Embrace Your Unglamorous Day

Sometimes the difference between the best and worst days is just a matter of perspective.

I was sitting at a dinner party observing a couple of new parents. Their baby was in the bjorn, he was out of the bjorn, he was up on the shoulder, bounced up and down, squeezed, and passed around.

Yes, I was staring.

“I can’t believe that’s over,” I said to my husband. “I know we are not going to have more babies. But it still feels strange, something you want and wait for, and then suddenly that season has passed.”

My instinct was to conjure a memory of my middle daughter, the one with the dimples and infectious laugh. I tried to imagine holding her in my lap as a baby, and I couldn’t. She’s 11 now.

Photo by kevin liang on Unsplash

All of the things I wanted to feel and remember about those days were very ordinary. They were not Instagram-worthy moments, airbrushed and topped with a dollop of Disneyland. It wasn’t her coordinated nursery or my favorite onesie.

And yet when I was in the middle of that season with babies, it was the ordinary and the monotony that was so difficult at times. I remember lying in my bed early in the morning hearing the first stirrings of an infant, staring at the ceiling fan, and thinking, “I just don’t want to do this today. I want to be anywhere else.”

That was mostly the fatigue talking. And fatigue has a funny way of sapping all of the loving feelings right out of your body.

And now that my kids tie their own shoes and even make some of their own meals, I am in the chauffeuring season. I drive. And sometimes when I’m sitting in the car waiting for another ballet class to end, I feel the time slipping by. I feel I’m growing old just sitting and waiting, eating another granola bar for dinner.

It is most often an unglamorous life that we live.

My life has decidedly paused right here in child rearing world for awhile, and that is both a huge blessing and a challenge for me. It can feel isolated and devoid of grown-up conversations. It’s selfless and wearying.

At times I have idolized mothers with thriving careers or those more involved in charitable work or throwing color-coordinated parties. The reality is we all feel stuck at times, no matter our situation. We all feel the daily grind of our days and wonder what we’re about. And whatever we are used to doesn’t hold intrigue for us anymore.

But it’s these very ordinary days that fill up most of the hours we live. It’s the in-between moments that make up a life.

I have the choice between observing and directing.

Although, I am a responsible human who (usually) pays bills on time and takes care of my kids, I haven’t always taken responsibility for my own inner life. I’ve allowed my feelings to run amok and spoil what would otherwise be considered good times with my family.

Now, I believe I have a couple of options when it comes to facing each season — I can be an observer of it, like a recipient, or I can be actively directing it. And these two paths can look similar from the outside, but feel very different on the inside.

What makes a difference is intention.

I can just slip into the day, succumb to whatever emotions I’m feeling, and see what happens. Or I can stare at that ceiling fan first thing in the morning and consciously decide what the day is going to be like.

I can face down anything – my incredibly busy schedule, my lack of plans, or my dentist appointment and decide I’m going to take it all on with a positive attitude and give it my best.

It doesn’t change the circumstances or make the day suddenly exciting. But it puts me in charge of how I’m thinking and feeling.

Rethinking what is worthy of my attention.

The siren call of this age is entertainment. I should feel fulfilled, my kids should be entertained, and we should all be having fun at each moment. Also, we should look beautiful and camera-worthy while we’re doing it.

And yet none of those goals is worthy of our attention. There is beauty and joy in everyday things that don’t have to be chased after, they just have to be noticed. We have to slow down enough to consider them and appreciate their value.

There is beauty in a long walk with a friend or loved one.

There is beauty in a deep and authentic conversation.

There is beauty in a shared meal, fancy food not required.

The truly good things are accessible to us every day.

Embracing the unglamorous days.

I have started celebrating the small and ordinary. I choose to feel happiness over small pleasures, like a really great foam on my cappuccino. I appreciate these little things and it tangibly lifts my mood.

I take small moments of time for myself. I squeeze in a coffee date with a friend while I wait for that ballet class. I get up early to meet the sunrise, even though I’m not a morning person. I claim parts of the day for myself that make me feel less like I’m beholden to my life and more in control of it.

I make a plan. It’s easier for me to feel like I’m directing my life when it’s not passing all around me like an amorphous blob. I decide how I’m going to spend those early hours, the time sitting in the car waiting, or the downtime at night. I seize the day so it doesn’t seize me and then leave me in front of Netflix for too long.

I step away from the things that rob me of peace — too much social media, negative thoughts and what-ifs.

What I refuse to do is wait around for something spectacular to happen to make me feel like my life is precious or extraordinary. I’m alive today — therefore today is extraordinary. I intend to celebrate it and make the most of it.

1 Comment

  • Reply M. Yip October 9, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Wondering if you’ve ever read The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs or When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Those books made me start a meditation on the nature of joy and meaning in the day to day, the “normal” that we so often take for granted. Lovely little post. It carries the same truth about joy… 😘

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