This morning, as I walked my dog, I had a moment where I noticed how beautiful everything was. Like I truly appreciated the morning for what it was; the birds, the dewy grass, saying hello to my neighbor who was walking her dog too.
I felt gratitude for waking up without a headache today, and that spring is finally here. I was — happy. Not over the moon, high on life kind of happy; more like a gentle contentment.
Years ago, I wouldn’t have noticed this. In fact, I might have been the person that shrugs her shoulders over the birds, the budding spring, and a regular old morning where nothing exciting is happening at all.
I would have thought of a morning walk as just daily life, minus excitement, which equaled — boring.
When you’re a product of a culture that promotes excitement at all costs, profit over quality of life, and distraction over presence, you learn that regular life isn’t good enough.
We’re just waking up and coming out of a strange cultural fog of discontent — which is the idea that ordinary life is boring and we’re entitled to 24/7 excitement and rewards. Nothing has driven this home more than the pandemic.
We know this isn’t real, but we can’t quite figure out how to cope with it. We don’t fully connect the dots that our anxieties, bubbling irritation, and constant need to get somewhere (and who knows where that is) may be a product of this fog.
I grew up in the height of the fog; back before we knew it to be the cover of our discontent. Back in the 80s, when I was young, we were blissfully ignorant.
It was a time of complete naivety and pure rapture over how great we thought we had it. It was the honeymoon of our western culture; a sloppy romance where shiny happy people frolicked dream-like and hovering over the lie we created.
Now, in my 40’s, after some rather hefty circumstances jolted me awake, I can see it for the lie it was. We meant well, that’s for sure, but it’s time to come out of the dream and into reality. And for those who are not yet awake, but for whose dreamy states are getting poked at, reality may seem a little underwhelming.
At least that’s how it felt for me. The idea of simply enjoying a morning for nothing more than its existence would have been ridiculous to me.
Where was the fun? I didn’t want regular, I wanted a freakin’ carnival! I wanted firecrackers, boom boxes, and giant stuffed animals won by pounding that dumb weasel back into its hole. Get rid of the boring, punch it out of existence and bring me reward and entertainment.
By the time the 90s rolled around, the honeymoon was starting to end causing many of us to start waking out of our slumber. We’re super cranky and groggy about it though. But this is normal considering the fog is the only thing most of us have ever known.
The plight of the Millenials may well be because they’ve been caught in the cross-fire as we all wake up grumpy and itchy from withdrawal. We’ve sold them lies we don’t quite believe ourselves, and now they don’t know who to look to for the truth.
Quite frankly, I understand where they’re coming from. When the millennials were all being born, I was a twenty-something who had an inkling that things weren’t right. By the time I hit my 30’s, all hell had broken loose inside and outside of me. If I didn’t know how to handle it, how could they, being innocent kids trying to figure out what life is about?
As for me, I figured out that letting hell break loose was the best thing to happen, even though it was hard. It broke me like grief does; you go numb, then angry, then you eventually accept it. The end result of this acceptance is that I get to wake up, go for a walk, and simply “be”.
That’s it — not so exciting, right?
Oh but it is. Some people would kill for the pure contentment of enjoying a morning walk with their dog. And think about all those hard moments of loss, heartbreak, break-ups, bad fights, or dark nights of the soul. What is it we think of during those tough moments? Often, it’s the ordinary moments that come to us.
After losing my dad, I thought of the stupidest things like his comfy aftershave smell or the elf-like expression he used to get when he was excited to eat dessert.
After my breakdown years ago, I used to think of moments when I had enough energy to take a simple walk.
And even now, as I cope with a vascular disease that gives me constant headaches, I think of how I used to work long hours on my projects entirely oblivious of pain and with razor-sharp concentration.
In fact, most of my favorite memories are often of ordinary moments. So now, instead of balking at a regular unexciting day, I love every little moment. I will never think of them as boring again.
We’re all coming out of the fog of discontent, it’s happening as we speak. It’s not going to be a comfortable awakening.
Instead of hoping for more excitement to ease your discomfort, choose gratitude. I know, “just be grateful for what you have” sounds a little trite and condescending. I’m not saying “be grateful” at the expense of feeling scared and uncertain. Please, feel your feelings, tell someone how sad you are that things aren’t what you thought they were.
But still, choose gratitude as you sit with discomfort; find it in the boredom.
Even amongst the violent rumblings of transformation going on right now, we can move towards gratitude. Because rest assured, we aren’t getting out of this without a massively uncomfortable fight for change. And we wouldn’t be fighting if there weren’t an absolute and desperate need for it.
It could be that finding gratitude for the ordinary moments of contentment may be the anchors we need while we move through this change.