Reveling in Your Mundane, Everyday Existence

I talk a lot about widening our lives with vitality: here, here, here, oh and here too, and YOU GET THE POINT.

I’m all about making the most of the 4,000 Mondays we’ve been granted — on average — decidedly unaverage. This usually looks like me trying to get off the couch more to actually participate in my life, and then me trying to encourage you to get off your couch more to snag a participation ribbon, too.

Brushed the Cat RibbonOf course we infuse vitality into our lives (and earn ribbons) when we do Big Fun Things like visiting the Italian Riviera, jumping out of planes, and watching our favorite bands from the front row. Big, fun things indeed.

But what about the life-widening potential of our day-to-day experience of being alive?

Life gets incrementally better when we appreciate the small joys born out of our mundane moments.

A lightbulb moment about savoring our time.

Chris-Tia was a dear client who passed away from breast cancer when she was just 42 (I spoke about her sad but inspiring story in my TEDx talk, and wrote a bit about her passing here, in case you’d like to hear more). In one of our last sessions — just a few months before she died — she shared that she was choosing to slow down and embrace boredom. As a busy, successful entrepreneur with a go-go-go x 100 life, this was a curious yet encouraging thing to hear from her. So I got nosy, as any half-decent coach is trained to do.  “What does that look like,” I asked, “to revel in boredom?”

Chris-Tia then got really specific in ways I will never forget:

  • She said she was actually enjoying going to Home Depot to look for lightbulbs.
  • She said she was actually enjoying sorting through her mail, sifting through the junk flyers.
  • She said she was actually enjoying watching someone dust around the pipes in her condo.
  • She said she was enjoying her time sitting on the big red chairs scattered around the lawn of the UIC campus — just sitting there, being.

When was the last time you took pleasure in finding lightbulbs at Home Depot? (Having been there last month, I was decidedly not enjoying the hide-and-seek game of “WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE E10 CANDELABRA BULBS AND WHY ARE THEY SO HARD TO FIND?!”) I jest but the point isn’t lost on me.

When was the last time you let yourself relax into a ho-hum task, appreciating the simplicity of it?

Chris-Tia was living mindfully, fully immersed in her moments of being alive — as bland as they might have been. I suspect she knew she didn’t have a long runway of time left to live, which must have altered her views of what it took to feel content. She wasn’t taking anything for granted, even the banal things we dismiss as filler in our days.

If life is what happens as we’re busy making plans to “really live,” then what banal moments might you benefit from really tuning into? What if you knew you didn’t have a lot of time left to live… would you relish driving through the carwash with childlike wonder? Might you savor the flavor of your deli sandwich in a more meaningful way? Would you thank your god for being able-bodied, for having the means to buy a new book, for the dishes you are fortunate enough to get to wash?

When I ask clients about the things that make them happy, it’s often the simple things that delight them:

  • Baking muffins for the staff room at work
  • Day drinking on the weekend
  • Rearranging the furniture
  • Lighting candles with dinner
  • Tucking a 3-year-old into bed
  • Meditating in the sun for 10 minutes
  • Taking pictures of the shadows hitting the trees at that just-so moment
  • Getting a blowout
  • Reading celebrity gossip magazines
  • Making a Caesar salad with enormous amounts of bacon
  • Etc. etc. etc.

The myth of Living Large

I’m a fan of living in vivid color — living like we mean it, with intention, in ways that leave us feeling like we did life justice and didn’t squander the shit out of our time. But this doesn’t mean we need to Live Large, like wannabe billionaires jet-setting and caviar-ing around the globe. We don’t have to fill our time with larger-than-life trips and events and meals and — — wait! these are all fun and fine! don’t not do them! Just know that Living Large isn’t the only pathway to the good life.

Wringing joy out of the everyday

Check out this chart that captures our enjoyment of different daily activities (adapted from What We Really Do All Day):

Enjoyment of Daily Tasks
While we can all agree that going to a pub is more enjoyable than doing laundry, this conversation we’re having isn’t about what makes us relatively happier. Of course we’d rather be at a party than cleaning the kitchen sink (well, us introverts might rather be at home with a scrubby in hand…) — but the question is, how can we find ways to enjoy the laundry and cleaning and commuting despite their ho-humness? Maybe even because of their ho-humness, because mundane activities allow us to zone out and unplug in ways that Living Large doesn’t always offer.

The Danish term hygge took the world by storm a few years back; as described in The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection, this impossible to pronounce word is “a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life.” Others have described the concept as, “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things,” which sounds like a warm, cashmere-covered embrace of the everyday, garden variety, unremarkable moments of life.

Taking the dog for a walk, getting groceries to make meals that nourish and/or delight, making a workout playlist, sweeping the patio, watching your kid use the hula-hoop (and then trying it), savoring that first sip of coffee, listening to the rain hit the roof… I challenge you to appreciate these seemingly insignificant moments in your life.

I’m off to seek out the simple pleasure of sorting through flyers from the mailbox. I get to do it because I’m alive, and so I will do it with gratitude and gusto. Thank you for the inspiration, Chris-Tia.

Jodi Wellman

Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!

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