I’ve noticed that when things go wrong, there is nothing I miss more than an ordinary day. Things that I took for granted and overlooked entirely suddenly with a shift of perspective become magical.
Like many parents I find school and nursery drop off intensely stressful. Forcing shoes on unwilling feet, reminding my absent-minded eldest coat, bag, lunch for the 20th time, worrying that my littlest will cling like a limpet refusing to go in. I felt like I’d run a gauntlet before I even started work.
Then covid hit and what had felt stressful and unpleasant suddenly seemed heavenly in comparison. I would long for that walk down the hill holding their hands, ‘Don’t run in the road. Look both ways. Stop licking your brother.’ And mostly I would long for the silence in the car afterwards.
It feels like when you fall ill, and suddenly look back at the ease of how you moved through the world in your healthy body. It is only in the after that we realise how much we took for granted before.
Sometimes I notice it organically. It’s like time slows, I step sideways out of the busy current of life and I realise these are the days. As Vonnegut says for a moment ‘everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.’ The iridescent sheen of petrol in the gutter, the stark black silhouette of the bare branches against the sky, the joyful both arms open embrace my littlest greets me with. I am able to stop and exclaim, ‘If this isn’t nice I don’t know what is.’ These mundane magical moments.
I am not talking about forcing gratitude when we are having an awful. Gratitude cannot be imposed from other people or even from ourselves. ‘Be grateful for what you do have’ doesn’t help when we are having a hard time. We can’t gaslight ourselves out of feeling what we feel. No toxic positivity here, my loves. But being able to notice when things are good, or even neutral is a capacity we can intentionally cultivate.
Our brains and nervous systems have a predisposition towards survival, this means that moments of discomfort or danger have a stickiness that good or neutral moments don’t. This makes sense. In evolutionary terms it’s better to mistake a stick for a snake than vice versa. But it means we consciously need to work harder to notice when things are pleasant or even neutral.
In Kimberley Anne Johnson’s brilliant book Call of the Wild she calls it anchoring in the blue. Anchoring in the blue is a practice where we can expand our capacity to feel pleasure and joy by soaking up those good moments. By giving them space to breathe and be taken in, rather than rushed by.
Three times I’ve done a gratitude practice called 100 happy days. You take a photo of something that brought you happiness and post it on social media. Every single time I did the challenge the pattern was the same. At the beginning I would struggle to find one thing, but by the end of the challenge I would be debating between a couple of different moments. I began to see patterns in the things that I was grateful for. That then led me to seek out more of these moments and to consciously scatter them throughout my week. These moments were almost always present – I just had to sharpen my gaze to notice them.
My gratitude practice rules
Let that feeling of the magical mundane expand in my chest.
Take a photo.
Share once a week.
If for whatever reason I am finding it hard to see the magic in the mundane. Don’t force it. We all have days like that. There is always tomorrow.
I am feeling concerned about how social media is affecting my focus so I don’t want to share daily on there anymore. But I will commit to doing a weekly round up of magical mundane here.
January week 2 – the magic of the mundane
A solo cup of tea and a swim after the first drop off of the year.
Eating warm white chocolate and miso cookies under my heated blanket – a game changer purchase.
Those winter sunrises
The endless adjustments my littlest makes to his birthday balloons. Long strings. Short strings. No strings.
The shadows my Waldorf stars cast on the walls.
A rare blue sky after weeks of rain.
After the covid years finally being able to host a birthday party for my littlest.
Pink seaweed I found on the beach. Forager friends, does anybody know what it’s called, or knows of a good seaweed identification book? (Hi, I’m middle aged.)
Where have you found the magic in the mundane this week? Any pics, I would love to see them.
This week I read How to Keep House while Drowning by KC Davis. It’s cleaning and organisational tips for people who are neurodiverse or have mental health issues. When my mental health is bad, I slowly turn into a human version of What-a-Mess, something I feel immense shame and guilt about. KC talks about how care tasks are morally neutral – gamechanger. There are lots of practical tips I’ve already started implementing from the 5 things cleaning methods to closing tasks. And if reading feels too much for you right now, she has a TED talk and she’s also on TikTok.
Crip Camp on Netflix is about the rise of the disability rights movement. It’s an era I know very little about. It is brilliant, angry and inspiring. Anything I can watch that reminds me that great Martin Luther King quote helps ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice’.
Words Words Words
The Orange by Wendy Cope
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange –
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave –
They got quarters and I got a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.