My dear friend John-Roger used to say “Ordinariness is next to godliness.” I did not know quite what that meant, but it resonated and stuck in my consciousness. Now, it gives me hope, since my life has never seemed dramatic or unusual, but certainly full of ordinary moments of grace. Here is my rumination about the value of capturing our moments of awareness and learning, small miracles, simple truths -- in writing, in a journal or blog of some sort.
I see so many "ordinary" people sharing their wisdom, or extending unconditional loving through their kind words. Buying dog food a few minutes ago, I walked in on a conversation in which another customer was offering solace to the person behind the counter. I made my purchase and left quickly so they could continue their discussion.
So I have decided one theme for this blog will be ordinary good. I will include musings on the goodness or God-ness in ordinary life. For I have found, the more I surrender to just what is present in ordinary life, the better my life works. The more I find the good in the ordinary moments, the more I am able to nurture myself and the happier I am.
It seems to be all about where I choose to focus.
Pencils, Pens and Keyboards
For instance, what are some of the most important objects in my life? Pencils and pens. And keyboards. These little sticks and buttons we manipulate with fingers are magic.
When I was barely five, Daddy taught me to print my name. On a yellow legal pad that he used for work, I laboriously printed Patty a few times. (I didn't add Ilenya to my name until much later!) Telling me to fill the page, he rejoined friends who were over for dinner.
After a while, I proudly brought my page to show him. Uh-oh. He burst out laughing and pointed out that I had, by leaving off one vertical line, written Potty down the second half of the page. Four tall people chuckled at my mistake. I suffered a five-year old's shame.
But another part of me felt astonished, amazed, that one stroke, one little line, could make such a difference. Words were magic! And now I knew how to write two words.
Wisely, Daddy sent me back to practice my name properly with that extra line which made so much difference. My first ordinary magic tool was a fat lead pencil.
By age six or seven, I was up to a number two pencil and my own small pencil sharpener. I regularly filled two or three pages on a Big Chief tablet with stories and plays. I created Fairyland and made up dialogue and action to solve the problems of ordinary life. Through the adventures of the fairy Paranibou and her friends, I gave myself some good advice.
Kids learn from what is in front of us. (I am still a kid at heart and still learning every day!) My family always had two colorful magazines at hand: Saturday Evening Post, and Life. In 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II. Beautiful, elegant photo spreads decorated our coffee table. I co-opted those magazines to read and reread. Queen Elizabeth II became to me what Lana Turner was to many girls, or Babe Ruth to my brother.
The Big Deal Book Report
In sixth grade, I read The Little Princesses about Elizabeth and her sister Margaret, written by their nanny. I kept this library book for the allotted two weeks as I read parts of it more than once. One thing I most admired was how, even a young girl, Lilibet always tried to fulfill her duty.
Mrs. Everett instructed us to write a book report from memory in class. Naturally, I chose The Little Princesses. I leaned over my pages, smelling the varnished wood of desktop and floor, and the ever present chalk dust. I could hear the soft scratching of pencils on lined notebook pages and my fellow students breathing. My fingers easily grasped that yellow pencil. I wrote and wrote and wrote, pouring out the entire life story of young Elizabeth as told by her nanny. I got words like abdication and ascension correct. I didn’t need to erase because I knew so much and had it all in my heart. My thoughts flowed clearly onto the page.
Mrs. Everett made a Big Deal of my book report. She called my mom in to see it. She showed it to other teachers. She kept it for several weeks before giving it back to me. I suddenly saw how my words touched others, when I put my heart into my words. So ordinary, so magical.
I still use a scratching stick many times daily, usually a Bic mechanical pencil, or a roller ball pen. For years, I have kept a notebook and pen under my pillow to capture midnight thoughts. My scribbles range from dreams and spiritual reflections to ideas for books, blog posts or potential projects, down to my To Do list and meeting notes. I copy keepers to a permanent journal or type up notes for publication.
Most days, I also write free-form morning pages, dumping my plans and prayers for the day onto three notebook pages, priming the pump to nurture more creative expression. By the time I reach my computer, I may have material to type from notes, or I may let my thoughts flow through my fingers to the keys and onto the screen.
Both forms of journaling yield illuminating results. My permanent journals provide a rich history of my inner life. My ideas and projects stay at least somewhat organized as I take time to update my lists and carry out next steps. Ordinary good in action!
Pencils and keyboards illustrate amazing contrasts. Yet with both, I still marvel at the magical ability of small marks on a page to convey wisdom of the heart, the universal life lessons, so often hard-won. The ordinary things that uplift and teach us who we are and who we can become.
Capture Your Own Ordinary Good
So from my heart to yours, write it down. Capture your own ordinary good, your memories, reflections and dreams, with the magic of words as touchstones for your growth and upliftment. Mark your learning moments, your noticing of the good. Leave a trail of words through the forest of life, to help you find your way back home.
Treasure and preserve your moments of ordinary goodness, God-ness, clarity and gratitude. Keep the magic of ordinary good alive!