The fuel gauge read 15 miles left on my tank so I thought it might be time to fill up. I pulled up to the pump, typed in all the requisite information, and bam… $1.00 off a gallon appeared on the screen. You know that saying “Dance like no one is watching.” The party was on! I’m just hoping the security cameras can be scrubbed. Middle-aged dancing at a gas pump, though joyful and celebratory, is not pretty.
And, by the way, people were watching!
As I drove away, I thought to myself, “Wow, my reaction to $1.00 discount on a gallon of gas was almost on par with the moment my soon to be wife accepted my proposal, the day our children were born, and the Minnesota Twins first World Series Championship.” When did my life get so boring!
In common parlance, I was “adulting.” Adulting is the catchall phrase for the reality that what you never expected yourself to be doing when you grow up, you are now doing. You hear it mostly from the lips of 20 somethings. They sign their first renter’s agreement—adulting. They pay their own phone bill (I heard that happens in some families)—adulting. They buy a spatula—adulting.
When you are in your 20’s, it’s a sign you are growing into the next phase of life. But, it’s often spoken with a mixture of disbelief and disgust. Life was way cooler when your parents were helping with tuition, covering added expenses, and supplying you with any necessary household implements. You used to be able to spend your money on technology and craft beer and chipotle, six times a week. Now you are “adulting” with your rent and insurance and cheap wine because you have to buy your own.
Recently, I was talking to a college student at the Y about his summer job. He loved the interactions with campers and the collegiality of his peer counselors. But, in his words, “Working 40 hours a week is rough!” Who knew?
That’s adulting—living into the mundane and monotonous daily lives of, let’s say, “MOST EVERYONE!”
So, what do we do with that?
We need to recognize and acknowledge the anxiety that wells up within us when it feels like we are just going through the motions. We hear cultural messages like, “Live Your Best Life Always.” Then, we watch those best lives being plastered all over our Facebook walls and we think we are the only ones muddling through our days.
I’m convinced this cultural motivation to Live Your Passion/Follow your Dream/Discover Your Best Life/Make Every Moment Count, though compelling at times, doesn’t serve us well when life isn’t any of those. Relationships end and addictions begin at the intersection of what I think my life should be and what it really is. We’ve been seduced into believing that if our relationships are not life giving at any moment, then there must be something wrong with the relationship, something wrong with me. Most addictive behaviors (alcohol consumption, shopping, sex…) are misguided attempts to feel something again, to feel anything.
What would it take to reimagine our lives in healthy rather than destructive ways, even when living into the monotony of most days?
First, let this be your mantra:
I’m Muddling…But, I’m OK.
Bored… I’m Ok.
Mundane life…I’m still OK.
Even more than OK, can we allow these to be generative periods in our lives, like the dormant, slumbering life buried under a long winter awakening to the resurrection of vital, spring growth?
I’ve read numerous articles by child psychologists who lament the loss of free play and periods of boredom in our kid’s lives. We, as parents, can get so obsessive about meeting every one of our kid’s needs that we flow seamlessly from one source of entertainment to the next, which is both exhausting for parents and debilitating for our kid’s capacity to think on their own, to create, to grow.
It also creates adults who know nothing but a fully entertained life. It creates pleasure-seeking adults with limited capacity and desire to live the ordinary parts of life, to celebrate just being alive, to endure periods when they are just muddling through.
Reimagine Your Everyday Life. It sounds like a theme that will lift us to the heights of our personal possibility. Maybe, it’s a perspective on life that can carry us through the depths of our personal lethargy.
For me, the best antidotes for banality and boredom are gratitude and curiosity.
Gratitude grounds me in the sheer goodness of life—simple life, every day life, $1.00 off a gallon of gas life. So, I try to find ways to celebrate ordinary things.
Curiosity opens me to the possibility of being surprised. It awakens me to the vibrations of something intriguing or, in the least bit, new. It encourages me to ask new questions, to challenge assumptions, to non-judgmentally enter into the space of uncertainty, and then to be OK being there.
And I forgot, there is one more antidote, patient trust—in a God who walks with us through wildernesses and in whose resurrection proclaims to each of our ordinary lives…”New Day!”
It’s Monday. Even in the most routine of days, what can you be grateful for and curious about? Peace. Kai