“Our culture is quick to dismiss quiet, ordinary, hardworking men and women. In many instances, we equate ordinary with boring or, even more dangerous, ordinary has become synonymous with meaningless.” — Brene Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)
As I near my 50th birthday, I’m aware that many of us at the midline of our lives become reflective of our journey thus far, while also looking ahead to whatever achievements or dreams we still plan to pursue. I’m finding, however, that the future I look forward to will be marked, I’m hoping, with “smaller” moments, a slower pace, a focus much more on “being” than “doing.” And this thought jars me, at least initally. In my first few decades, ambition and material comfort and building a family and a career kept me moving, always anticipating the next necessary step to achieve my goals. I gained esteem and competency by acknowledging my efforts and their impact, and by making the most of the “big” moments in my life (i.e., graduations, marriage, a promotion, having children.) And yet, those milestones were hardly extraordinary, and I found they rarely defined or sustained me for long. I know I’ll never be famous, or cure cancer, or run a sub-four-minute mile. My face will never grace currency, nor will my name be recorded in any history books. But I’ve discovered the “ordinariness” of my life’s days are graced with such wonder and bounty that I can’t imagine any material honor could rival. And I want more of “those” kinds of days. The days of enjoying languorous sunsets; of my elderly dog’s soft muzzle — and even softer eyes — settled comfortably in my lap. The meals I love cooking, filled with colors and aromas and shared with the people who matter. The softness of my beloved’s neck, or the achingly sweet sound of my near-grown son snoring softly in the next room. No longer do I believe my life has to be unique or exemplary or “larger-than-life” to be worthy, important — to be overflowing with meaning. I know now that contained in every “ordinary” moment is the totality of magic that makes all life truly a miracle.