On Sunday, John, my husband, and I were driving home from grocery shopping at ALDI. John was driving while I was teeth-chattering and shivering in the passenger seat. It was cold and I’m sad to say that it’ll be like that for at least three more months.
We crossed Highway 10 heading South and drove up a hill. Our vehicle needs a little bit of love to gain speed and it doesn’t do it quickly. John was pedal to the medal trying to make it “get up & go”. At the top of the hill, I looked over at him because I was thrilled to have caught him in mid-pretending that he was “racing” in our Rav4 on 20th St. I always thought he was such a dork in high school and that thought is confirmed daily today. He tried to act like he didn’t see me grinning at him, but after a beat, we both burst into laughter.
Nearly instantaneously I was struck by how driving home in our little SUV after running errands was the most ordinary thing in the world. On Sunday, that moment felt like the most beautiful thing.
I was struck at that moment like I was struck the week of our wedding when John took us out on the lake to spin donuts even though I didn’t want to. He was driving then too and it’s tough to win when you don’t have control of the steering wheel. On that sunny cold day, I felt weighted by all the wedding planning tasks, but I knew that those moments on the frozen lake were important. For whatever reason, I was compelled to hold them and make a mental note to remember them. It was relieving to spin around on the lake and not be in control and I forgot about trying to make sure everyone felt okay and all the other items I still needed to check off on my to-do list. It was simply John and me in his little old pick up truck. It was beautiful and ordinary and exactly right.
Now, I didn’t and don’t every day go spin donuts on a frozen lake, but I’ve done it enough times on lakes or parking lots or quiet streets in my growing up in rural Minnesota that it’s ordinary enough. That particular ordinary moment reminded me that when the ceremony and reception and the stress hangover from wedding planning was gone, that’s what it would be. John and I. Me and him. I wanted a lifetime of ordinary moments just like that with him. And, that feeling of falling in love with the beautiful ordinary struck me then like it did Sunday and I laughed and cried then too.
People, myself included, want enormous moments. We crave big, defining moments. We’ll put in weeks, months, sometimes years of work for the big moments. When they come, they are certainly big. They’re glamorous, we take dozens of pictures, and they make us say, “Wow, that was worth it. This moment truly is amazing.” Then, eventually, the big moments always end and perhaps the next big moment doesn’t come for another several weeks or months or years.
Quietly pulsing in between those more rare and uncommon big moments are the smaller ordinary moments where we’re doing life. Life is lived in the ordinary moments of grocery shopping, eating breakfast, doing work, calling mom on long drives, and making lefse. Those ordinary moments really don’t seem that special at first glance, but I think what makes them so special and treasured is their very namesake, their ordinariness.
I get that it is hard to love the ordinary moments because when I do dishes three times a day and pick up John’s dirty socks 6 times a week and have to start the car to let it warm up 15 minutes before I leave every day and the grocery store is packed, I get frustrated. I am frustrated and I tell myself that I don’t care about the “beautiful ordinary.”
But I should, because the ordinary moments help me learn about my relationships. With John, with friends, with family. I can know where we stand by our ordinary moments – if they’re hurried, careless, or feel uncomfortable that might indicate we are not standing well together or that we’re missing the importance of the moment. If they’re easy, flowing well, filled with laughter and jokes, that might indicate we are standing well together and that we’re present in the series of ordinary moments that make up a life.
Another reason I should care is because the ordinary moments of today or this season in my life are guaranteed to change. When I was in elementary school, a favorite ordinary moment was racing my siblings down the gravel driveway after getting dropped off by the school bus. In college, I loved walking to class when the sun was bright and the snow fell in big, soft flakes. I remember those ordinary moments distinctly; they’re woven into my very core.
And, then, they changed. There came a time when riding the school bus was no longer cool and a time when I walked across the stage to receive my diploma.
Today, I am acutely aware that the ordinary moments of this season will change. I want to slow down long enough to be familiar with them, to sew them into a pocket of my core. I want to live my ordinary moments gratefully, hopefully, in wonder, and with laughter.
While we live maybe 3 or 5 or 10 big moments in our life, we live a hundred million thousand ordinary moments. Those are the moments we’ll forget if we’re not careful, but we shouldn’t because they matter a lot. Those are the moments that become habits and routines and our daily language with people closest to us. We would all do well to start paying more attention to them.
What do your ordinary moments look like? Will you slow down long enough to notice them?