“Since most of us spend our lives doing ordinary tasks, the most important thing is to carry them out extraordinarily well.” —Henry David Thoreau
It’s morning, early in our house. Norman has finished his breakfast served in the mudroom which is adjacent to the kitchen, and I begin toasting my steel cut oats. The clanking of pans being chosen for the two egg omelette, the whisk of the eggs in the mixing bowl provide the soundtrack of our mornings, and Norman finds his way onto the rug in front of the stove to enjoy his daily dental chewy. An ordinary moment that happens every single morning and to me it is extraordinary.
“Be extraordinary at the ordinary.” —Andy Puddicombe, meditation teacher
One of the common refrains I heard from TSLL readers over the past two years was while disheartened and pained by the reason for the slower pace of life, was that it was in fact a pace they appreciated. No longer did they have to fight back or expend energy to explain why indeed the slower pace suited them and nourished them. Now that lives and schedules and expectations are beginning to pick up steam and the ability to pursue, travel and experience those unique and intriguing occasions we longed for as we were unable to for some time return, the importance of choosing our pace in our everydays and how we hold ourselves in our everydays, having seen the difference in ourselves, a better time could not be had to continue to, or fine-tune so as to improve how we go about living in the ordinary moments.
Often the word ordinary connotes a ‘hum-drum’ energy, an energy not desired or seen as inferior especially when we think of its relation to the word ‘extraordinary’. However, all ordinary means is that it, whatever ‘it’ is, is commonplace. And for our purposes in today’s episode/post, ordinary simply refers to the ability to have a day without strife, to tend to a job or a task to make money so that we can live our lives, to eat our daily meals and move about our home and community engaging with our family and coworkers and neighbors as they too move about a schedule similarly including the same elements.
Why I gravitated to the quote I share above – be extraordinary at the ordinary – is because at its core we are choosing to focus on what is necessary, and so thereby we keep those necessities in our days, eliminate what weighs down or expends energy unnecessarily, and thus, we are choosing to focus on quality over quantity which is a core premise of living simply luxuriously.
An example from Shannon’s life of making ordinary extraordinary in our everyday lives
As I type, it is early morning at Le Papillon. Norman is snuggled up next to me, softly snoring, and the house begins to warm up while the classical music plays softly providing a gentle easing into the day. The day, by objective definitions, is ordinary, but in this moment, it feels extraordinary. The companionship and good health of my pup, a home and thus a roof over my head to keep me warm and safe, the means (my computer) to do my work well, and the beauty of art (the music) to lift the day, yet keep it calm.
How exactly do we elevate the ordinary to the status of extraordinary? Start with how you move through your everydays.
While Henry David Thoreau’s quote shared above is less known, it partners well with the quote that immediately springs to my mind, and more widely recognized, as is a mantra I display in my office as a way to ground me. I change the pronouns of course and do so as well here.
“I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of [her] dreams, and endeavors to live the life which [she] has imagined, [she] will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.“
The awesomeness of life happens in the everydays, and guess what? The super majority of the days of our lives are everydays. Therefore we have so many opportunities to make them extraordinary.
Let’s break it down a bit further. Here is a list of concrete practices to incorporate into how you live in your everydays to welcome the extraordinary to be experienced:
- Understand the power of presence and then hold yourself in the present moment each day, each moment
- Learn the skill of savoring (doing so is one way to hold yourself in the present), listen to episode #323
- Celebrate and appreciate all that is going well around you and don’t hold it all inside – express it – say thank you, share what you enjoy (not what you dislike), be brave and vulnerable in sharing what makes you smile
- Slow down when you eat your meals – make them an opportunity to connect and refrain from watching the clock
- Grow and nurture a garden
- Take on the serious responsibility of caring for a pet and nurture them as you would yourself or a child (literally, clean their teeth, create healthy routines, regular exercise, build trust)
- Make and revel in daily, weekly or monthly rituals – make them special and important – and hold them firm as you would an appointment.
- Engage in one activity at a time
- Give yourself permission to not be engaged in any activity at all for a period of time each day – just be still, rest, relax
- Quality ingredients, seasonal fare for delicious everyday meals (fewer ingredients are necessary and appetites are satiated more quickly as the food is full of flavor and balanced for what the body needs
- Become a student of the mind, exercise (thereby strengthen) it regularly, put yourself in the driver seat so emotions that spring up due to events out of your control don’t derail your day, your relationships, your life, as you know all emotions are evanescent.
- Fall in love with reading and have something to read that holds you in the pages – for pleasure or learning something new and deepening your knowledge.
- Thoughtfully and patiently curate a home, a wardrobe, a routine for your days that is an investment that will last and nurture your priorities.
Each of the ideas suggested are merely a sampling of how we can elevate the ‘ordinary’ everyday to something extraordinary to experience each day. If you have been a long-time reader of the blog or listener of the podcast, you know that nearly all of the content you find shares inspiration, ideas and examples of how to do exactly this – live an extraordinary life in the ordinary moments.
A key component, something we’ve tangentially talked about in a variety of ways is to understand why we/you place so much value on the extraordinary moments celebrated by outside sources – the awards, the status symbols, the life markers set by society one must achieve. While we are social creatures, and we want to feel included, we want to feel seen, appreciated, applauded and accepted, when we seek out healthy sources of each of the A’s as David Richo describes as the 5 Key A’s in a healthy adult relationship (ep. #287), we can find them and savor them in our everydays.
So often we seek something that is already within each of us or capable of being nurtured with those in our everyday lives already. When we discover how rich we already are for living an extraordinary life in our everydays, the supposed ‘grand’ achievements become less tempting to pursue especially if doing so takes us away from what we know is quite special and we are quite fortunate to have – healthy, loving relationships, a career or calling that fulfills us, a home that gives us safety, shelter and security, a community that is at peace, small, yet significant opportunities to learn and grow.
When we choose to embrace the choice of living extraordinarily in our everydays as Thoreau advises, it becomes easier to hold ourselves in the present moment, and because we are doing our best in those moments that each day offers, we go to bed each night more at peace and thus slumber is deeper, more nourishing which makes the new day that we awake to full of all the more potential to be extraordinary all over again. The cycle feeds itself, and we hold the key in how we hold ourselves, what we notice, what we engage in, how we engage, what we let go, etc. . Expend energy on the things that bring value, find strength to let go of unhelpful, unnecessary or detrimental tasks, habits or relationships, and your life will begin to feel quite extraordinary.
Find inspiration for each day of the year, how to live well in your everydays in TSLL’s new book – The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment (available now).
—Murder in Provence, BritBox (based on M.L. Longworth’s Provençal mystery series)