Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Being Ordinary Is Ordinarily Important

Years ago I was listening to a friend talk about how infuriated she was with another person.  Her mission was to bring me into her sphere of anger by recanting the situation with words I didn’t need defining.  However nothing sealed my understanding of her intense rage more than when she used the harshest word of them all.  She called the other person “ordinary.”

Based on lots of history with this friend, there was no confusion about what she meant by using that particular word.  She wanted me and anyone within ear shot to understand her level of detest by identifying her newly formed rival as being beneath her.

I’m certainly not proud to admit this, but the women in the social circle I engaged with would call someone “ordinary” if they believed that person to be average, plain, unexciting and excruciatingly boring.  Thus anyone we considered ordinary would need to better themselves if they were to be accepted.

I feared being ordinary.  I feared being an outcast.  I feared being judged as “less than.”   I feared those women.

Back then the unwritten rule was to surround yourself only with the type of people you believed mirrored who you were or with adjustments, who you might one day be.  We all idolized each other because we somehow believed our own lives weren’t quite “up to par” with the woman sitting to our right.  We were superficial, self-conscious yet wildly overconfident; in other words, we were perfectly principled in the fine art of mask-wearing.

I had no idea how destructive that would be for me.  I had no idea such abstract thinking and unrealistic expectations would lead me down roads I wouldn’t wish taken by my worst enemy.

I spent years pursuing a life that really didn’t belong to me.  I was not intended to be some sort of “super” woman yet I nearly killed myself trying to prove I was.

Before I found myself in recovery, I never stopped feeling dissatisfied for the life I had.  Way too many years were spent trying to validate to everyone including myself why I was excluded from being ordinary.

Perhaps I learned this by way of the environment I grew up in.  Maybe society in general led me to think good enough was not enough.  Either way I spent decades bound and determined to achieve the kind of life those I idolized presumably had.  Whether or not I was equipped for that job, that relationship, that lifestyle or even that body, to me seemed totally irrelevant.

I worked tirelessly fueling my fierce desire to be more, to have more and to achieve more.  Small wonder why I drank more and weighed less.  If someone else could reach a level of success showering them with praise and admiration from the rest of the world, well then, I’d reach for that level too.  And so I forged on no matter what.

And then the day came when something did matter.  That thing was my life.

The universe presented me with a series of full force messages.  I received them loud and clear when I almost died from alcoholism in 2002 and then again via an eating disorder in 2008.

After a painfully truthful examination into the manner in which I lived my life up to that point proved something profoundly important for me to understand.  I have always been and will always be, fine just the way I am.   I don’t need to turn myself inside out to prove to be something I’m not.

I’ve finally come to realize being called ordinary is nothing more than verifying I’m one among many.   As a matter of fact, I’m actually rather relieved and quite comforted acknowledging this because when I look around, I’m in pretty good company.

And while I’m sure the world we live in will continue to hold space for those who insist on being someone they are not, I will continue to spin the other way.  From my perspective, life needn’t be lived trying to validate our worth simply because we have yet to see it within ourselves.

Today I’m happy to be living an ordinary life, dealing with everyday ordinary problems in an ordinary fashion.   I’ve been given every reason to believe this ordinary life is in truth extraordinary as long as I continue taking it one slow deep breath at a time.


Sometimes we take for granted how peaceful life can be when we just let ourselves flow with it rather than trying to manipulate it.  Have you ever found yourself feeling like a square peg in a round hole and then wanting to change?  Please share your experience and any words of inspiration by placing a comment in the reply box below.

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4 thoughts on “Being Ordinary Is Ordinarily Important

  1. I LOVE this…I too spent a lifetime killing myself to be anything but ORDINARY! What an awful thing to be, right? So I thought. Today, my “ordinary” life is imperfectly beautiful and I would not change a thing. As I type this, I am in my pjs, coffee in hand, on a lazy Saturday morning with my sweet boy crawling over my feet…it may seem ordinary to some, but this simple/plain/vanilla life is extraordinary to me.

    • Thank you for allowing me to capture the image of your “ordinary” Saturday morning. As I read your comment, I too was enjoying a cup of coffee yet I was sitting on the couch with my husband as he breathlessly awaits kickoff of the Michigan State game. The rain is falling and the temperature is dropping so the idea of lighting a fire is sparking (no pun intended) a conversation. How wonderful to know the same types of morning activities are happening in homes all around the country. Indeed extraordinary. Thanks for supporting this post and my site. I hope you’ll come back to visit soon. Now I’m off to check out yours. XO

    • Ah Papa, thank you for visiting my site and supporting this post. When I saw you had done so, I felt the presence of my own father whisper past me. Through your simple words, I now know he’s with me as I forge on with my book proposal. Thank you for awakening such a powerful feeling. XO

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