I love the word extraordinary. It has a fun and almost whimsical ring to it. But I realized recently that I had not really been using it correctly. In fact, I don’t think most of us use it accurately. Usually when using the word extraordinary, we are referring to something that is amazing, a stand out, over and above.
But if you look at the word, it is literally EXTRA Ordinary. It means to take that which is ordinary, and make it even more ordinary. I am not a linguist or a scholar but this got me thinking in a different direction. What does it mean to be extra ordinary?
If I am washing the dishes and that is an ordinary task, does it mean to wash more dishes? I don’t think so. I would consider that it means to wash the dishes with as much presence of mind as I can muster up. It also means to appreciate and experience as much EXTRA in the task as is humanly possible. It means to feel the water against my skin, the smell of the soap, the shine of the dish, the awareness that there is clean water easily accessible to wash the dishes, a cabinet to store them etc.
I realize this is a corny example, because it’s unlikely that you or I are going to run to the sink and break out the dish soap just to have a mindful experience. If I could convince you to try, I’d start first by trying to enhance my children’s joy by getting them to do the task. But if you transfer this mindset into the other zillions of “ordinary” experiences that happen each day, there are probably many opportunities of where missing joy might be lurking.
How about a meal? Instead of making small talk and zipping through your evening meal which is ordinary, how about making it even more ordinary? How about taking a few minutes in this everyday task and making it last a bit longer with a little more meaning? What about the commute to work? Are there ways to take this ordinary event and make it something even more than it is most days?
Most of us have no trouble making other events that are outside our ordinary routine special. We put something more into them and call them special. While that’s great, they are also things that may occur too infrequently to sustain us. By taking the everyday opportunities to experience “extra”, we increase our capacity and opportunity for more contentment.
I’d love to hear your experiences in taking joy by expanding your ordinary into extraordinary.