I had this feeling recently. It was fleeting, but impactful – and there was a huge shift in how I perceived my circumstances, my goals and daily dramas.
A woman’s toddler died in her sleep. Her grief was laid bare, out in the open, viral on social media. It was heavy, wild and devastating – although I think the intent was to be hopeful and freeing, I found it all incredibly traumatic. With my two small babies, as strong and resilient as I think I am, they are my deepest vulnerability. A big “DO NOT TOUCH” button. Press it, and it’s like pulling a zip tie in my spine – I’ll fall a part into tiny pieces. I would give away anything – including my own life (happily!) – in exchange for my daughters living long, healthy, happy lives.
But I don’t get to make that kind of trade, so here I am – alert. I can’t ever get pressed.
As the scene unfolded, I went inside my spirit and wondered if I could survive this kind of trauma. And thought, “What is the point of any of this, if a child can die at any moment, shattering a parent’s life forever?”
Why am I on Facebook? What’s the point of selfies? Why am writing an essay titled An Open Letter to the Undergrounder on My Chin?
DELETE. LIFE IS GARBAGE.
But it was when I wrestled with God on this, my perception shifted.
On earth, we don’t live forever. So, we will all experience seasons of grief.
We will all know seasons where our worlds are flipped upside down.
Seasons of illness, rest and healing. Caring for a loved one, in desperate search of a job, a man, our mind.
But the reality is, we live in the west. As much as we grumble over the 1% – we are all in the 1% on the global scale. With today’s medical advances, most of us will live long lives, and for much of it – there won’t be constant trauma, or grief. There won’t be serious illness, or extreme financial turbulence.
Most of it will seem pretty ordinary. Perhaps at times a bit boring. Lots of walks, scrolling through Facebook. Hot showers, waiting on the phone to talk with a customer service rep, getting lost in a Netflix series. Morning commutes. Debating if we’re going to eat that donut in the break room. Putting a bag of apples in a grocery cart, making dinner, folding laundry. Googling things like “How old is Tiffany from the 80s?”
And I realized – it isn’t our times of grief, or struggle that gets wasted. We’re all hands on deck for that. And, if we do the work, it’s also when shattered lives slowly, methodically, eventually get pieced back together. Cracks still seen, but strong again. When worlds slowly get pushed right side up, and healing renews us.
No, while impossibly hard – that stuff is sacred if we let it be. It’s the ordinary that slips away. The ordinary is where all the potential and opportunity just sit there, waiting to get noticed. To be seized and made purposeful, meaningful – something to be enjoyed and proud of.
If I wake up in the morning, and my girls are here and healthy, how can I possibly rationalize ruining that gift with a foul mood? Jealousy over someone else’s success or boobs above their belly button?
How can I forgo laughter for petty frustrations? Fear I won’t reach a particular goal or self-pity because that organic grass fed ribeye won’t fit in my grocery budget?
I started to see that much of life is ordinary and can be played as a game. Light and fun, nothing (of true importance) to lose. Sure, no one likes to lose at Monopoly after investing 15 hours playing it – but the journey was fun too. Lots of chatting, bonding, popcorn eating and razzing when someone lands on Park Place. It’s just not that serious, most of the time. I don’t have to be so scared of failing or making mistakes. Afraid to speak up, worried I’ll be rejected, or lose something I’ve invested in.
(Although there was that one time I threw my Monopoly money in everyone’s face and stormed off.)
If I’m left alone with my thoughts for awhile, sometimes I’ll think, “What if I work so hard at this, and no one likes it? What if it’s all for nothing?”
But now I can respond immediately and say, “Has your button been pressed today? No? Then really, who cares? Try again. Have fun! LAUGH LAUGH LAUGH LAUGH LAUGH.
You may have lost something today, but did you lose what truly matters? Quick, joy just slipped out the back door – you can catch up to her now if you run!
I don’t mean to make light of things. Disappointments are sad. Life can be hard.
But, it can also be mundane. Easy. Easier than we think, anyway.
I guess what I’m saying is – if you’re lucky enough to be in a season of ordinary – now’s your chance to make it extraordinary.
When else will you have the time?