“Extraordinary.” It sparkles with power. It’s also a twofer. It supports tenderness as well as harshness.
It is extraordinary that, after this journey of being away from home for four months, I wake with feelings of gratitude rather than self-pity. It is extraordinary how the path of patience seems to anchor me to a sense of humor. It is extraordinary what I am learning about myself. I underestimated my own psychological power and physical endurance.
Within a skilled nursing facility, those who advocate for themselves get stronger. Those who cannot — because of fear or frailty — walk an extraordinarily stony path. Being surrounded by other patients (and some very crappy nursing assistants) also presents the opportunity to develop an–extraordinarily– macabre sense of humor.
One afternoon, the nursing staff ran frantically through the halls thunderously slamming the doors to all rooms. Then silence. Fifteen minutes later they, just as frantically, opened the doors. I asked why.
“The undertaker’s here and we don’t want people to see.” Oh, okay.
Imagine my extraordinary surprise when less than ten minutes later, a pale, sad-faced man in a pitiful black suit slowly passed my room pushing a gurney with — yes, you guessed it. He was the undertaker.
“Stick a fork in me,” I said. “I’m done.”
But I’ve kind of wandered away from my point… The word is extra plus ordinary. And I’ve spent decades dancing around the ordinary.
“Do not settle for mediocre.” It was a worthy and valuable teaching. But, somewhere in my child’s brain the words got scrambled. Instead, my ears heard my parents say “We will not love you if you are ordinary.” So I wanted to be extraordinary; to be the best.
Ironically, I didn’t know what my best was or how to achieve it until this past year when I was diagnosed with CIDP — chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. (Learn more here: http://www.gbs-cidp.org) I think about how I’ve straddled the abyss of desire for public recognition and the fear of dismal failure. Yet, every once in a while I’d get a glimpse of truth that pushed me into the extraordinary.
I was having lunch with some friends. We were talking about dreams for wealth and fame versus living an effective and “wealthy” life as an ordinary person. A woman, a former model and gifted singer, sang to us.
Just ordinary people
God uses ordinary people
He chooses people just like me and you
Willing to do as He commands
God uses people that will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much as you place it in the Master’s hand
The late Danniebelle Hall
For a moment the spell was broken. I had crossed the abyss. I was free and my quandary about the ordinary was cast aside. Everyone, no matter what his or her calling, is extraordinary in ordinary ways. As the great spiritual teachers proclaim, inside every person is greatness. When it’s time to see it, we feel it.
The truth is, every day is a new test and a new blessing. After all, it is now seven months of not being free to travel as I would like; seven months of living inside one building or another without driving or going as I please.
Two weeks ago, neighbors, across the street from my friend at whose home I’m staying, invited us to dinner in their backyard. Everything was extraordinary. The night sky, the candlelight, the backyard, the smells, the sounds. The gourmet food that the hostess prepared herself.
Like thousands of pink rose petals falling around me, I felt something extraordinary. Peace.