How to be ordinary and interesting

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dreamstime_s_30878063I will admit to feeling rather laid back this month, I think in a good way. I’ve curbed my reflective – ‘what is the meaning of life’ thoughts and just got on with stuff. Nothing ground breaking but just getting on with stuff has been good. Of course it’s not quite enough just to get on with stuff because I’m starting to think about the stuff I’ve been getting on with and if it’s been worthy or useful or interesting.  And that’s where I’m currently at – what makes the stuff we do interesting – to us or to anyone else? 

One of the questions I find very hard to answer is when someone asks me what I’ve been up to?  I go blank and my inner voice starts to panic – what have I done that is interesting enough to share?  I have this fear of being the boring old woman who goes on and on about her stuff and that the stuff isn’t interesting enough to go on about.   

This dilemma is a strange one in a way because I do generally find people’s day to day lives rather interesting. As a researcher I am always asking other people to talk about their thoughts and ideas and I usually find them all very interesting.  The same in my counselling – I hear about all sorts of lives and each one is intriguing and interesting.  And to be fair most aren’t much different from mine or anyone else’s – just ordinary lives.

So this month I’m trying to accept the ordinary, embrace the ordinary and try and figure out the interest in my own ordinary life. I think perhaps my reflective period has dampened my ability to be in the here and now and embrace the ordinary because I’m too busy thinking about all the big and momentous things I should be doing (and googling famous successful people).

Some people keep gratitude diaries to remind themselves of what they have to be grateful for each day.  It’s a lovely sentiment but it just feels a bit too reflective rather than proactive for me.  So I’m thinking that an ‘I am interesting diary’ might be more practical and helpful.  Writing down 3 things each day that I’ve either done, seen, read or heard that are interesting. I don’t know if it will make me realise that I do actually do stuff that is interesting, make me take more interest in things or help me in my own conversational skills about my life. So if you see me and ask me what I’ve been up to I aim to be more prepared to answer and wow you with my ordinary life. 

……PS. I am slightly panicking about needing to find 3 things – maybe I’ll start with just one…

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Why do we wish time away?

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Do we learn to wish time away?  Can I stop now please?

Comorant on groyne

As you get older you get more aware and panicky about time going too quickly –at least I do.  And with the ever diminishing time I begin to regret all the time I wished away, wishing it was 5pm, Friday night, summer, the next holiday…great long swathes of time wished away.

I’m not talking about times in our lives when we need time to pass, in grief or illness or difficult circumstances, but our everyday ordinary lives.

The other day I was mulling over my panic about time and I heard a radio advert that made me think – do we learn to wish our time away? Does our culture teach us to relish some days more than others? Some seasons more than others?  The advert was, I think, for a children’s theme park. At first the announcer says – ‘So it’s back to school’, and you hear all these ‘boos’ in the back ground.  ‘But don’t worry’, he continues, ‘Its half term soon’, followed by lots of cheers in the background.  Do we learn as children to wish away our days?  Do the media play on this in their determination to make us wish in September that it was already Christmas?

I found an intriguing book by Michael Foley ‘Embracing the ordinary: Lessons from the Champions of Everyday Life.’ He thinks historically we have learnt over time to devalue ordinary life, not helped by the Christian religions that devalued the everyday by seeing it as a ‘vale of suffering to be endured in order to earn a more rewarding existence in the afterlife.’  Sunday was defined as the superior day (no wonder so many people hate it).  I love his observation that Tuesday is the forgotten day. We have given significance to every other day.  Monday is defined by the horror of going back to work, Wednesday is midweek, Thursday charged with the excitement of the weekend and Friday the start of the weekend.  Unfortunately, by marking the week as we do just lends itself to wishing away time until at least the mid-week hump of Wednesday.

So how can we stop the culture of wishing time away? Has it gone too far? Can we at least work on our own ways of stopping the wishing? I am already worried about the time I do have, I can’t waste any more by nonchalantly wishing it by.  But it’s so easy to dislike Mondays, look forward to weekends and live blindly through the middle days.  The ‘seize the day’ attitude and ‘live in the moment’ is great, but for me it just doesn’t seem realistic to feel like that all the time. There must be a middle ground of enjoying and engaging with the everyday within the remit of lifes ups and downs.

I don’t have any answers but I’ve been trying very hard to come up with some techniques to help me not wish any more time away than I absolutely have to.

I have come up with 2 things to work on.

  1. Engaging with nature.

I read a lovely book from the School of Life called ‘How to Connect with Nature’ by Tristan Gooley.  Evidence shows that those who engage with nature have a more discerning view of time. He describes being close to nature as ‘A Philosophical Pension.’  I love nature and I tend to think a day spent mostly outside is always a day well spent (hence my love of summer) so engaging more with the seasons and nature throughout the year must help.

 Recognising something good about each day.

Is it possible to pinpoint something every day that we can look forward to or be happy with?  Some people have told me they write gratitude diaries, listing a few things that they are happy for that day.  I did start the year by capturing a photograph every day of something that was beautiful or significant, I even set it up in PowerPoint and called it ‘Things that go to make up a life’ (based on the lyrics from ‘Home by the Sea’ by Genesis).   I kept this up until March and don’t really know why I stopped – perhaps I got fed up of always taking pictures of the dog or getting bogged down with the slog of life at the time – but something to try again I think, as a way of engaging with the good moments of the day.

You know time is precious, but it didn’t really hit me until recently just how precious. There isn’t an endless supply and middle age happens. So I’m going to try and engage with the rest of the journey without wishing too many stops away and hopefully the middle age panic of time might subside…… TBC….