“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
~ William Martin
A few weeks before my friend Angela died from cancer, we were texting. Angela was in a hospital palliative care ward, and I had only just been released from hospital two hours earlier after experiencing heart problems. When I received her text I was sitting at a local cafe with Ben, eating a late breakfast and reading the morning paper – my first non-cardiac ward meal in days. Finally I could eat salt and fat and sugar again! I still had my hospital ID bracelets on, and I was covered in the sticky plasters that had held the wires for my heart monitor in place.
Gee girl, she texted me, you have such a wonderful life.
Many people would not have agreed. I sure have my own problems, as most of us do. My life (except for the psychic bits) is very ordinary. My health, at times, is perfectly rotten. But Angela understood the value in my everyday world, as she stared at death and thought about all of those ordinary things that she would never do again.
Then my friend Nicole wrote this on my facebook page, in response to another recent blog post:
“I have a request for a blog post. I constantly marvel at your ability to manage your time well, even when dealing with Lyme’s. You plan your time at the beginning of the year, you have clear containers and plans for your days, and yet somehow you still manage to find the time to go to cafes and spend time with sick friends. AND you can change plans mid-stream. Meanwhile, I feel like I struggle to do everything I want to do . . . I flip-flop between being disciplined about it, and then totally wasting time because I “owe” it to myself to take a rest.”
Mine’s not a glamorous life. I live in a tiny farmhouse, and my days are measured slowly. I often spend whole days in my pyjamas. I don’t own a flash car, or lots of bling. Those things aren’t important to me, although I’m fine with them being important to you. Each to their own. My health (thanks to Lyme disease) still limits many of my choices, even though I am moving back to wellness. My friend Nicole is right too – I change my schedule, often out of necessity, when illness flairs or if I am needed to deal with some kind of emergency, as sometimes happens in my line of work.
But my life is also beautiful. And meaningful. In the midst of too often having a flat battery and lots of major health hiccups I still manage to get things done.
Having been ill with undiagnosed Lyme disease for thirty years has taught me a few things. I can’t plan the way I once tried to in the corporate world, or the way that most success coaches and strategists advise. I need to honour my intuition, to listen to my body and to the greater guidance of the universe, and to work with strong goals metered by a massive dose of flexibility.
I have crafted a life that honours my limitations and my loves. I have found ways to run a thriving business which takes into account the fact that I have been a semi-invalid most of my adult life, and which makes more money with me working part-time than when I worked 80 hours weeks in the corporate sector. It’s been a necessity for me to live like this. To be goal-oriented but also broken. To actually own the broken bits, as well as my continued ambition and desires in the face of all of that limitation.
What does my life look like? I live on a farm at the back of Byron Bay. This weekend we have attended a low-key local art exhibition. No big names. No photos in the social pages. We mingled with friends, enjoyed a drink, and then sat in inviting chairs on the lawn in the late afternoon sunshine and talked about all kinds of things.
We’ve walked on the beach, drunk good coffee and eaten tasty breakfast at our favourite cafe. (Why so many breakfasts out? It’s my best time of day, I like getting out of the house and I have no stamina for most evening activities.)
I’ve napped after lunch, and gone to bed early each night.
During the day I’ve worked on my special project, messaged with loved ones and dear clients going through hard times, made vats of chai tea once the weather turned rainy, and baked more Christmas Cakes as gifts for friends.
How did I get such a wonderful and ordinary life? I have made conscious choices based on my values and abilities (including my disabilities), and I long ago decided to be grateful for the gift of living by celebrating the small details – even as many larger things have been denied me. I plan my life, and I think about what I want and what is important to me. I work my plan, but I build flexibility, support and kindness to myself into that plan. I live mindfully as much as possible.
There’s a lot I haven’t done too, in this mindful life. I haven’t driven a car lately, because my health still isn’t good enough for that. I haven’t watched much television. (We don’t even have one at the farm!) I haven’t stayed up late much or enjoyed a wild social life. I haven’t spent hours glued to facebook or to social media. I haven’t spent time on things I don’t want to do, low value activities that don’t support my goals, or activities that make others happy at my expense.
2016 is almost here, and it’s shaping up to be an extraordinary year for shift and change. The energies of 2016 support mindful living, and consciously co-creating a richly satisfying life. It’s the best alignment of energies I’ve ever seen for launching a new aspect of yourself, a new business idea, for getting a project completed, or revitalising and re-purposing your existence. And I really want to help you make the most of that.
So that’s the secret project I’ve been working on. It’s a tool and associated support to help you to shape a life for yourself that is more meaningful and which helps you take control of the direction of your days. I’m almost finished and I can’t wait to share the details with you. If it has worked for me all of this time, I know it’s going to work for you too.
Sending much love to you! <3 Nicole xx
15 thoughts on “Planning For A Wonderful (and Ordinary) Life”
I love that we have such similar ways of operating. I don’t have a chronic illness – in fact, my health is good (now, but I was often ill as a child). But I am sensitive and introverted and I can get tired and overwhelmed easily, so I need to pace myself. I can get a lot done, but I need to be mindful, make good choices and nurture myself. I listen to my body and my guidance, and don’t bother wasting time arguing or fighting against it. I have a theory, Nicole, that we have an advantage over robust people who can go and go all while trashing themselves on 2 hours sleep a night. Our advantage is that we are forced to be mindful. We are forced to pare away the superfluous to get to the essential, because we don’t even try to do everything. We never thought we were superwoman.
I love it when you share your insights here. 😊 it’s true. There are many advantages to being sensitive, once you can stop comparing yourself to those robust others and see the gifts instead. Big hugs and love to you. Hope your writing is going well xx
I love the sound of mindful living and look forward to the tool!!! Thank you already for sharing this with us 😘
Oooooh what a teaser you are! Cannot wait to see what you have up your sleeve for us! Blessings to you!
Thank you Nicole for this blog about beautiful ordinary life. I feel so confused and sad by what happened in Paris where I used to live, I can only think of doing beautiful ordinary things, such a read in bed, draw and paint, do yoga and meditate. And I tell myself it is sending a little bit of peace over there. Cécile
Sending much love to you too, Nicole xxx I genuinely feel I am right on the brink of necessary change, and it is lovely to have found you at this time in my life <3
True dear Nicole, every word is true. We want to know who we are but get so identified with our job, with the people around us, with a certain place. We lie unconsciously to ourselves that “this” what we see or experience around us is in fact ” us”. But its when life forces you to shed each of these aspects, one by one or maybe all at once , we reach a pit of uncertainty and turmoil. Truth is we now have time, to figure out what really lights us up from within. Not to discover the Picasso or Helen Keller in us, most importantly to find joy and even ourselves in those daily tasks we once classified as mundane and “regular”. Each day is respected for the time it gives you to connect with ” your joyful self” in so many unlikely ways. Looking forward to your / our plan 🙂 . Lots of love.
Beautiful and inspiring as always Nicole ☺ I look forward to hearing about your project and an amazing 2016. Love and blessings 💜🌹
A new venture sounds just too exciting! I can’t wait to hear the details.
Simple details are perfect – Lachlan and I just made scones for morning tea to have on the veranda while Darcie finished her homework with Dad. A good coffee, jam, cream, family – a perfect Sunday. xx
Great blog as usual. Enjoy your ‘ordinary’ Sunday soaking up the small beautiful things in life. I did that yesterday afternoon, after the news of the morning. I bought me back to beauty in nature, the sights and smells, how wonderful our lives are here and got me back on track. Look forward to your Christmas pop up weekend. xxx
Look forward to hearing more about your new special project. I get so much out of your blogs. Thanks Nicole
HI Nicole, This is the first blog entry of yours I have read. I appreciate your candor and intimate details of how you have crafted your life. Thank you! Lisa from Southern California
I find you amazing my friend, and inspiring as well, you inspire me to see the good and the wonderful in my everyday life, which is pretty ordinary as well but it is my life and I am happy with it, I usually feel like I have good health although with my right arm shaking and aching and the exhaustion and stumbling around like I have been drinking at times lately there has been tears of frustration but then I stop and take a breathe and realise that I am lucky and some have it worse.
Ready for a change Nicole. Have started putting things in place.
I’m looking forward to hearing about your new venture.
It sounds like it could help me along my path.
Karen from U.S.