We took down our holiday decorations earlier this week. My apartment is now officially less twinkly, less pine-scented, and less occupied by nutcrackers of every shape and size. What it is not, however, is less jolly. In fact, it’s probably more jolly.
When it comes to the holiday season, I wouldn’t say I’m in the bah-humbug camp, but I don’t qualify as a full-fledged holiday fanatic either. Some years I enjoy them, other years it feels more like I tolerate them. And I’m rarely, if ever, sad to see the holiday season end.
Growing up, I attended a Catholic School. I remember that the liturgical year was broken up into several different phases. There was a Christmas season (including Advent), an Easter season (including Lent), probably another season I’m forgetting, and then there was ordinary time. Ordinary time was (and still is, I believe) the time of year when nothing special was going on. No holidays, no preparation for holidays, just the ordinary, typical, run-of-the-mill, stuff.
Confessions of an Ordinary Time Fanatic
I am an Ordinary Time fanatic. I look forward to it throughout the entire holiday season.
That’s probably a good thing too because most of my life is Ordinary Time. I decorate my house to celebrate it. I structure my day-to-day schedule to accommodate it. It is the time of year I cherish the most — when we’re living our normal lives. It’s the time of year when we get to work our day-to-day job, enjoy our friends and family because we want to (not because we are culturally pressured to) and we get to spend our free time doing things we truly want to do.
We get to slip into comfortable routines. We get to prioritize the things that matter to us. We find our rhythms and hopefully grow and progress toward our goals. Ordinary Time is when the work gets done. It’s when the improvement happens.
Sure, Ordinary Time is less glamorous than the holiday season, but to me, it’s also more authentic. It’s when we do the hard stuff to become the people we want to be.
Each year, once the ball drops in Times Square, when I’ve eaten all of my Aunt Mona’s world-famous Christmas cookies, and found a home for the gifts we’ve received, I get to exhale. I celebrate going back to normal.
When the Ordinary Feels Like Torture
That wasn’t always the case. Several years ago, I was involved in a work relationship that wasn’t a healthy fit for me. I dreaded returning to work after a long break. I counted the days until vacation because I longed for an escape from reality. It got to a point where I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning because I anticipated the discomfort waiting for me when I heard from this client. I felt trapped and believed the lie that this discomfort was just part of being an adult.
Thankfully, some helpful advice from a colleague, the encouragement of my husband, and a healthy dose of courage convinced me it was okay to end the lucrative but unsatisfying partnership.
Ending that contract brought its own set of stressful circumstances, but they weren’t stresses that made me want to hide under the covers.
When my Ordinary Time began to feel like a burden, I made a change. I’m not, of course, suggesting that everyone quit their job or ditch every difficult client. I am suggesting, though, that if there are things in your everyday life that make you dread getting out of bed in the morning, it’s time to make some adjustments.
Finding Beauty in the Ordinary
At the end of NBC’s long-running comedy The Office, Pam, played by actor Jenna Fischer, closed the show saying, “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”
There is beauty in the ordinary. Or at least I hope there is.
Sure, the holidays can be fun. It’s novel to switch up our routine and revel in the festive spirit for a bit. But if special events are the only things exciting you about life, it might be time to change your life.
Here’s to creating the best everyday life we can from the opportunities we’ve been given. Here’s to facing the tough stuff with a spirit of enthusiasm. Here’s to cultivating Ordinary Time that feels extraordinary!
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In Praise of Ordinary Time