When Did Ordinary Become Meaningless?

When Did Ordinary Become Meaningless?

In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a ‘words’ person.

A great quote will stop me in my tracks; I prefer receiving a thoughtfully crafted note to a gift and unless I’ve written something down, there’s no way on this earth I will remember it. Oh and I’m also a bit of a Scrabble fiend (if I can persuade anyone to play – bearing in mind you’ll probably lose!).

I’ve recently been indulging in a bit of Brené Brown. I know that she’s been around a while now but I never really jumped on that band wagon and certainly couldn’t profess to actually watching any of her TED talks.

In our family, we’ve been exploring what it means to be vulnerable. None of us are particularly good at sharing our thoughts and feelings with others and I happen to know that Brené Brown is a supposed expert in this field. It turns out, that what started as a small piece of research into what makes a person joyful, became a 6 year study in vulnerability and a two year stint in therapy for Brené!

Surprisingly, I’m not actually going to talk about vulnerability today.  What I want to share instead, is a quote from one of Brené’s talks; a quote that has stayed with me ever since…

The more I reflect on this statement, the more true it becomes. We’ve gone from a time when eggs for tea were an absolute luxury (World War II era) to feeling sorry for ourselves if we can’t afford to go on an annual summer holiday – something which is now seen as a right rather than a privilege.

What’s happened to our world?

The arrival of social media has meant that our lives are now under scrutiny. With that comes a tendency to compare our somewhat mundane life with the (far more) exciting shiny one that the latest Youtube sensation/next door neighbour/girl we sit across from at school, is sharing on a daily basis.

It doesn’t really matter who it is, if their life looks more interesting, we conclude that our own must be meaningless. If we aren’t saving the world on a daily basis, does our life even have any significance? We wind up dissatisfied with ‘ordinary’ leading us to search out something ‘extraordinary’.

We have almost come to expect it of today’s social media-driven generation, but are us adults really any different? In fact, does this deep sense of dissatisfaction and pressure that our teenagers are buckling under, actually stem from the messages the generation before them is sending out (that’s us parents by the way)?

One thing I’ve been considering over the last week, is how we can effectively communicate satisfaction to our children. How can we counteract the message that social media is screaming at them – an ordinary life equals a meaningless one? How can we convince them that ‘ordinary’ is where it’s at?

What this doesn’t mean.

First of all, this doesn’t mean that we quit making an effort in life. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having ambition, drive and determination to better yourself. I truly believe in a creator God who made us humans to work hard and to get some satisfaction and pleasure out of achieving. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

It’s when achieving becomes a need, an addiction even, that we are robbed of the joy that just ‘being’ can bring.

What can we do to change this?

Remember that I said a thought-provoking quote will often stop me in my tracks? Well what I should have done was listen to the rest of Brené’s talk so that I could provide you with a well researched expert’s opinion. Instead, I let my own thoughts ruminate meaning that this is more of a brain dump than anything else, but here goes…

My first thought was that we need to go back to basics and if that means coming off social media altogether allowing ourselves to enjoy life without the added complication of looking to the left and right, then so be it.  But I’m not convinced that is a good answer. Yes if it causes stress and is constantly making you feel unfulfilled, then step away for a while, but social media is here to stay and the next generation actually really need to learn how best to navigate it. Who will they learn from if it’s not those who go before them?

Recently, I’ve been obsessively questioning what I’m posting on social media and here on the blog: Why would anyone want to read it? What’s exciting about my life to warrant anyone clicking on the link I’ve just shared on Twitter? In a nutshell, even I as a 40-something adult am being swayed by this culture that ordinary is meaningless.

Ordinary is refreshing.

But what I am learning, is that people actually find reading about an ordinary life, quite refreshing. I have had various comments on here (thank you to anyone who responded to that blog post) and text messages from friends, encouraging me to keep writing. People who want more of the ordinary relatable life and less of the sensationalised (possibly exaggerated) life that they will never attain.

So instead of living in fear that our ‘ordinary’ is boring, perhaps we should try counteracting the amazing, exciting lives that so many seem to be living on social media, with real life – sharing the simple every day pleasures that bring us joy.

A good book…sunshine on the face…bluebells on a dog walk…jumping in puddles…clean sheets at the end of a long day. All things that bring a smile to my face (ok perhaps not the jumping in puddles but I enjoy looking at other people’s photographs!). All things that are perfectly achievable for the average 40 (0r 30) -something mum who is trying to make it to the end of the day without losing her rag and living in the hope that one day she might make it to the bottom of the laundry pile.

I follow a few people on social media who I think convey (very well) this simple reminder to embrace the small things. We could all take a leaf out of their very interesting, relatable and highly achievable book. It helps that they take great photographs too!

Clarina’s Contemplations // Wellies on the School Run // Me and Orla // Picture Taker Memory Maker // The Ordinary Lovely // Coffee Work Sleep Repeat // Inside Out and About // The Wood Creek // Meme and Harri 

Follow:

25 Comments

  1. April 27, 2017 / 9:14 am

    I couldn’t have put it better. This sense of dissatisfaction is overpowering and makes me feel like a failure for not being all shiny and glossy and highly achieving. But really I should be very proud of the fact that I’m still living and breathing. That has been a very big effort of 2016 and much hidden from most people. 2017 is bringing its own challenges and I am coping. I feel the need to work on contentment. #dreamteam

    • April 29, 2017 / 4:00 pm

      Living and breathing is a big effort for a LOT of people and you should be proud. Contentment is something to strive for. xx

  2. April 27, 2017 / 9:28 am

    I think you’ve said it beautifully; the key to happiness is contentment. Have you heard Chris Hadfield’s TED Talk or read his book, he has a lovely way of balancing ambition and contentment: he was always striving to be an astronaut but he made sure that every step along the way was one that he could embrace if this was as far as he was going to get.

    • April 29, 2017 / 4:01 pm

      I haven’t heard of Chris Hadfield but will definitely seek him out. Thanks Carie. What a challenge to strive for more whilst embracing every small step. Brilliant way to go. x

  3. April 27, 2017 / 11:59 am

    Amen to that! I am grateful that my kids don’t seem to have much of a dissatisfaction with their lives (apart from the occasional moan about lack of foreign holidays from my eldest), but I think boys are generally more easygoing and less ‘competitive’ about such things.
    Social media does seem to make life one long endless need to show off and be better than the next person (I admit I do this with my running, but at least my photos are 100% honest and unstaged) and that can be hard. Like you, I love reading about and seeing stuff which is ordinary and real. But I’m not a 15 year old girl. I have learned enough about life to see through ‘perfection’ for what it is.
    I think I’m waffling, so I’ll shut up…

    • April 29, 2017 / 4:02 pm

      I also think that boys suffer less from social media-induced comparison! I think perspective is important and teenagers just don’t have. Many of us adults don’t either, especially when we are having an ‘off’ day! x

  4. April 27, 2017 / 12:22 pm

    So often people miss the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s not boring. They’re just not looking. It might take a little time to see it, but it is there. I teach my children to enjoy the moment. To live in the now. An easier job when we spend so much time outside.

    • April 29, 2017 / 4:02 pm

      Living in the ‘now’ is definitely the way forward 🙂

  5. April 27, 2017 / 2:46 pm

    Suzanne,

    There’s an old saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Of course, perfection is usually (always?) unattainable.
    One thing that most of us could do to achieve greater contentment is to reduce our exposure to advertising.

    • April 29, 2017 / 4:03 pm

      Gosh yes re: advertising. I’m a sucker for it!

  6. April 27, 2017 / 3:12 pm

    I love this and I’m so honoured to be featured. I find it all a little bizarre sometimes. A good friend recently said to me – I’m so jealous of your weekends, I wish I could do what you do.

    It really confused me because I’m not in a tropical location, somewhere hot or exotic I’m literally in the park or at a National Trust. I’m just making the most of what I have. Surely we should all be doing that? Looking around and being grateful for what we have? Cherishing our time with our families. Exploring new places.

    One of my favourite quotes is ‘Happiness is not having what you want. It is appreciating what you have’ So very true ❤

    • April 29, 2017 / 4:04 pm

      Yes we should me embracing what we have rather than looking around at what everyone else is doing. Love that quote too. xx

  7. Heidi
    April 27, 2017 / 8:47 pm

    Hear! Hear! Suzanne x

  8. April 27, 2017 / 9:25 pm

    A beautiful post. I like your list of ordinary moments there’s so many to add, the school run, a walk along on the beach,a coffee in one of our independent coffee shops with a friend, fresh bread from a local bakery, a run in the park. These are the moments to cherish, the ordinary is extraordinary. Thank you for reminding us of this.

    • April 29, 2017 / 4:04 pm

      Yes, even on the school run there are ordinary moments to enjoy (assuming the kids aren’t rowing ;)).

  9. April 27, 2017 / 10:49 pm

    I really think ordinary is underrated. I love this post and I would much rather have an ordinary, happy life than anything else x

  10. April 28, 2017 / 2:10 pm

    Lovely post and I couldn’t agree more. There is definitely too much pressure to be constantly achieving something which is in direct contrast to the message that being grateful for what we have is what makes us truly happy.
    Nat.x

  11. April 28, 2017 / 6:41 pm

    I couldn’t agree more, love this post Suzanne. So much of what I do now is trying to simplify, to just enjoy the moment – and to bring the kids with me. I love my ordinary life.

  12. April 28, 2017 / 7:08 pm

    Yes, agreed. I regularly try to tell my children (and remind myself I’m vulnerable moments) that ordinary is wonderful, contentment should be aspired to and that kindness and sensitivity in the moment are to be truly valued

    • April 29, 2017 / 4:05 pm

      I think when we are feeling a little bit vulnerable, social media is not a place to be. But as adults, we are usually good at discerning those moments. Teenagers aren’t unfortunately 🙁 They are only going to learn from our example though so that’s a start huh? x

  13. heather preston
    April 29, 2017 / 7:22 am

    well said.! As adults i think we find it hard to take a step back and question all this but if i was a teenager – i wouldn’t even know where to start – no wonder so many are struggling with anxiety and depression . Not just the fact that we are being fed streams of “perfect lives” and the idea you need to strive for more – but the mount of time in general people are on social media is also killing family life……folk can be in the same room but all on different devices ..and in general time on social media is time not spent with family.
    I am not saying we need to get rid of social media -s you say social media is here to stay – but like you we are working to try and make sure our grass was greener than it was last year – not whether its greener than the neighbours – its really tough. I deactivated facebook last year as even as 40 something found it wasn’t helping my own issues with stress and anxiety. If we are struggling with all this -our children must be. If it feels like something is right for us then regardless of what other folk are doing then i think we need to accept that its good- plus social media/chats in playground etc only show snippets of lives…….someone may get 5 holidays abroad a year but you prob find that there is something that isn’t perfect.

  14. May 1, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    Thank you so much for mentioning me, Suzanne. I quite agree that ordinary is underrated. As I currently have Ed Sheeran on repeat, there’s a lyric which for me is simply perfect, ‘A life with love is a life that’s been lived’. Doesn’t that spell out what’s most important x

  15. May 4, 2017 / 10:57 am

    Oh Suzanne I love every word and completely agree. To find joy in the simple and ordinary things is such an underrated things these days. I worry that mine is a generation (Christian wise) that was told we’d change the world and all be history makers which on one hand is so inspiring but really it can leave us unsatisfied with the life we have and worrying that we’re not out there making waves. Contentment is a word I keep coming back to. To be content in where you’re at and exploring it rather than always striving for what we think might be around the corner. Great post! xxx

  16. May 11, 2017 / 11:11 am

    Achievement or lack of is something I’ve been struggling with this week, hence the Face book thread I started in UK Parent Bloggers. Someone asked me how I measured achievement and other than an end product or a sense of measurable accomplishment I couldn’t and still can’t answer the question. I’ve no job, kids have left home, hubby works long hours, I know what I’ve achieved to date, just that, freedom and satisfaction knowing i’ve done a good job raising my family (they’re all still alive and speak to me) but it’s what i do from no on that I struggle to achieve an answer to, so settle don the fact, i can do what i want, when i want and i dont have to justify doing noting to anyone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *