Quotidian Beauty

adjective
  1. of or occurring every day; daily.
    • ordinary or everyday, especially when mundane.

Our lives run on cycles. The academic year, the church year, and the series of birthdays that sprinkle through the months all help mark our family’s growth. Those big events give me the overall map of our lives. But there are so many tasks that need to get done every day, ones that I experience as the tedious slog of my life: There is always more laundry, more dishes, more meals to cook, more grading, more lecture prep, more reports to write. The daily life is where I experience the most frustration and distress.

Several years ago, I decided to track the days differently. I created a rotating calendar of sorts, with an index card for each day. And each day, I write something that our family has experienced. My mother did this for a while, though not so systematically. I found a notebook once where she had written things like “Jeremy went for a haircut,” and that quick description reminded me of all the times he got the same exact haircut from Linwood long after Linwood should have stopped using his scissors

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I’ve recorded wonderful experiences on those cards, like climbing to the top of a lighthouse in North Carolina, and I’ve recorded horrible things, like the death of family members. But most of them are small, daily occurrences: Nora scoring her first basket of the season, Grant finishing his final science fair project, Katie losing a tooth, Ben finishing another house project. These aren’t really for social media. They’re not posed for Instagram. In fact, there are days that all I can think to write down is “Another two hour delay” or that we took naps after church.

And that’s fine, because daily life isn’t often pretty. It’s full of dishes and lecture prep, picking up toys and meeting with students. And I love seeing our family life emerge this way. I pack the cards and take them with me when we go on a trip. I flip through them and smile. And when I forget days (which I do), I pull out the calendar and see what we were doing the previous day (or three) to remember what was important those days.

What this practice has done for me is give me back the ability to see beauty in the ordinary. The dishes still need to be done, but my daughter will come talk to me while we work. The lecture still needs to be written, but my son will be waiting when I finish and we can watch another episode of The Office.

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