remnants of a past life (note 6): the value of the ordinary and mundane

In the pursuit of the extraordinary, we forget that the ordinary and the mundane we're trying to run away from are truly the most priceless things.

remnants of a past life (note 6): the value of the ordinary and mundane
Photo by Adrian Williams on Unsplash

It's been a few weeks since my last phase of decluttering. Illness, a busy week sprucing up my website and getting backend things in order ahead of an upcoming promotion (whee!), and getting back deep into the writing cave this week with much joy; all these have kept me occupied.

Meanwhile, we're going to have new neighbours once again. Almost two years after long-time owners of the townhome in front of ours moved, their friends who took up residence there are now leaving. They've left in fact. As of this morning, much of which I spent by my window, spying on their comings and goings.

The house was mostly empty last night. No one stayed there. Their car park spots were empty.

Jana's husband (the elderly father of the household), came by this morning to carry out leftover items and dump them in the back of his Dodge Caravan. He placed the bulk items in the yard.

Then he sat on the stairs inside, the door ajar, looking around. What was he contemplating in that nearly empty house? Did he think of his friends, the previous owners, John & Natasha? John has since passed away. Was he remembering him?

Or was he merely content to sit there, in waiting, accepting this move as yet another inevitable transition of life, having seen countless of them in his lifetime?

Soon his elder son came in a van and hauled the bulk items into it. One last check of the house, then they locked it, and father and son drove away in their respective vehicles.

Coming back from that aside ... this morning KrA and I were out on our walk, and as we've been doing these past few days, we slipped into feeling a little lost and lonely in our lives, filled with longing for our families and loved ones so far away.

(Much of this has to do with the fact that my parents' plans to visit us in summer have fallen through, and the disappointment hurts.)

This time we decided to end our conversation a little differently and decided to make the most of what we do have right now instead of moaning about what we don't or fantasizing about all the could-have-beens and the could-bes.

That put us back on the path of decluttering once more. There's a single item (I won't name it now) that we've been meaning to sell or pass on for the past 2—3 years at least. And we just haven't gotten around to doing it.

It requires some sprucing up and we were undecided for a long time what to do: spruce it up and then sell it, or try to sell it as it is with the caveat that it'd need some work before it can function as good as new.

After we came back from our walk, I started looking up places nearby that could help us spruce up this item. I first reached out to the store we'd bought this item from six years ago, only to learn that their technician has left and they can no longer undertake the necessary work.

A little more digging around and now I have an appointment for Thursday morning to meet with someone who could possibly help me.

That's a great start! And I'm excited to see what Thursday brings.

I wanted to share all this to say that ten years ago, or even five years ago, I'd have gone through this process feeling (i) we should have done this sooner, or (ii) what kind of losers were we that we couldn't get around to this, or (iii) why did we even get this thing in the first place? look at all the hassle it's giving us now ... so on and so forth.

Essentially cursing the effort we need to put in right now to make something happen.

In fact, that's what we did and that pretty much stopped us in our tracks. Which is why that thing is still with us, waiting for us to make up our minds as to how to pass it on!

But you know what — THIS is life. Things breaking down. Fixing things. Getting things fixed. Reaching out to people to schedule an appointment. Cleaning our homes. Decluttering. Throwing out the garbage. Cooking a wholesome meal. Shopping for groceries in order to cook a meal.

These are the mundane and ordinary things that make up our life for the most part.

I blame all these self-help gurus who've proliferated in the past few years for ruining the value of the ordinary things in life.

With their slogans such as 'Seize the day' or 'Live an extraordinary life' or 'You're meant for more than this' or 'You deserve much more than this', we've all fallen into the trap of thinking that a simple, ordinary day spent working hard to earn a living in order to provide for our family is something to feel despondent or even ashamed about.

Culture makes it sound as if the only exciting way to live is if we're taking flights to all sorts of places across the globe, signing multi-million/billion dollar business deals, clinking cocktail glasses with the who's who of society.

But behind those moments of limelight are the countless failed negotiations, the people reached out to, the emails sent, the days filled with meetings, days spent hunched over the computer figuring out the next best strategy ... none of which are probably even half as exciting as what we see on the outside.

One of the things that mindset coaches often suggest to change our lives is to start by cleaning up our space. First, our wallet. Then, our closet. Our room. And so on.

I'm finally beginning to see the wisdom in this. When we get down to the doing the dirty work, we are no longer afraid of it. We are no longer overwhelmed by the thousand random and completely unexpected things that come up in the process of trying to resell/pass on one single piece of item.

This is what it means to take responsibility for our lives. If there's clutter lying in a room, it's our job to go there, dig through it, sort what's required and what's not, decide what to keep and what to throw, and proceed to act upon those decisions.

I heard this saying a long time ago:

Those who cannot look after the small things cannot be trusted to look after the big things too.

If we cannot attend to the small annoyances that nag us in our everyday lives, we're simply not capable of attending to the countless small and big annoyances that will definitely crop up when we undertake larger projects.

We may delude ourselves into believing that we'd show up as very different people, as some fantasy all-powerful version of ourselves, when entrusted with the big opportunities and responsibilities.

KrA and I sometimes fall prey to the delusional thinking that if only we had a newer build, a nicer house, we'd feel like caring for it better than we care for our current home.

But that's not true. At the first sign of trouble, we'd start to whimper and crumble, instead of automatically rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, a skill that only gets better with practice.

It is in repeatedly tackling the mundane and the ordinary that we begin to find the extraordinary. Without this practice and insight, even if given the extraordinary, we'd find ourselves reducing it to something worthless anyway.

So here's to feeling gratitude and taking pride in where we are in this present moment. It's all part of a journey. And it doesn't matter where that journey takes us. What matters is how we respond to the life situations that come to us?

Can we show up as the best versions of ourselves even in situations we're inclined to dismiss as mundane and ordinary? Can we see how priceless these experiences are even if culture dismisses them as a waste of our precious lives?

Here's to embracing the ordinary moments of our lives and showing up to these moments with deep presence and complete involvement!