‘Whats new and happening?’ – very often friends open conversations with this statement. Increasingly, I find it difficult to identify anything newsworthy to report. Life is simply put – fairly ordinary. Most days consist of going to work, spending sometime with words and writing, some exercise, meals with family, sometime online or before the television, and sleep. There is an even keel to life. Broken at times with some upheavals, both welcome and not so, and then the same rhythm. Ordinary and definitely not ‘happening’.
Ordinary. The word stems from the Latin ‘ordinarius’ that means regular, normal, customary, usual, commonplace. But the reactions ‘ordinary’ gets are anything but regular or commonplace. Being ordinary is perceived as a sign of failure, of not having made it, or still a work in progress, aspiring to the extraordinary.
If you type ‘being ordinary’ in Google, what pops up third in a list of over 28,40,00,00 results is FOBO – the Fear Of Being Ordinary. It even has a medical term Koinophobia! It has to be resisted and fought. The maximum results are about how to not be ordinary and become extraordinary. Being or doing the extraordinary is a constant aspiration. We push our kids to excel in myriad activities, and ourselves towards some dazzling outcome, where the goalpost continuously shifts.
It is most apparent in our online fueled world. These days, most of us privileged enough to be networked, draw our aspirational models from social media. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc everyone has a charmed existence, even misery has its followers. Here and now, being ordinary only transforms into another fear – FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out. Its a pervasive fear that “others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. The word FOMO was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013! The ordinariness of most of our lives fuels fear of some kind or the other.
This pressure to be doing something constantly, achieving, chasing goals, putting out accomplishments on a daily basis on social media, is somewhat tiring. It often blurs and takes away the pleasure of the ordinary life. The warmth of lazing in the sun on a winter morning, being busy at your workplace, planning the next day as you go home, walking on a busy street yet hearing the chirping birds as they roost home, lounging on a couch holding the hand of someone you love and watching a movie…. the list of the everyday that can enthrall is endless. A simple day is a joy. The ordinary life is to be savored and reveled in.
Maybe at fifty plus the ordinary does not seem such a terrible thing. This is not to say that wanting to be or do extraordinary things is inappropriate. What is being extraordinary all about? I often wonder.
I remember as a young adult I wanted to do so many things – which all added up to wanting to live my life in a particular manner. There was pressure in our lives too, but I don’t remember being chased by FOBO or FOMO! Were the aspirations towards extra-ordinariness? I really cannot say. Did one want to do different things? Do things differently? Did one have a rather different life story from what one thought of? Yes. Is that being not ordinary or extraordinary? However, that is the story of most people. Life rarely turns out how we visualized it. All of us have our hits and misses. So it is also ordinary!
In the ordinary flow of life, each of us has moments and spells of being extraordinary. The happy hour when we achieved something we strove hard for or were acclaimed for some talent or accomplishment. The time when we kept our head up in extreme adversity, when despite heartbreak we believed in love, when we fought for something that was important to us against all odds, when we gave up on something important to be there for someone who needed us, or when we forgave someone who hurt us.
Ordinariness is not be feared or banished, it is to be enjoyed and lived. It is what gives us the opportunity to be extraordinary.
So the next time a friend asks “whats new and happening?” I will say, “I had a wonderful day…” and go on to describe my incredible day spent in the most ordinary manner, which might have had some extraordinary moments.