Every Wednesday, one of the writers of the Writer’s Retreat shares their thoughts on writing and the creative life. Topics range from how-to’s to inspirational thoughts about keeping the fingers moving on the page. This week, I wanted to share some more general thoughts about life and decisions about how to use one’s time on this plane. I hope you enjoy!
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” -Viktor E. Frankl
I’ve been re-reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance, and a phrase jumped off the page at me: ‘the minutiae of the mundane.’ As in, “…a detective who searches through the minutiae of the mundane in hopes of finding clues for what was missing in her life.” (1995 edition, from Jan. 7 entry in daybook) It’s been my experience that the details are where “it” is at – that sense of peace, or of majesty, or of connection with the Universe, the Holy Spirit – whatever your name for it is. Call it the Tao, or ‘in the moment,’ but it’s in the mundane that we find it.
Have you ever driven somewhere that you drive normally, and sort of ‘wake up’ at the other end not quite remembering how you got there? Or, while taking a shower, have you had the solution to a problem pop into your head? These sorts of mundane activities, the rote activities that make up our daily round, can give us a sense of routine and order if we let them. They can also be a source of drudgery or unpleasant duty, if we choose to let them. The trick is in deciding which we want to do. The laundry must be washed, and I have yet to meet a pair of self-brushing teeth – so these kinds of tasks are part of our rounds whether we like it or not.
Today, I am reminded that “whether we like it or not” is an interesting phrase. I think it’s been used, for some of us anyway, as I way to brow-beat us into doing something for our own good or out of punishment: “You’re going to sweep this floor whether you like it or not!” “You’re going to do this homework whether you like it or not!” What if, instead of rebelling against these very routine tasks that won’t, after all, do themselves – what if we decide to love them a little and do them with a sense of gusto? Is there a way we can enhance our daily round so that instead of drudgery it becomes something of a glorying in our own abundance? After all, we must have clothes in order to have laundry; we must have a home in order to have to vacuum and dust; we must have food in order to have dirty dishes… These are all things that many people around the world do without on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. If we have these things, what if we allow our gratitude to be shown in the simple act of doing the tasks that maintain them with grace and enjoyment?
In the path of doing these things with gusto, what if we kept note of those things which brought us happiness? For example, if we serve hot cocoa with marshmallows for dessert, or if we brought out the fancy china and made a special occasion out of dinner – maybe even use candlelight? We can note what things make us happy and then begin to incorporate them more into our daily round, creating a self-sustaining cycle. For me, it’s a box of tissues that makes me happy. I like having a box of tissues when I want to blow my nose. It feels decadent. This is because, for many years, I didn’t have the money to spend on tissues and I made due with toilet paper. Now, it’s become a habit not to buy boxes of tissue. What if I made that a priority for my weekly groceries? Did you know they now make all sorts of fancy tissue boxes? They don’t even cost much more than the el cheapo grande versions, but they come in colors and patterns and all sorts of things. There are special covers for tissue boxes, too, if I really wanted to go whole hog. Yikes!
My point is, that some of the things that make us happy aren’t decadent and fancy and uber expensive. Sometimes, they’re just the small minutiae that surround us in our daily round, and they’re small touches we can add to our daily round to enhance it.
After all, there’s not a do-over option to life.