“You know none of this matters, right?”

In the middle of a house move (and a state move, too), my weeks have recently dissolved into a frenetic, painfully long to-do list, each item somehow seeming to represent thousands of dollars more (or not) on our asking price. During a recent visit to The Home Depot as a result of my inaccurate measuring of the carpet piece (idiot!) with which we needed to recarpet our tiny living room and 16292996while the carpet installer waited back at the house twiddling his thumbs, I had a brief conversation with the guy who cut the new carpet piece, wrapped it and scooted it out the door to be loaded atop my Highlander. He was my age (so a Boomer), and had his hair caught in a long ponytail down his back. I hesitate to tell you that in case you decide to discount what he said to me as a result of it but maybe only aging boomers working at the Home Depot really have the  time to parcel out life advice and wisdom. In any case, as I stood in the wide aisle tapping my foot and looking at my to-do list and then up and down the rows of carpeting and rugs, clearly distracted and unhappy with my day, he pushed the rolled carpet on its go-cart towards me and said, “You know none of this matters, right?”
I must have appeared as the poster child for stressed-out, micro-managing control freaks. And when he told me that, so relaxed and friendly and seemingly at peace with his world of minimum wage and dealing with clueless customers all day, my shoulders just sagged in my jacket. Because I knew that. I knew that you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. And unless it’s your health, it’s all small stuff.
            I knew that.
And when The Home Depot guy reminded me, I remembered to relax. I remembered that even if the installer guy charged me more for the wait and even if the extra carpet dinged me another two hundred bucks, what was the point of stressing over it? Since my time machine is on the fritz, it is what it is.
And the house will sell for what it does. After all the work and the careful timing, it will sell for what it sells for. And all my pessimism about the real estate market and how it’s not what it was when we bought eight years ago won’t change a thing.
Meanwhile, nobody’s in the hospital and nobody’s undergoing chemo. My 89-year old Mom is happy and healthy and living on her own. My boy is loving his first year at the University of Florida. My husband and I are healthy (and he didn’t careen down the front steps like I thought he was going to carrying that bookcase this morning), the stepkids seem happy, our siblings are all doing great.
            So what the hell??
81356358         Yeah, none of it matters. I know that. But sometimes it’s good to be reminded. As I drove back to the house, I took a moment to hit a Starbucks on the way for a latté. Because honestly, in the great scheme of things, is ten more minutes going to make the house sell better or faster? Is ten more minutes going to make the carpet guy throw down his nails and hammers and storm off?
I got the thing that matters. For now. At least for now.
And that’s all that matters.

In Search of an Ordinary Life

JESSICA MCCLUREAbout 20 years ago, a crisis occurred in a Texas suburb which captured the attention of the country—and then the world. A baby, named Jessica, fell down a well. Rescuers worked for 58 hours to free “Baby Jessica” from the eight-inch-wide well casing 22 feet below the ground.

The fame that came to the people involved in this drama was intense and, like so much in our over-stimulated American culture, fleeting. The young man who did, without thinking, what he thought he should do, was lauded as a “hero,” which, no one doubted that he was. He was told how super-extraordinary he was on talk shows, radio shows, he appeared on Good Morning America, was the focus of best selling books and a made-for-TV movie. When all the excitement died down and the cameras turned else where, when the next “hot” story eclipsed the Jessica story, this young man was faced with going back to living his ordinary life. But for him, there couldn’t be ordinary ever again. How, after you have tasted being a superstar, after you have had Presidents shake your hand, after you have been made to believe that you were so special? How could you go back to pumping gas and living in your hometown after that? He couldn’t. After ten years of trying, he killed himself. His sister said:

“After being famous for a bit, he just couldn’t settle back down to living an ordinary life.”

What is this so-called Ordinary life? Do any of us really aspire to have one? Can you blame this poor guy for not being able to go back to life before all the fame and excitement? Even though he was happy before he got famous? Could he really go back to pumping gas after he’d been interviewed by Diane Sawyer?

I think the onslaught of on-demand, 24-hour cable shows, reality shows, movies (and news), helps to undermine our sense of reality because it suggests that life is constant high drama.

Let’s face it, it’s pretty difficult for a developing chrysalis on the backyard oak tree to compete with the excitement of saving the world from invading aliens or making a Super Bowl touchdown. (The virtual experience derived from the most basic of video games.)  While Mr. Draper (Kevin, not Don) is the extreme—he didn’t just watch high drama unfold, he was a participant in it—I think we all lean in the direction of wanting something bigger and more dramatic in our lives.30898733

Ordinary life is subtle. It’s the slow but resulting proficiency borne from years of tedious piano or guitar lessons. It’s housework, watering the garden, and staring off into space as you do it. It’s preparing a meal. And most pleasures in real life are small ones…a hot shower, a beautiful sunset, a bowl of soup, a good book. When did we all start looking to win the lottery? Or star in our own TV shows? When did the manic fantasy of what could be, take the place of what is?

While it’s possible that you or I might be able to handle the five minutes of fame better than poor Kevin Draper did, it’s also possible that this young man is, in himself, a cautionary tale. A tale that suggests that the further we get away from what’s real, the more we layer on the superlatives, the over-the-top praise, and pile on the possibilities for superstardom that are really only achievable for a lucky, gifted few, the further we get away from who we are in a true, organic sense. (Or as Mr. Incredible once said, “When everyone is special, then no one is.”)19316210

I am sure that we should all strive to be the best we can be and to try to achieve great things. But, in the process of doing all the hard work required to achieve those great things, it might help to remember what perfection there lies in an ordinary life, lived with pleasure and enjoyment of our surroundings and each other.