“We have become burdened with the idea that everything must be special, or exceptional, or the very best for our children. . . Indeed, we do our children a disservice by trying to make life extraordinary instead of ordinary. ‘Inherited potential will be realized when the environmental provision is adequate. Adequate, not exceptional. In order to flourish, children don't need the best of everything. Instead they simply need what is good enough. Consider that ‘good enough’ can often be best for children, because when life is a bit mundane, they won't end up with expectations of themselves and those around them that can't be met on this earthly plane. '" -Kelly Scribner, head of my daughter's school, quoting Wendy Mogel from the fall issue of “Independent School. "
“Being ordinary and being nobody aren't the same thing. " My literary agent said this once as we were discussing a project.
My friend Mary is writing about a woman whose husband has passed away and her daughters are trying to get her busy, “You need to to do things, Mom. " But she doesn't understand. Can't they see how busy she is? Someone has to watch the apples bud on the old tree. Someone has to notice the peach colored light as it travels across the oak floor. Someone has to walk outside in the early morning dew and taste one blueberry to see if the moment of precise firm sweetness has arrived.
“I have often maintained that the best poet is he who prepares our daily bread: the nearest baker who does not imagine himself to be a god. He does his majestic and unpretentious work of kneading the dough, consigning it to the oven, baking it in golden colours and handing us our daily bread as a duty of fellowship. And, if the poet succeeds in achieving this simple consciousness, this too will be transformed into an element in an immense activity, in a simple or complicated structure which constitutes the building of a community, the changing of the conditions which surround mankind, the handing over of mankind's products: bread, truth, wine, dreams. If the poet joins this never-completed struggle to extend to the hands of each and all his part of his undertaking, his effort and his tenderness to the daily work of all people, then the poet must take part, the poet will take part, in the sweat, in the bread, in the wine, in the whole dream of humanity. Only in this indispensable way of being ordinary people shall we give back to poetry the mighty breadth which has been pared away from it little by little in every epoch, just as we ourselves have been whittled down in every epoch. " -Pablo Neruda, from his Nobel Literature acceptance speech.
A New Yorker cartoon: Two men are standing in a bookstore. One stands in front of a section called “Self-Improvement, " while the other browses “Self-Involvement. "
Here is what I know: If you want to write the poem that sears itself on my heart or open a bakery that makes my tongue sprout wings of compassion or give birth to a movement that reforms our jaded souls, and you do these things to prove you are special, no matter what you accomplish, it will never be enough. It will fall through your fingers like air, even as it nourishes the rest of us.
If you want to write the book or open the bakery or birth a movement because you want to make a contribution, because you are drawn, through your natural passions (NOT through an over-developed martyrdom complex) to make a contribution, your hands will be brimming with the beat of life from the beginning and you will be nourished, and by being thus nourished, you will be a light in the world.
To be ordinary is to be available for love.
Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of five books, including her classic, The Woman's Comfort Book, and her newest, Comfort Secrets for Busy Women. She's also a creativity and life coach, creator of the Inner Organizer, and a columnist for Body + Soul Magazine. She leads retreats on self-care and creativity around the country. Hear her live on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius Channel 112 every Sunday at 8 am Pacific, 11 am Eastern. Visit her world at: http://www.comfortqueen.com and http://www.jenniferlouden.com .