Something has been on my mind for a while now. I read an article somewhere about the subject, and it won't get out of my head. And the days go by and I smile, because yes, you see, I know - KNOW that there is beauty in ordinariness. The ordinary. If you look around you, and if your eyes are looking in the right manner.
That doesn't make sense to you? Hang on a sec and I will try to explain.
I am an ordinary woman. Nothing extra-ordinary about me, and for a long time, I felt inadequate. Maybe even a failure. I looked at my life through the eyes of a stranger and asked myself - what has she done with her life? What has she achieved? And I looked again at my children and wondered if I had done enough, pushed enough,. loved enough, and then I stopped. No particular eureka moment, but I just stopped doing all these things. Who said that you had to be a star to be happy? Leading an ordinary, unremarkable life? And just who is sitting in judgement of my life (apart from me and God, that is) and do their opinions really matter? And I mulled over the ordinariness. Not drabness. Not misery. Not greyness. Not badness. Just the ordinariness.
I was born, I grew up, I made choices, decisions, and I fell in love, got married, had 3 children and devoted my life to raising them and making a home.
No corner office, no international/national accolades. Nothing out of the ordinary.
And you know, I was happy. Am happy.
And if you look around you, we are surrounded by the ordinary men and women who are living out their lives next door. And it is good.
But I was born into the Baby Boomer generation, where we were led to believe that we could have everything, be everything, do anything and higher, brighter, better, .....we would all soar, be trailblazers and stars.
We raised our children to be even better. We celebrated the awards, the achievements. We applauded the stars, and then watched as they measured their lives by the standards we had dreamt of. Impossible standards. Ask any woman who once believed if she could be the best wife, the best lawyer/doctor/whatever, the best daughter, the best friend, and the best mother - if it was possible.
No. It wasn't possible. It could never be possible because to dream of perfection in this world is to follow an impossible dream, with failure in your own eyes, by those impossible standards, the only possible result.
Everyone makes choices which are best for them. Or tries to.
And we all make mistakes.
But you can't mess with lives which are not your own. Our children have a right to grow up celebrated for who they are. Even if they are ordinary, average, wonderful kids.
I have long wondered at the wisdom of making entry to medical school the preserve of the straight A student, who finds exams easy to pass. And I have long held the opinion that these brilliant students would all make amazing specialists, consultants, seekers of new horizons. They were born to be stars in their fields.
However, I do not want one of them looking after me.
No. I want the kind of doctor who has a primary interest in people. Perhaps not a genius, but well trained, worked hard, and is content to be a GP and watch over his or her flock, getting to know and love them. (And despair too.) The ordinary doctor. But there is no place for B grade students - who are still a great deal brighter than most of the general populace, in medical schools any more, and that is an international tragedy.
People are not commodities, or numbers, and I cannot forget the fact that when I asked how Geoff was doing in the local hospital one day just before he died, and the charge nurse/pilot/captain of the Spaceship Heart Ward looked blank and turned from her computers/control panel to her staff/crew and asked - who is Geoff? And one replied - oh, he is the AVR in Bed 1.
No. He was a man with a wife and children, family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
We need the ordinary, you see. And raising our children to believe that ordinary = failure is a horrible, horrible mistake.
There is beauty in the mother walking her children to school. There is beauty in the long queues in the supermarket....people buying food to prepare for their families. There is beauty in the man walking his dog across a field. There is beauty in the children swinging on the swings. There is beauty on the commuter train carrying countless people to their ordinary jobs. There is beauty watching the man digging up his potatoes on his allotment. There is beauty in pruning your roses. There is beauty in the act of decorating your home. There is beauty in the sigh, as you look at the red shoes and decide that saving the money to pay for something for your son is better. There is beauty in old hands lifting the wool to the crochet hook to make blankets for the homeless. There is beauty in the dirt under my nails. There is beauty as you bake a cake. There is beauty in the words spilling over pages. There is beauty in the planning of weekly menus. There is beauty in reading stories to little ones curled up on your lap. There is beauty in the ring of the phone. There is beauty in scraped knees and faint bruises after an afternoon of adventure in the garden. There is beauty in watching a flower slowly open over days...weeks. There is beauty in taking time to sit and really look around you.
So much beauty. So much of the ordinary world we live in which is truly extra-ordinary.
Our parents were raised to be good people. To do their best, get a steady job and obey the 10 commandments, and to be kind and upright citizens. And they did. They were exactly that. And happy too. In general, they were glad of good jobs, and security after living through a World War, which tended to focus everyone's attention on what was really important in life. People. Family. Home.
I think we lost this somewhere along the way.
They wanted to give their children everything, after years of austerity and rationing. And then their children, me, well, we sort of got caught up in the accelerated times of change of the 60's and 70's and whoops, here I am in 2012, and if I had any words of advice to my 20 year old self, I would say take care of the important, and do not believe in the impossible dreams of having it all and being a star.
Because if you do, you will never be satisfied with the ordinary, and 99.9% of the world's population is just that. Ordinary. .
And you will miss the secret of living a wonderful life. A good life.
Our parents were not so wrong after all.
You see, one of the most beautiful moments of my life was holding my own newborn children. Well, 3 of the most beautiful moments. And in that moment, this ordinary woman, did the extra-ordinary and changed from a woman into a mother, and with that tag came a box stuffed all the 40,348,723,562,820 other hats I would wear over the years. Happily. Willingly. Without a thought. Just as millions of mothers do every single day.
I am not saying that we should not teach our children to do their best, try to win, do better than they thought they could. Of course not. And who knows, there may another Usain Bolt out there with a dream of running faster than anyone in the world. My own father was in the chase to be the first man to break the 4 minute mile. He was a superstar athlete, but he wasn't Roger Bannister.
No. What I am saying is to certainly help our budding stars to chase their dream but, and this is a HUGE BUT, remember that for every one Usain Bolt, there are billions of other kids who could not possibly reach those heights. Children destined to be ordinary GOOD people, living ordinary BEAUTIFUL lives. They are not failures. They could be and do anything. The nurse washing an elderly patient is not a failure as she gently towels him or her dry. Mother Teresa was not a failure, and she saw beauty in the dirt poor ordinary. That teacher you still remember 50 years after sitting in her class? She was ordinary, but she managed to inspire a room full of young minds. She was beautiful too, only no-one realised that at the time.
We don't need fancy titles or the latest gadget. We don't need corner offices and fame and fortune. We don't need stuff to have a wonderful, beautiful life, do we. Neither do our children. We can live ordinary, unremarkable, beautiful lives and know great and lasting happiness.
Soon the time will be upon us when we think of the annual Christmas letter to all and sundry. Well. I stopped them years ago. I rather think that the one announcing the fact that Geoff had died was a good way to cease and desist. I have always grinned as they start rolling in, and wondered what lay behind all the stellar achievements listed. Crazy stuff. And in no way a reflection of a year of real living. So, if I ever write another one, it will be one of ordinariness to the recipient, but to me, it would be a reflection of a beautiful passage of time.
Good grief. I do carry on endlessly, don't I. Be thankful that I am ending this now, because I could go on for a great deal longer, and I am also in a slight "rage" about something I read yesterday which needs some thought.
Just remember that there is such beauty in the ordinary every day lives we lead - and be thankful for that beauty - it breeds happiness and contentment in our hearts.