What does the word ‘ordinary’ mean? According to my Heinemann Australian Dictionary (yes the old one held together with sticky tape), ordinary means normal, usual or average. That doesn’t sound very exciting. It sounds like enjoying the ordinary means accepting things that are pretty boring and dull, perhaps because you don’t deserve anything better. Actually, it means the opposite. It means discovering the exciting aspects in everyday things that are all around and seeing what other people don’t notice. It means getting the maximum enjoyment out of every day.
William Martin had wonderful advice to give in ‘The Parents Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents,’
‘Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.’
We take so many things for granted and do not appreciate them. For example, in this country most people have access to fresh fruit and vegetables but often don’t really take time to taste them and appreciate their smell and texture. William Martin advises parents to help their children notice and enjoy the world around them including everyday things like the taste of ‘tomatoes, apples and pears’. (Try growing your own if you want to get the best taste.) I would add revelling in the amazing scent of herbs such as basil (have you tried lemon basil?), different varieties of mint, rosemary, oregano, coriander and thyme. Rub some fresh herb between your fingers and breathe in deep. The scent is pretty amazing. Add some herbs to your food for less than ordinary flavor.
Now go into the garden and start by smelling the roses. What else has a great fragrance? Notice the variety of shades of colour too. Really look at all the flowers. Listen to the birds. How many different bird calls can you hear? Have you noticed how sometimes a bird will give its call and then stop and another bird of the same species will reply?
Let’s look at Martin’s advice again. Instead of trying to protect children from the sadness felt when someone or something they have loved dies, let them express their sorrow with tears. Give lots of cuddles, talk about the good memories and make the experience a time of bonding.
Wicker Park wrote, ‘Things don’t have to be extraordinary to be beautiful. Even the ordinary can be beautiful.’ On some beaches you will find many shells. Pick up a shell and really look at it. Notice the markings and whether the shell is still shiny or has become dull from exposure to the elements. Took note of how it feels between your fingers. Does it feel cool? Is the surface rough or smooth?
A dead tree can seem rather ordinary and not beautiful like a living tree. However, there is beauty in a dead tree if you stop to look at it. With a beautiful sunset behind it that dead tree is amazing. Now look at it with a grey sky as a backdrop and it is beautiful in a different way. A bird lands on a branch and you can really see that bird which would be hidden if the tree was alive and covered in green leaves.
To ‘enjoy the ordinary’ all one needs to do is slow down and start looking for what is amazing in everyday experiences. Sometimes sharing your enjoyment with someone else can increase your pleasure. At other times it is easier to be in the moment and get the most out of the ordinary when you are alone and not distracted by chatter. There is no right or wrong way to ‘enjoy the ordinary’ but life will be richer if you decide to make it your motto.
I agree with you that many people take things for granted and they are too busy chasing for the things that they don't have, when in actual fact, they can find peace and joy in their surroundings, only if they pause and take notice.
Thanks for your comment. The more one gets into the habit of looking for the wonderful things in everyday life the more fantastic things there seem to be. Those things will always have been there, we just weren't open to seeing, appreciating and enjoying them.