A Fantastic Ordinary

Yesterday was awesome – not for any logical reason you might imagine. I mean, I’ve had some days that are off the charts. Days in which magic flowed out of my hand, people met their God in a guided meditation, days when the secrets of a sacred space have opened for us. Of course, I’ve also had other incredible days, like the day I got married, renewed my vows or gave birth just to name a few.

The bar is very high. But yesterday, no sparks flew. No one handed me the keys to a new house on the water, or the keys to a Ferrari (and if you do hand me keys to a Ferrari, red or black, if you please). No, nothing to catch your attention. You might think yesterday was ordinary (to be read in a dragging voice, please), boring and hum-drum. What did I do that makes me think it was fantastic? I worked at Starbucks, ran an errand, went to Pei-Wei for lunch with my husband, did some grocery shopping, then worked some more at home, cooked a great dinner and spent time with my daughter.

See, I told you, ordinary, but extraordinary too. I caught myself feeling really good in the early afternoon and became aware that I felt like I was having a fantastic day. Then I thought about why it was so fantastic and saw that it was really just ordinary. Work, lunch, errands, work. Ordinary, but fantastic because I spent time with K (my husband), with my daughter; because I started my day with a latte and ended with a glass of wine. Fantastically ordinary.

Are You Too Good For Ordinary?

This all got me thinking. First, I noticed that, when I became aware that I was feeling like it was a fabulous day, I observed this more closely instead of expecting it. Then I wondered how many people appreciate a fantastic but ordinary day, a day that might otherwise go unnoticed (because ‘ordinary’, albeit fantastic, might not rank high enough to get your attention).

Maybe it would be categorized as ‘a basic good day, because nothing bad happened’. Talk about the bar being low, if you measure your days against ‘bad’, then you are holding your energy down lower (at ‘bad’). Yuck. Hope you’re not.

So, this landed me on the question: are people happy, generally speaking, or are they always dissatisfied? Are things basically fantastic or lacking in their lives?

Last month I visited my mom who’s friend is a pastor. Long story short, the church had a theme going on based on a book written by one of their pastors, titled ‘Enough’. The idea here being that Americans often fall into the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ syndrome in which they never have enough but add debt to their lives and never find happiness.

I understand the concept – does anyone not understand this concept? We all understand the idea that money can’t buy happiness, that greed means wanting more but never being fulfilled. Children are taught this and they can explain it to you, no?

Still, people overspend and want more. It’s human nature.

Are Humans Naturally Greedy?

Yesterday my husband showed me a new series on Netflix about monkey gangs in India. Yes, monkey gangs – I know, you thought only people could form gangs. Think about it, it’s pretty primal behavior, it is a group of people (or animals, as illustrated in the show) that come together to form their own micro-society. Yes, we the people can be more mature and come together as a society, a country. It’s still a gang. And yes, people, monkeys and other animals form gangs and bully others; but did you realize that being greedy has some Darwinist survival of the fittest in it?

Greed means that you are thinking about your territory, your bananas and keeping the other monkeys out- kind of thing. The positive side of greed, as it were, means that you keep as many things that ensure your physical survival (and those members of your gang, tribe or family) as possible.

That’s the positive, try to ensure survival-side, and it makes sense. The behavior can still be ugly, but it is well-intended. The negative side becomes emotional greed. We feel like we need more and we try to hoard things to ensure our emotional survival, if you will. Look at the monkeys again- in the show they were jumping in a water trough in the city. They were splashing, having fun and hoarding the water. A couple of thirsty dogs came by and got into the trough to drink and cool themselves down, but those greedy monkeys don’t share! When one monkey picking on the dog didn’t get the dog to leave, then the three monkeys ganged up on the out-numbered and out-bullied dogs.

How rude! Can’t they share? It’s not like the dogs are going to drink all the water! There’s enough for them all!

Emotional greed says ‘it’s mine! I’m the king of the hill and you can’t be here or I won’t look like the king anymore, so, be gone!’

Enough Monkeying Around

Ok, back to humans.

Did I get you to change how you see greed? Do you get that greed is probably in our primitive brain to ensure survival, but gets twisted in our hearts to try to make us feel loved, popular, needed, important, etc?

After all, you probably learned that sharing was good when you were in kindergarten. You learned that you could wait your turn and everyone in class got colored paper, a cookie, a pencil – but didn’t you want two cookies? Even though you learned to share, you still wanted two cookies. You still do, don’t you?

No, you aren’t bad and you don’t lack intelligence. It is natural and somewhat beneficial.

Similar to you and me, the monkeys will dream up a better life, but it will take them a long, long time to do so. You and I can dream up all sorts of ways to improve our lives today: the Ferrari (red or black, don’t forget), a trip to Hawaii, a shopping spree, more money, a new job, new lover, new house – we are unlimited in our ability to come up with ways to make our lives pop! We can be far more greedy than monkeys — and this is good and bad.

The Good, The Bad & What Makes You Beautiful & Ugly

It comes down to how you perceive things. Like I said, you know better than to be greedy, but it doesn’t change how you feel. You still want two cookies or another beer. This is because your mind (where you think) and your heart (where you feel) are two different aspects of your being and they, clearly, can operate independent of one another. They can even contradict one another.

So what now what?

Yesterday I wrote about Tatemae, the Japanese idea that who we are and how we behave in public is different than the way we are and behave personally. I talked about how society takes on a Tatemae in the sense that the values that are portrayed look one way, though a lot of people live quite differently (the Japanese H, or the way you are as your true self). When people live their Hanne, or their true selves, they tend to be happy and beautiful on the inside and out. They are putting what others say aside and are being true to themselves. That’s key.

I also spoke about how the media portrays ‘the way we should be’. Take this morning’s talk show, they were saying that a popular restaurant wanting to do away with tipping so they talked about the tip on this – popular restaurant – bill, which was $400 for dinner. This implies that $400 is a normal amount you should expect to pay at dinner, since the restaurant is popular and a lot of people go there. The message is irrelevant of details (maybe dinner was for a party of 10 or 20 people?), but it tells you that you should earn enough to keep up with this lifestyle. The Tatemae illustrations of how our lives should be are ridiculous because these tend to reflect unrealistic values (you should be young, have a cazillion dollars, live in a house with its own zip code, and adore certain celebrities and the things they buy).

When you measure your days according to what you are told your life should be, you’ll always fall short. You’ll never be able to amass enough. It gets ugly, it feels terrible and this is when greed makes you ugly on the inside and out.

This will sound contradictory, but it’s true: If you are connected to yourself, you’ll always want more. More money, more magic, more fantastic days because it is human nature to evolve. Your ideas, your dreams and what you desire will all evolve.

The difference between being greedy and evolving have everything to do with you and what is important to you. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s go back to the monkeys for a minute. The top monkey was calling the shots. He could have chosen to see the trough as his, so that no dogs could come to it (which he did) or he could have chosen to turn the dogs that came by into friends and allies. Either way, you can argue that he is greedy by not sharing his space (not that it was his trough, it was the cities’) or he could have been greedy, amassing all the friend and allies possible. The greedy monkey isn’t willing to share; the monkey that is expanding his circle of friends is evolving his gang (which the monkey did do later on).

The Teachable Moment

Is it bad for you to want a larger house so that you have more room for your family? Is it greedy for you to want a larger house for you (and no other ‘good’ reason)?

The answer isn’t in the question itself, the answer is in you. The real question is, are you appreciating you and your life as it is that you simultaneously dream of more? Are your heart and your head in the right place?

Greed is a part of you, but we tend to use the world ‘greed’ in a negative way. I’m not trying to get you to change your definition or connotation of the word greed, but I am trying to get you to change how you see two things: your fantastic ordinary days and how you see wanting more.

We all tend to be unhappy, or miserable, when we are never satisfied.

We all want more in life (do you know anyone who wants nothing else in life, not fun times with friends, a new trip, a new t-shirt?).

We all have wonderful things in today; we all have wonderful things we can choose for tomorrow (though we don’t control tomorrow, but we can try to go towards the experiences we prefer).

While I don’t recommend judging today as ‘a good day’ because nothing ‘bad’ happened, you will make yourself happier and you will live in the flow of life more so when you focus on you. Define your day based on you and what’s important to you (not what’s important on the news or what some celeb says). Find the fantastic parts of today that are ordinary, because learning to appreciate ordinary will also help you appreciate a Ferrari, if it should come. Enjoy today and dream of tomorrow as you simultaneously appreciate them both.

The practiced behavior of appreciation is blind, meaning that when you are accustomed to appreciating yourself, your day or your life, you’ll find fantastic ordinary days in your life (and then they’ll get more fantastic). You will be less likely to overspend because you won’t feel like you have to keep up with anyone. This means that you are more likely to be able to feel good about making logical choices that are more beneficial for you – as opposed to partaking in impulse purchases that you know aren’t smart but you can’t help yourself (since your mind knows better, but your heart feels it needs to have the thing you want).

You want more. Be happy about that. Enjoy today and dream about having everything you desire tomorrow. Let yourself think and feel those authentic thoughts and feelings. Then you’ll enable yourself to evolve your behaviors, attracting fantastic ordinary days that feel wonderful. In this flow you’ll find that you will naturally replace keeping up with the Jones’ with your own happy life in which your head and your heart are far more likely to agree – because you’re not a monkey.

And this, my friend, is how we evolved.