Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.– Ralph Waldo Emerson
We are our most potent at our most ordinary. And yet most of us discount our “ordinary” because it is, well, ordinary. Or so we believe. But my ordinary is not yours. Three things block us from putting down our clever and picking up our ordinary: false comparisons with others (I’m not as good a writer as _____), false expectations of ourselves (I should be on the NYTimes best seller list or not write at all), and false investments in a story (it’s all been written before, I shouldn’t bother). What are your false comparisons? What are your false expectations? What are your false investments in a story? List them. Each keep you from that internal knowing about which Emerson writes. Each keeps you from making your strong offer to the world. Put down your clever, and pick up your ordinary.
Today's post is a hard one for me because I struggle with this issue daily. When people compliment me, I always discount it by saying something like, "It's no big deal, anyone could have done it." Somehow it seems if I did it, it is ordinary and no big deal. If someone else did the same thing, I would think it was cool or be proud of them. I always have false comparisons with other people. I think I'm not good enough to do things, so I don't even try unless I know I can do it well. The novel I was going to start earlier in the month is still waiting for the first word to be written. I keep thinking about all the great writers out there that know what they are doing. The negative voice in my head loves that. She starts in, "What makes you think you are good enough to write anything? These people know what they are doing." I also have false expectations of myself. I can teach an amazing workshop or lesson, but all the good parts seem ordinary. Instead I focus on the one or two things that didn't go perfectly. After dwelling on those for awhile, I feel like a failure. I can't seem to just be "good enough" and not perfect. When I think about writing my book, I feel like I'll fail. Chances are it won't be a best seller, so if it can't be the great American novel, I will be a failure. Since I don't want to be a failure, I don't start writing. You can't fail at something you don't attempt. I am sounding like my 8th graders now. Logically I know it is flawed thinking, but emotionally I short circuit the logic. No surprise, but I also have false investments. No one will want to hear what I have to say. Everyone else already knows everything I know. They have thought, read, heard, or said everything I have to say. They will read what I write and go, "Duh, Tiff." So I hide behind clever words and showy facades to hide my ordinary. It's funny that the posts that I felt were most ordinary were the ones that resonated with the most people. When I tried to be clever, few people responded. For Christmas, my sister Tammy gave me a plaque that said "Pick up your ordinary." Tammy is friends with Patti Digh, the author of today's post. They have talked about this idea a lot this year. It even made it into the lyrics of one of Tammy's songs. I didn't know what it meant until today. Now when I see my plaque, it will remind me to pick up my ordinary and embrace me - flaws and all - because that's what makes me extraordinary.