Finding Meaning in the Mundane
How often do you feel like you’re cruising through life in auto-pilot? You find yourself “checking out” as you absentmindedly — and often begrudgingly — fulfill routines that are necessary, but not necessarily exciting.
It’s a feeling I’m all-too-familiar with, and it’s compounded by the effects of a global pandemic and the events that have sparked nationwide civil unrest. Many of the things I looked forward to as a break from the mundane are no longer accessible. At the same time, I wrestle with uncomfortable emotions, such as feeling caged, anxious, irritable, or just inexplicably sad as I try to cope with everything that’s happening right now.
I’m not alone in these feelings. All of us feel the impact of today’s world state to some degree. It’s totally, completely, and utterly human to feel this way — and feel we must!
While many of us still have plenty to be thankful for, it’s important to also acknowledge that this is hard. So many of us entered into this new, strange, unprecedented lifestyle shift with the intention of being productive. We aspired to use this time to better ourselves or do the things we’ve always wanted to but never have time for.
Yet more and more, we may find ourselves having days where we’re too tired for such ambitions. The weight of what’s happening around us can make us feel inexplicably and overwhelmingly exhausted before we even get out of bed.
And that’s okay.
Fatigue comes with the mental and emotional gymnastics we’re performing in order to cope with a world turned upside-down. We may not be fully aware of it, but the uncertainty and turbulence unfolding around us has a profound impact on our mental state and well-being. Crisis hotlines face “an unprecedented need” as people grapple with how to emotionally process and deal with today’s world state.
So what do we do when we feel this way?
I’m not the type of person to roll on her side and just be sad. Life is too short for me to spend it not being present in the moment. But I have to admit when things aren’t great or when I’m feeling down. The hardest thing for me lately is that I struggle to tap into the things that made me feel alive. Creativity has been my lifeblood for as long as I can remember. My writing and my art have always served as outlets for my emotions and ships for my creativity to sail.
Yet lately I haven’t been able to tap into either of them. My mind has been too cluttered; my thoughts too scattered and chaotic. Right now, I’m in a state of mental overload and overwhelming fatigue, and it makes it hard to do much of anything — much less the things I love.
Again, I’m not alone in this. If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance it’s because my words resonate with you. Waking up is hard, repeating the same old things day in and day out (especially if you live alone). Without a sense of connection and purpose, life’s vibrancy fades and you struggle to find the energy to do the things you must.
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings, and to be kind to yourself. I have to remind myself every day that I’m not broken and I’m not failing just because I feel the heaviness of what’s going on around me. But I’ve also chosen not to dwell in it. I give myself days and moments to acknowledge and feel these uncomfortable things, then I make it a point to renew my sense of purpose; to find meaning in the mundane.
We are creatures driven by purpose
“A sense of purpose is the antidote to fatigue. what if you were to constantly investigate what goals you are pursuing and why? I think you might find that meaning is what transforms “the grind” of daily routines into your personal mission. and a clear mission provides energy…”
When I speak of purpose, I’m not just referring to one’s sense of a higher purpose (though for some I suppose it could be). Rather, it’s about finding what drives you to embrace the everyday, mundane moments.
It’s easier to get out of bed in the morning when you have a reason. For me, it’s the magic found in creating things and being present in the moment. You may be thinking, “Okay, Elli. That sounds lovely, but what does that mean? What does it look like?”
Honestly? It can be as subtle as a shift in one’s perspective.
For example: I hate working out, but I love being active. Getting me to do reps at the gym feels like pulling teeth, but I will leap at the chance to go rock climbing, hiking, biking, swimming, etc. I revel in the outdoors, that feeling that comes with a good stretch, and the moments that make me feel physically strong.
In quarantine, it’s digital PiYo (Pilates + yoga) classes. At first, I struggled to attend them consistently. These classes felt like exercise and lacked my main driver: adventure. I dreaded having to complete the task, to the point where I would put it at the bottom of my to-do list only to abandon it at the end of the day because “it’s too late to bother.”
Then one day I shifted my perspective. Instead of counting down the minutes until the exercise was over and I could cross it off my list, I focused on the moment. I homed in on my breathing and felt the pull of every stretch, the burn of hardworking muscle, and the strength it took to complete each position. I took note of how my body was getting stronger, and how it was able to do more than it could the day before.
Suddenly, there was meaning in the movements. Something beyond just “check this off my daily list.” That strength I craved was found in the moment, and the purpose was to see how far I could take it.
There is purpose to be found in the things we don’t necessarily like, and when we apply meaning to the mundane, we cast it under a new light; one that inspires us.
The act of cleaning creates a space that feels, smells, and looks comforting. Cooking fresh meals awakens our senses and provides something tasty to savor. Work becomes more than just a means to earn paycheck when it’s viewed as an opportunity to learn something new or engage other people in a meaningful way.
When we fill our life with purpose and wonder, it’s no longer mundane. It’s exciting, and that excitement — that purpose — could be the ship we need to sail through hard times.
This original version of this blog was published at ALittleSquirrelli.com.