As I sit to reflect on the events of this past year, I can’t help but consider where I was a year ago. I have the song “What a Difference A Day Makes” (crooned by the great Dinah Washington) echoing through the halls of my mind. Of course my substituted lyric would be “What a Difference a YEAR Makes”; days have accumulated into months, and months into a year, and collectively, they have made a difference. However, there were times during this past year where I couldn’t see or trust that I would indeed find myself here, in a better place. The only thing that seemed certain about time was that it kept on going, though sometimes seemingly fast, and more often, painfully slow.
It is astounding to me how inconsistent time passing can feel while walking through different scenarios in our lives. I remember so distinctly when I had my first child how I watched the clock’s second hand, which seemed to move in slow motion. Severely fatigued and sleep deprived I would force myself up to do a task, or participate in a walk through the forest. I would do this in the hope that my action would succeed in pushing the morning into the afternoon, and the afternoon into ‘daddy’s home’. Upon completing the difficult but wishful task I would allow myself, filled with anticipation to finally look at the clock. My heart would sink. What felt like an hour or two would be encapsulated within fifteen or twenty minutes! This past year there were dark times where the minutes felt like hours, and the hours, days. Regardless of how quickly or slowly time passed, there was always one thing that that I could be thankful for: that time, at the very least, didn’t stand still.
I have become so thankful for my year of becoming ordinary. It has represented to me, a year of learning how to live, truly live, for what is important, and surprisingly it wasn’t and isn’t always what I THINK is important. As singer/songwriter Ben Rector puts it in ones of his songs: “Because life is not the mountain tops, but the walking in between.” I think I had focused, for so long on my mountaintop destinations, while praying desperately from my gut to avoid the valley’s, that I had forgotten about the ‘walking in between’. Sadly, I had been ignoring most of the simple moments that were sandwiched between my lofty goals and any painful difficulties.
I have had people ask me what Becoming Ordinary’ really means. Why ordinary? Why not extraordinary? Why not spectacular? Why would I want to go out my way to BECOME ordinary? I’m not exactly sure of my answer, except that for many years I believed I was heading somewhere ‘special’. I also believed that once I arrived, I would be happy; content; satisfied. However, it became increasingly apparent to me that though I continued to ‘arrive’, once the task was achieved it was checked off the list and the bar moved higher. There wasn’t a lot of ‘smelling the roses’, or enjoying the moment while striving; I was on a mission to complete. This created a vicious cycle of looking toward a task, doing whatever was within my power to achieve it, accomplishing the goal (but only ever at an imperfect level), which left me feeling dissatisfied. It MUST be because I’m not GOOD enough at whatever I am trying to achieve. In my mind only the ideal of perfection – living perfectly, acting perfectly, working perfectly, mothering perfectly, befriending perfectly, loving perfectly could bring me satisfaction! As you can see, I had set myself up for failure…over and over again.
The perfectionist pattern emerged everywhere in my life, and I was exhausted. I decided to take a year off to discover what I was doing wrong. With my mood low and my frustration with myself high, I stabbed at the dark, hoping to hit a target, ANY target that would help me make sense of my dissatisfaction. One day, while driving my daughter to preschool, the phrase: “Becoming Ordinary: letting go of ‘perfect’ one day at a time.” just popped into my head. I remember thinking to myself: That’s a cool title. I should write that down. I pulled over right then and there and wrote it down. I wasn’t sure why. I figured it was something I had seen before, or read before. I laughed to myself thinking: that is EXACTLY what I need to learn; to be Ordinary, and be okay with it!
When I arrived home, I googled the phrase ‘Becoming Ordinary’ and much to my surprise (and disappointment) there wasn’t a book, or a website, or a movie. What was I going to do with this phrase I wrote down that seemed to speak to me; to the exhausted perfectionist, looking for an ‘out’? I knew that I needed to let go of perfect and learn to be satisfied…no, joyful, with the ordinary things of life. It took me a couple of months to realize that I could write about my own journey toward the ordinary. I began writing anonymously, but quickly realized this was another perfectionist tactic. I didn’t want to be under scrutiny, what if people judged me for my struggles? When I encountered such inner resistance strangely, this was the confirmation I needed to go forward. If I was going to write about my journey, I needed to own it, warts and all.
‘Becoming Ordinary’ became a daily motto; almost a mission statement. I was going to hunt, seek, and learn about the ordinary things in life. A year later, becoming ordinary has taught me to walk (not sprint) through my life with all of my senses keen and conditioned to take in what is happening around me, moment by moment. I’ve become aware that in the hustle and bustle, dream accomplishing, to-do list completing world that we live in there are small, everyday moments where surprising beauty lives; in walks to school, a gentle touch to a loved one’s waist, a giggly bedtime story, or a jog across a soccer pitch. These moments aren’t glamorous or life-changing, they are ordinary, but meant to be shared and enjoyed, day in and day out, like spontaneous laughter, or savoured like the last bite of chocolate cake. And the good news? Life is FULL of them!
Becoming Ordinary: Year 1 Day 10