“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”
-Pam Beasley, character on NBC’s The Office
Do you take your ordinary day for granted? I sometimes used to, but then I realized something that is truly wonderful and amazing – every day matters! No matter how banal or mundane things seem, they are not. They are part of this beautiful mosaic of life that we should embrace instead of complaining about things.
Yes, the crowded subway car is annoying. An office and its cubicles and their inhabitants can be stressful, and the traffic jams that clog our highways are a nuisance. The commute, the day at work – and all the interactions you have there (good and bad) – and the journey home all are part of life. There is no denying their negative aspects, but also think of their beauty. Sometimes I’m stuck in traffic, look up, and see a gorgeous sunrise that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
The Catholic Church has a stretch of calendar time called Ordinary Time – the time of year that is not Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. This makes up largest portion of the year for Christians, and even as a kid I wondered why they called it “ordinary” when I felt like it was more the way we actually lived life. You don’t celebrate holidays all year long – and over eat, drink too much, spend too much money, and see relatives you don’t see the rest of the year – but there is something to be said about celebrating the everyday stuff because it comprises most of our lives.
I have to admit I like the ordinary day and the routine of what happens. I like getting up earlier than everyone, shaving and showering and preparing lunches. I like getting the kids up – and snicker at their usual moaning and groaning about having to go to school. I like getting dressed – even putting on a tie – and then heading off to work. Perhaps I am lucky because I love my job, even on days when maybe I shouldn’t.
I like going into a store and knowing where to find things. I usually go in and head straight to get what I need, and then I rush over to the checkout. I don’t enjoy the idea of lingering and looking; shopping is not my idea of a fun time, but it serves a purpose. That is also part of the day’s routine.
I understand and accept my commute; I am not joyful about it, but rather see it as part of my day. It is another piece of the ordinary puzzle of my life, but when I put all the pieces together, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. I see how everything fits together and makes sense.
There is happiness in the ordinary evening at home. My kids doing their homework, eating dinner, playing some game or reading a book together, and even watching a little TV. There is something peaceful about my wife doing dishes as I empty the dishwasher, and then I put utensils and dishes and plates away in their places.
Sometimes I take one of my mother’s dishes out of the diswasher (we inherited a set of her dishes when she passed away), and holding it in my hand takes me back to her kitchen and my childhood of doing homework, eating dinner, and the routine of those evenings – my father sitting in his chair reading the evening paper, my sister and I sitting on the sofa watching a show, and my mother in her chair looking at the TV Guide in search of something to watch after we went to bed.
Yes, the ordinary days of my childhood are now a joy to look back upon. Sure, I remember the holidays and celebrations, but the regular days were joyful for me. It was comforting to come home from school to a household filled with love, and I wish that for one day I could go back and relive it. I would have a smile on my face for the rest of my life that no one else could understand.
Treasure your ordinary days for all that they are worth. Revel in the notion that this day will never come back to you, and live it to the fullest you can make it. Don’t see the daily routine as a grind, but instead savor the brew of its hours and minutes as if they are precious – because they are. Appreciate being able to walk, and use the stairs instead of the elevator. Look out the window and search for the world’s beauty wherever you are – it’s there if you try to see it.
If you feel that the place where you are is not so beautiful, take a walk at lunch time. Depending where you work, go to a park, walk along the riverfront, or get to the beach. Breathe the air and enjoy the sun and sky or the rain and wind. Even the city has an austere beauty to it, with all the stop lights reflecting on the slick streets or the shards of sunlight reflecting on the steel and glass buildings. This is all part of our ordinary world that is far from ordinary.
Most of all, I think I understand now that everything we say and do matters, and our words and actions will be remembered by everyone we meet each day. Be filled with joy because you are alive, and in the moment where you were meant to be. Remember that the ordinary is really quite extraordinary, we just have to be able to recognize that each day for the rest of our lives.