The Case For Embracing An Ordinary Life

Santa Rita prickly pear cactus

It’s spring in the desert. Cactus blooms of coral and sunshine greet the day, swarming with eager bees. By dusk, the petals have tucked themselves in, retreating back into their tight bud. The next morning, the prickly pear opens its broad palms once more to extend the same lovely gift.

Argentine giant cactus

Other cacti are crowned with a single large and impressive flower that opens for just an hour or two before dying back and rotting.

I always hoped and planned to be like like those short-lived showstoppers, pouring all of my effort and energy into a single grandiose achievement. Whether a novel, a mathematical formula, or some new invention, I wanted to create something that might change the world.

However, lately, I have been admiring the steady, predictable patterns of those numerous small flowers. Every day, I cherish their presence.

This month’s theme is growth. Observing the patterns of spring has brought about an acute awareness of my own behaviors, particularly how they have changed over time.

With age — and the fatigue and failures that come with it — my dreams for my life have slowly shifted. I have come to realize the immense value of slow and steady efforts.

This is partially borne of necessity. Chronic illness has added the weight of physical and cognitive limitations. I can’t squat down to pluck weeds, let alone run a marathon. Simple conversations can be mentally exhaustive, so authoring a full-length novel feels dauntingly out-of-the-question.

Beyond requisites, though, lies a choice.

When I am fully recovered, I have no grand plans to wear myself thin or drive myself into the ground. I no longer wish to be that spectacular, once-in-a-season sensation. I don’t want to flash brightly, then instantly burn to ashes.

Instead, I hope to be known for my consistency. It’s now my aim to offer small moments of kindness, joy, or insight to anyone I may encounter, day after day. My intention is to pay attention, to be fully present to those around me.

Nature is filled with both one-of-a-kind wonders and commonplace wildflowers. I don’t know about you, but I was once quick to dismiss the latter as utterly unexciting.

However, I’ve come to admire the can-do attitude of the self-propagating and seed-shedding beauties. They find ways to thrive where they land, even if the soil is rocky and dense. The small and ordinary flowers show up and do their thing alongside hundreds of mirrors of themselves, without an ounce of self-consciousness. They offer whatever small gift they can — beauty, fragrance, or nectar — to any passersby, without asking anything in return.

Single prickly pear bloom with a little visitor

I’ve observed so many individuals struggle with feelings that they are average, ordinary, and unremarkable. My heart hurts for them. I’ve been there, and I suspect I’m not alone.

However, we must keep in mind that each of us is equipped with our own unique strengths and experiences. We all have something to offer.

Our gifts may seem trivial: the willingness to listen to a grieving friend, a compulsion to pick up others’ trash, or a habit of chatting up elderly folks in the checkout line at the grocery store. Yet, our seemingly inconsequential actions do matter.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: There is nothing wrong with being average, ordinary, and unremarkable.

What was one my greatest fear no longer scares me.

Nature is filled with a vast array of beauty, diversity, wonder. At first glance, those hundreds of bright, sunshiny flowers all look the same. Humans are not so different. We are all ordinary, yet we are also all incredibly unique.

It’s in our averageness that we forge connections with others. Note that the picky pear flowers are surrounded by many others. The Argentine giant, on the other hand, stands alone.

It’s in our ordinariness that we learn humility, appreciate utility, and are presented the choice to examine our own flaws and virtues.

And it’s in the acceptance of our unremarkableness that we come recognize that we are, in fact, all quite remarkable.

My life may not ever evoke feelings of awe, but I believe appreciation is a reasonable target. And I would rather be recognized for countless small, consistent actions than one major contribution.

I’d rather be an ordinary, yet unexpected wildflower amongst comrades than a blossom extraordinaire alone upon a pedestal.

California poppy superbloom

You can find more from me on my personal blog:

30 thoughts on “The Case For Embracing An Ordinary Life

  1. “We all have something to offer.” I’d say many things, Erin. Your post is full of hopefulness and insight…with the reminder that the splashy bits in life draw attention, but the impact of kindness with intention – every day – is where lasting, restorative goodness lies. xo! I loved every bit of your post. 🥰

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Yes, I love you comment, Vicki! The splashy, exciting bits are great, but the impact of kindness really does outlast everything else. Oooh, and restorative goodness? Yes, yes, yes!! 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “I’ll let you in on a little secret: There is nothing wrong with being average, ordinary, and unremarkable.” . . . and one more ‘secret’ that debunks the thought of “being average, ordinary and unremarkable” . . . each of us is a unique, above average, extraordinary, and divinely remarkable creation of His loved beyond measure for eternity.
    Be Blessed Erin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right, apeacefultree – there really is something special about the recognizing and cherishing the ordinary, simple things in life. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I personally think we are all remarkable, because we each have a set of skills, talents, perceptions, that are unique to us individually.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t disagree, LA! I can only speak for myself, but it took accepting that I wasn’t remarkable in the traditional sense to recognize all the things that made me special–the things that make me ME.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree with your other commenters Erin. Such a hopeful post. Yes, there is nothing wrong with being average. A funny related story. When I was a young reporter working at a small newspaper, I complained that our town was boring and had no good stories. My editor didn’t like that talk. He sent me to the town square and demanded that I walk up to as many strangers as I could for one hour and come back with at least five interesting feature stories. Of course, I came back with many more. As you say, “it’s in the acceptance of our unremarkableness that we come to recognize that we are, in fact, all quite remarkable.” Great post.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks, Brain! What a great assignment from your editor, and so grateful that you shared that. It’s far too easy to take things for granted, and it can be so helpful to either zoom out or zoom in to recognize all the wonderful things that surround us.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m in total agreement with what everyone else has said. Striving for one big achievement means we may never succeed and just exhaust ourselves in the process. Plus, if you achieve that one big thing … what is there left for the rest of your life? Do you become a one hit wonder, 15 minutes of fame, then nothing. Small steps of achievement throughout life will be more impact full, and more rewarding. And I think we all touch on so many other lives every day, making impacts were not even aware of. Ordinary seems quite remarkable to me

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make a great point, Brenda, and I think your captured the essence of what I was trying to convey. Chasing those big goals could end up as a wild goose chase, where nothing is ever actually achieved. Small acts, on the hand, can feel like big victories if we allow them. And the impacts we have on others–known or unknown–can make all the difference in someone’s life.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post and the beauty you captured with the cacti and poppies I’ve been enjoying too. I agree with you. I prefer being average and consistent. Think of all the one-hit wonders in music and debut novels. Maybe those artists decided they’d like to be average, too — or they felt too much performance pressure. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a remarkably beautiful post. I think this is something we all struggle with—wanting to be extraordinary. You’ve really done a great job defending the beauty of the ordinary. Wonderful photos too.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great way to approach life in general I think Erin. Remarkable is often very overrated and comes with its own set of conflicts and expectations- mostly unrealistic. I think it’s very sad that we can’t simply be happy with who we are rather than always looking for more. I would much rather look out on that field of poppies and see how grand they are in their sameness than see one lone flower standing along and carrying all the weight to be perfect. A lovely post today!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree, Deb. I’ve found that those individuals that have found a sense of contentment with who they are and what they have tend to be more pleasant to be around, and I’m sure that’s for just the reasons you mentioned–they don’t carry the weight of conflicts and unrealistic expectations.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Beautiful pictures and beautiful post! I love your statement, ” It’s now my aim to offer small moments of kindness, joy, or insight to anyone I may encounter, day after day. My intention is to pay attention, to be fully present to those around me.”

    If I think about the people who have made a difference in my life – it’s through consistency, not one big action. And is there anything better than being there for someone consistently!

    Love this inspiring post that reminds me to keep showing up to do whatever little bit that I can! ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This is a beautiful post, Erin. I love how your drew on theme of the month, nature and ties it observations about humans, our uniqueness and our insecurities.

    I agree that like plants in nature, we may all seem the same but we all have something unique to offer – and that it is the small gestures of human kindness that we extend each other than plant the seeds for beauty in this world. 💕💕🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ab! I love how eloquently you capture its essence: “the small gestures of human kindness that we extend each other than plant the seeds for beauty in this world.” Yes, yes, yes!! 💕


  11. Small beauties and kindnesses enchant the world, Esoterica. What you call ordinary may also be the secret to happiness according to Philip Larkin, the great British poet. Read “Born Yesterday,” and you will see why he thought so.

    Liked by 1 person

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