extarordinary life

Permission to live an ordinary extraordinary life


There's a reason why Pippin is my favorite musical.  Pippin is seeking an extraordinary life.  He sings about it and he searches for it throughout the entire show. He tries everything. War, sex, revolution. Being king. Nothing is right.  In despair, he's taken in by a widow with a young son and he lives an ordinary and happy life on her estate for a year, until he leaves again, convinced that there must be something bigger and better out there - some way for him to do extraordinary things. With one last chance (spoiler alert) to go out literally in a blaze of glory, he balks.  He ends up on stage alone without sets, makeup, costumes or music.  The widow and the little boy come to hold his hands.  And he sings, "I wanted magic shows and miracles, mirages to touch; I wanted such a little thing from life, I wanted so much."  The last lines of the song are, "It never was there - I think it was here." It's ridiculous how it hits me. It chokes me up every time. It's a cheesy simple story, but I get it.  I get Pippin's quest for a meaningful life, and I get his discovery of the meaning in simple things like love, family and just existing.

There's so much beauty and happiness in the ordinary.  Today, a fire in the fireplace.  Hot chocolate.  King cake to celebrate the beginning of carnival season.  Puffy clouds. Yellow sycamore leaves.  Sunshine. Smiles. Simply being alive.

We're bombarded every day by stories of extraordinary people.  People who have raised zillions of dollars for clean water. People who turned ten bucks and an idea into a multimillion dollar business.  People who are changing the world in giant ways.  It's downright overwhelming.

There are so many choices today.  So many options.  So much possibility.  Even if you have an ordinary life, maybe you become famous because of your cute recipes.  Or your Instagram feed.  Or your memoir about your dog. Or your Youtube video.  If you're not famous, you should still be doing something that's interesting to someone and sharing it somewhere - Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest - oh my goodness, Pinterest! Land of ten thousand ideas for a cupcake!

I ran into a former student at the grocery store the other day.  She's amazing, intelligent, and has a great job as a writer for a local publication.  And she shared with me how she feels like she needs to be doing more.  How she feels this pressure to have made something bigger of her life by the tender age of 24.

Wow.  What is happening?  When did it become not enough to be a generally good person, make an honest living, take care of one's family, smile at the neighbors, and vote responsibly? Now that we have the capacity to reach nearly everyone on the planet with a tweet or a blog post, and the ability to read about nearly everyone in our assorted blogs and news websites and Facebook feeds, I see a lot of people (clients, myself, friends) running into "compare and despair."  Now it's not just the Joneses next door you're trying to keep up with, it's all of humanity!

It becomes more difficult to figure out what you want. There's research to back up how people don't choose when given too many choices.  They can't decide where to begin. The brain just shuts down.

Next thing you know, two hours have gone by while you've been scrolling through fascinating articles about amazing people, peppered with funny cat and dog videos. So what do you do?

Give yourself permission to live an ordinary extraordinary life.  Focus on your interactions with people in the now moment.  At the grocery store. With your family. With your friends.  Savor the king cake.  Notice the softness of the cat. The dance of the leaves falling from the trees across the street.

Sure, you can still have visions of extraordinary-ness.  I have my delusions of Oprah (I'm going to be taping for TV again this Friday! - no, not Oprah!!) I would love to figure out how to do something really big to change the world for the better.

But you know, I like being home.  I like talking to one or two people at a time.  I like napping.  These things make me happy.  And they don't destroy the environment. And the Dalai Lama says that if each of us simply strives to be happy, it's one of the best ways to change the whole world.

I'm teaching tonight about money.  And here's a hint about what I'm going to say.  All those infinite choices?  They screw with our money situation too.  They cause us to lose focus on what we really want.  It's like when you go to a buffet and you end up with a plate full of weird food that doesn't go together.  You're surrounded by food and yet you feel yucky and empty.

Get still.  Listen.  Listen to you.  Give yourself permission to lead the life you want. Simple as you want.  There's plenty of extraordinary in the ordinary.

What do you think?  Leave a comment and let's keep the conversation going!