of encouraging thought, not necessarily answers.

So while Philosophy doesn’t offer answers, that’s exactly the beauty of it! (No need to be ‘wrong’ or annoyingly ‘right’).

Thinking and asking questions is what we were born to do.

To use our minds and bodies for thought and then action, but of the ‘best’ kind, has got to be what it’s all about.

4. Live, experience, act!

Philosophy ultimately requires those two most demanding of tasks: thought and action, both of which we’re often reluctant to add to our already growing list of ‘things to do’.

But French philosopher Montaigne believed “no matter how modest our lives, if we attended to our experiences properly and learned to consider ourselves as plausible candidates for an intellectual life, we could all arrive at insights no less profound than those in the great ancient books” (Alain de Botton, ‘Consolations of Philosophy’: p.165).

Philosophy then offers us a fresh lens through which we can gain greater

perspective of our lives; seeing how we can choose to ‘view’ our world, the people in it and the unique experiences on offer everyday, to ultimately learn from them.

If we take the valuable time to reflect and explore our everyday issues it can provide us with understanding, acceptance and the chance to simply be better individuals as a result.

A case for everyday Philosophy

As the pace of life speeds up, societies become increasingly complex and our lives controlled more by technology, it’s no surprise we’re feeling a little frazzled and maybe even losing sight of who we are, where we are going and what the point of it all is.

Yoga’s great, meditation too and there’s a burgeoning Self-help shelf in any book store these days, but philosophy is all-encompassing.

It can help us ‘to interpret our impulses, apply rationality and guide us to cures for our soul’ -Alain de Botton (p.55).

Our struggles with love, money, relationships, societal expectations, parenting, emotions, and the pursuit of happiness, can be soothed with Philosophy’s deft touch.

So while the world outside might be raging on, philosophy can help us find minimal disturbance within.

And when we step outside ourselves and view the bigger picture, we’re inevitably aware of our place and purpose.

Philosophy’s gift is that it might just set us free, in more ways than one. Or at the very least, open a few ‘doors’ for us.

 

 

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