I am not a person bent on dailiness. I like for days to stand out, sometimes – insane as this is – even if means something bad has to happen. Somehow, I just loathe the ordinary. I think there may be something wrong with me.
If so, I’m not alone. Kathleen Norris says:
The fact that none of us can rise so far in status as to remove ourselves from the daily, bodily nature of life on this earth is not usually considered a cause for celebration, but rather the opposite. The daily routines that provide a modicum of discipline in our lives are perceived as a drag, a monotony that can occasion listlessness, apathy and despair. The word acedia is not much in use these days – the American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “spiritual torpor or apathy; ennui” – but I wonder if much of the frantic boredom and enervating depression that constitute an epidemic in modern life are not merely the ancient demon of acedia in contemporary dress.
For years, I have spent my time fighting this demon of monotony, even when it meant pretty severe emotional pain.
Norris is helping me step beyond that and, instead, celebrate the ordinary of a day when I can rise, make coffee, read, write, and move through normality with a sense of joy. I am trying to take true, deep pleasure in the every day – the rhythm of my footsteps, the texture of a pie shell, the racket of a mower (I am now addicted to the zero-turn Kubota from the farm – bliss!). I am trying to start where I am because as Norris continues, “We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were.” I’m trying to stop wishing. I’m still dreaming, but I’m looking for my dreams in each day instead of the future.
This dailiness is hard for me not only because I tend to be a woman who lives in the future but also because I am a trained academic. I have been taught that each day needs to be fraught with meaning. Of course, each day is absolutely chock-full of meaning – think fridge before a giant barbecue – but that meaning doesn’t seem significant if you try to lay more on it than the daily. Baking bread is important because it just is; it provides food, it gives space for thought, it takes time. I could academicize the process and create some massive metaphor about yeast and simplicity creating goodness – but that’s just silly. Baking bread is powerful stuff because it is old, traditional, slow . . . and because it produces that yummy goodness that is home-baked bread. End of story.
There’s something that happens – as Norris notes – to women, especially women trained as academics – that says we should disparage the daily and if that’s not possible – if we absolutely must cook for ourselves – then we should elevate it with fancy metaphor and meaning. When the truth is, really, that most of life is the daily. It’s not amazing or terrible; it’s not unforgettable or boring. It simply is, and that, friends, is glorious.
Norris opens her book with this line from Gregory of Nyssa, On the Lord’s Prayer:
Let us remember that the life in which we out to be interested is ‘daily’ life. We can, each of us, only call the present time our own . . . . Our Lord tells us to pray for today, and so he prevents us from tormenting ourselves about tomorrow. It is as if [God] were to say to us: ‘[It is I] who gives you this day [and] will also give you what you need for this day. [It is I] who makes the sun to rise. [It is I] who scatters the darkness of night and reveals to you the rays of the sun.”
Today, in the dailiness of this moment, I can see the sun.