Perfectly Ordinary

Here's what I like about getting older--my own getting older, anyway: I'm discarding a lot of crippling thinking. I don't buy in to the pushy, relentless, rigorous notions of success that are so talked-about and blogged over. I am sick up to my ears of the ubiquitous platitudes that plaster our days: "YOU are the only person standing in the way of your success!" (No, sometimes it's my father with Alzheimer's or an overwhelming mound of debt.) "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" (Unless it weakens you considerably.)

I don't see success as spectacularism. Yes, I like exceptionality. I believe we're all unique. I believe in sharing that uniqueness and, when necessary, standing out in ways that show people that uniqueness. One of my living mentors and exemplars has a saying: "It takes so little to be above average," and I agree with that, particularly in a world in which slovenliness and a complete lack of common sense is pervasive.

But everyone is not spectacular. Everyone is not going to--nor are they capable of--being extraordinary and phenomenal. Many of us are merely ordinary, and how sad that our culture has come to equate "ordinary" with "loser." All of those sad contestants trying out for "American Idol" left with their tails between their legs labeled as such, unhappy that they couldn't get into the ranks of the staggeringly impressive. That's what we've become--a constant, never-ending series of tryouts for some version of "American Idol," and if you don't get picked, well, it's your own fault for not realizing you are committing the cultural sin of being just okay.

Guess what? Ordinary is pretty darn beautiful. I'm quite impressed with the ordinary people who make a tasty nonfat no-foam latte, the ordinary mechanic who works on my car, ordinary acquaintances I enjoy seeing at business meetings who brighten my professional life. I like ordinary days. I don't know why we can't be grateful for an ordinary marriage when so many have dismal ones, or why we don't see being an ordinary family as a blessing. My family was pretty darn ordinary and I turned out okay. Yes, there was dysfunction--an alcoholic/drug addicted brother (which I wrote about in my book, The Prodigal Brother: Making Peace with Your Parents, Your Past, and the Wayward One in Your Family), but guess what? That's ordinary these days. Hardly any family has escaped being touched by drugs, or alcoholism, or abuse of some kind, or mental illness, or disease . . . and yet, like ordinary people, we make it through.

Instead of focusing on the things that make me feel inadequate and zeroing in on my flaws, I honestly make effort to avoid them or simply ignore them. If I can't do anything about them--can't afford that neck lift just yet, can't change jobs right now, can't stop the world so I can get off--I have to find my happy place inside and go with the flow until things change, and circumstances are always subject to change. I fuel myself on that hope and pop the gear into drive and keep rolling. Others are far more driven to hit the heights of success no matter what the toll. More power to them. I'm taking time to enjoy ordinary pleasures and be delighted by ordinary joys. Join me?