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Life Is in the Little Things: Finding the Extra in the Ordinary

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.“ ~Jimmy Johnson

“Write about what we did today,” my daughter said. She knows I often write once she is asleep.

Dully I thought, “What we did today wasn’t that exciting.” Yet, for her, it obviously was.

She gets lost in her experiences, deeply entrenched in the realms of her imagination that continue to weave each experience she is having.

From my perspective, I took the kids and their friends to a nature reserve so they could get muddy and play. I needed them outside, away from the house where cabin fever sets in quickly and the mess builds up even more quickly along with my stress levels.

Instead, we had a nice walk, first to see a waterfall, then for them to play in a stream and slide in the mud. After that, we had a picnic and I watched them all get lost in game after game led by their imaginations.

When we got home my daughter set about making a Lego creation; there is a national competition going on and she wants to enter. She created a platform with a throne for the queen to sit upon after she climbs the magical rainbow-colored staircase. She had been reflecting upon that staircase the night before long after she should have been asleep.

To the side of the queen was her courtier, and they overlooked a courtyard where many of her subjects had gathered so they could have a conversation. The courtyard was filled with beautiful flowers and another large plant that stands in the corner.

The nuances of this creation I am sure to have missed, but I glimpsed beyond the plastic bricks that my mind wanted to adjust here and there, resisting the urge to ‘fix’ them. It was a thing of beauty.

As is her habit every day, she also drew several pictures, each with its own story, ever evolving with lots of princesses and fairies. Then there was the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory audio book that she finished listening to, and the story of the Unicorn Riders we read at bedtime, each with their own stories and life lessons to untangle and reflect on.

Not to speak, of course, of the majestic bun she has insisted upon having in her hair these holidays, with four braids that I carefully reproduce every few weeks (after a trip to Fiji last year). My hair dressing skills seem to have unwittingly evolved in all these requests.

For me, I was just getting through another day of the school holidays. For her, though, she was a princess dreamily going about her day.

After the kids were asleep, I pulled out the journal I keep to record all the things to be grateful for, or that were uplifting. Here is the sad effort I wrote:

“The sun shining through the leaves at the reserve warmed my soul.” That was it, other than noting with thanks that my partner had gone to work all day long to provide us with money.

Yet when I’ve sat down to fill my cup with a little writing, another voice speaks from within. One that sees much more in the day than I obviously had at first glance; it sees the ‘extra’ in the ordinary.

When my daughter said to me a few days ago “It seems like I’ll have more fun when I’m young than when I’m old, Mum,” I understood why she thought that, but it also made me a bit sad.

I lamely told her adults experience fun in a different way, then I realized I was just kidding myself. While that in itself is true, I knew there was no kidding the kids; they know when you are having fun or not.

It’s time for an attitude shift. Sure, when I took the kids to the pools the other day, I did it to get it over with, since they have been nagging me for months to go. It’s an indoor pool, noisy, busy, and it stinks of chlorine. When I was a kid, I would have loved it too. Even as an adult, if I had peace to swim in the large pool it could be enjoyable.

But being responsible for the lives of two little kids who are not yet able to swim properly yet go hurtling into the depths when the wave machine comes on, and in separate directions, it’s not so relaxing.

Today, however, was more relaxing. No chlorine smell, only the smell of freshly cut grass. No loud echoing background noise, just the sound of kids laughing and playing.

Come to think of it, we passed a really tall tree with fruits scattered all over the ground underneath; they looked like lemons. Except this tree was about twenty meters tall, so it was a bit of a mystery to me, and it was quite nice just to notice it and wonder what it was.

It was also quite lovely to see the various dogs going past with their owners, clearly loving being out running around just as much as the kids were.

After our picnic I even joined in the fun by doing a pretend tap dance while all the kids sat on a bench watching and giggling.

When we got back to the house, the kids had all enjoyed their time in the fresh air and sat quietly drawing while I was able to hose down the clothes caked in mud. I have to admit to some satisfaction in seeing the colors of those clothes emerge again from the mud-brown-grey they had turned.

I enjoyed listening to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as much as the kids did, and it was interesting to connect the dots on a recurring dream I used to have, any time my life got a bit out of control, about the lift that went sideward and upside down.

And when I came to read them their bedtime story, the Unicorn Riders pulled me in to their mythical world and left me on a cliffhanger as it was time to turn out the lights.

Now, here I am, sitting contentedly tapping away on the keyboard. My cat is curled up next to me purring away. I am now reflecting on what a joy it is to have these kids that I waited for so long to come.

Even though they drive me nuts at times, and life can be pretty intense, it is worth it to glimpse life through their lenses.

I’ve also just realized that my long awaited new pillow arrived today, contoured to cater for exactly the way I sleep; this is not just great news, it is sheer bliss. How could I have left this and all these other snippets out my journal?

All these years spent longing for things, recording my dreams, and yet once they are here somewhere in my psyche they turn to hum drum, stressful even. “This is what it is to be human,” I remind myself. “To always want something more.”

It’s the age-old paradox of noticing what about my experiences I would like to change, while still appreciating in the moment the things that I do have. Instead, I seem to have slunk down into just taking for granted what I am experiencing and getting frustrated that what I want isn’t here yet.

This is dumb, I know. It would be healthier to celebrate the sheer miracle that this life I am leading has been entirely of my own making. There is so much power in that. I remember a few years back, when my partner complained to his godparent about how hard it was to look after the kids, she reminded him that this was his dream.

It’s true, it was our dream to have a family, and we spent years trying to make that happen. My partner even wanted two girls; he had names for them and everything. After we realized we needed to stop trying so hard, our wish came true.

But it’s not just about kids; it’s about the place we live, the life we lead, the people around us—it’s all of our own making. And it’s actually pretty spectacular.

I’m reminded of a little exercise of Marisa Peer’s I did one day, where I had to imagine seven-year-old me turning up at the front door of our house in my mind’s eye. I had to invite young me in and show her around. It was quite an emotional exercise. Looking at my life today through young me’s lenses was pretty gratifying.

Thanks to my daughter, the dull response to her initial thought that I should write about today has turned to a sparkle. It wasn’t so unspectacular after all, I realize. In fact it was quite extraordinary and really quite fun.

So often we focus on what’s lacking, or what didn’t meet our expectations, but we’re a lot happier when we appreciate the little things and recognize the beauty in the ordinary.

About Shona Keachie

Shona teaches by the power of example how to find our inner truth among the often harried day-to-day practicalities of life. She regularly provides people from all walks of life with a fresh perspective on anything they feel stuck with and is happy for you to get in touch. To follow her blog click here.

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