The Incredible Richness of Ordinary Life

You know the phrase “the devil is in the details?”  Well you know it.  But wait because it is also said that  the delight is in the details. We know that our preoccupations with everyday life can prevent us from appreciating the ordinary pleasures that are available all around us. People often regret that they do not have more time to “smell the roses,” but even while they are saying that, the roses are all around them. It is trite, but true. Time will pass. Good things will happen to us. Bad things will happen to us. And when we look back at this time in our lives, we will think, “Why didn’t I appreciate that it was so wonderful then.” Or so poignant. Or so difficult.

Much of what we understand of our lives is shaped by our experience of mutualizing what we think and feel. We talk to our friends, our co-workers, our doctors, and the drugstore clerk. With each moment of sharing ourselves, we are expressing both the content of what we are saying and who we are as a person in relation to that other person. And the reflection or response also conveys both understanding of the information and an understanding of the relationship.

So, for example, if I am experiencing a pulled shoulder, I might talk to my friend about how upset I am that my shoulder is pulled. This means I am sharing something somewhat personal and my friend might sympathize, share similar stories, or give me advice from her experience. This exchange deepens our friendship, makes me feel valued, and maintains the continuity of our sharing parts of our lives. If I am talking to the clerk in the store, the story will be shorter and more stoic perhaps. The clerk may sympathize, but business goes on. This reflects the transient and shallower relationship of a retail exchange. If I am talking with my doctor, I might talk more about the physical feelings and less about my emotional response because I expect my doctor to help me with the physical problem. Depending on the doctor, he or she may concentrate on the physical symptoms or perhaps sympathize with the feeling of pain and the inconvenience.

Our inner life is rich with detail and motion. We move from thought to feeling and back again, constructing meaning as we go. Our relationships are a big part of the content of those thoughts and feelings, and they are a big part of processing them. Every once in a while, we can step back and see a bigger picture: the buzzing and whirring of everyday life, laid out before us. As Kafka wrote, “The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

It seems that human beings are the only primates that point at something to show someone else. In other words, sharing our experience is a built-in instinct. It is easy to speculate about the evolutionary benefits of sharing, but in any event, we can introspect the importance of getting the reflections of other people. Being seen and understood is deeply satisfying, and it also helps us inhabit our lives in a more authentic way. The process of sharing and listening: giving and receiving reflections is a deep part of what makes our lives meaningful and pleasurable. By sharing the details of our ordinary lives, we connect with other people, come to appreciate our own experience more deeply, and change and grow internally.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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1 Response to The Incredible Richness of Ordinary Life

  1. Peg says:

    The full quote:

    You don’t even need to leave your room,
    Just sit at your table and listen.
    You need not even listen,
    Simply wait.
    You need not even wait.
    Just learn to be quiet, and still, and solitary.
    The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked;
    It has no choice.
    It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

    -Franz Kafka

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