Ordinariness: And Why Your Life Is (and Isn’t) So Special

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It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation. We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are. — Kathleen Norris, quoted in Liturgy of the Ordinary

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ordinariness.

It started a couple of weeks ago, just a passing thought about a movie I’d just seen (can’t remember which one now, which kind of proves the point to myself).

I was thinking how romantic the character’s life seemed (in an idyllic/charming sort of way).

But then I thought of another movie I had just watched (500 Days of Summer), where the lead character’s life seemed drab and depressing (at least until Summer — and then Autumn). 🙂

Oddly enough, if you think about it (assuming you watched the movie), Tom’s life is romantic. Dull. Boring. Cubicle-based. And at a greeting card company (where he eventually works in the consolations department, no less). And, yet, it’s romantic.

It is. If you can see it.

The same is true with your own life.

I can look back on chapters of mine that were crazy romantic:

  • Two stints as a flight attendant in different cities (where I moved as a single woman, Mary Tyler Moore-style),
  • A year or so as a foster mom to four kids (not all at once) who ranged in age from ten months to eight years,
  • A marriage,
  • A dating life,
  • Time as an entrepreneur and small business owner,
  • Time as a writer for a well-known web publication,
  • College life,
  • Times when I had a fast car,
  • Times when I didn’t have a car and walked everywhere.

I could go on.

I can look back on any of those times and see a charmed life that was fun and inspiring, each in its own way. Sure, there were downsides to every one of them, too, and that’s kind of the point.

“It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation.”

We pine away over lives we could have lived, over missed opportunities — and squandered ones, and we fail to see the beauty in the life we’re living right now.

Your kids might be in diapers, you never get to sleep or see your friends, you miss adult time (and alone time), and you’ve forgotten who you were somehow over the last few years. Shortly, though, this will be over, and you’ll be pulling old photos from shoe boxes and wondering where the time went and why they had to grow up so quickly.

On the opposite end, you might be single and all your friends are married with kids and you feel like you’re missing out. You can’t wait until you find “your person” and can build a life around play dates and soccer games. You’re tired of dating apps and losers and players and the whole dating scene, and you’d love to be able to debate what to have for dinner and what movie to watch tonight.

“We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are.”

If you stop for a minute and look around at your life, you can probably find a dozen things about it that are romantic and special and that might not be worth trading for some other life that has its own shortcomings.

If you can’t, call up someone living a different version of life and ask him or her to point them out to you — it’s always easier to see those things from the outside looking in.

That’s because, from the inside looking out, everything else seems more colorful, less drab, more exciting, and less … well, ordinary.

About the author

E.H. Bellefontaine

Evangeline Henry Bellefontaine is the fictional writer behind Maison d'Evangeline (and More Beautiful Good on Medium). She writes mostly on the topics of bibliotherapy (books + therapy), personal growth, and doing the work. Follow by subscribing to Bibliothérapie.

By E.H. Bellefontaine

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A house extends skyward.
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