Finding meaning in the mindless is my empathy epiphany. (For some of this to make sense, you may want to view the 9 minute video. It’s a great investment of 9’22”.) So much of our lives are lived in the trenches of the mundane and mindless. It makes complete and total sense that this is the prime area we must find meaning. After all, the mundane is also the arena that we have the most freedom, choice, and responsibility.
Think about it. How do you spend chunks of your day? Just yesterday I spent two hours before I started working getting everything ready for the day! And that was after I got myself ready. The kitty box, a routine quick-run to the market for several days worth of food, putting the groceries away, putting the bags back in the trunk of the car, prepping the ingredients to go in the crockpot for dinner, cleaning up after setting the crockpot, powering up my laptop, resetting the Wi-Fi, finding the one pen we have in the house that the kitties are always co-opting, and FINALLY sitting down with my laptop and work accoutrements. It’s endless and it’s every day; year in and year out forever and ever. Amen.
Thank God I have a choice, the freedom to make that choice, and the ability to take personal responsibility for making it meaningful, purposeful, and fun. That’s where the work comes in. The mundane and mindless doesn’t just magical transform into something meaningful. I must work at finding meaning in those mundane moments. I must choose to find the pearls of purpose that propel me to continue to do the mindless. I must take responsibility for all of my thoughts and actions in the mundane. And finally, my worth and dignity are not tied to the activities of the mundane. My worth and dignity are inherent in who I am created to be and the choices I make along the way.
The mundane is a sacred and spiritual place. It’s where most of us are most of the time. It’s also where it’s easiest to tune out and miss the people and moments that elevate the mundane to something magnificent.
The grocery store is one of the mundan-est, least fun places to go for me. Necessary, but definitely mundane. I had a small basket of grocery items, but the LOL (little old lady) behind me had only two items. I invited her to go ahead of me. She could barely hear and was so stooped over I wondered how she could see where see where she was going, much less drive. By the time she understood me, – the guy behind her was rolling his eyes – the entire line of the three of us could have been checked out and driving away. She placed her two items on the conveyer belt thing and turned to me. She thanked me for letting her go first and proceeded to share with me that her husband, who has dementia, was in the car (he refused to come in with her), and she was worried he’d be gone by the time she got back to him.
Wow. That put everything in perspective. That was a moment of grace. Not my actions letting her go first, but me being shaken aware from my distasteful-tasks-that-must-be-done-when-I-have-so-many-other-things-I’m-trying-to-also-get-done-so-I-can-get-to-the-real-stuff-of-work. Here was a woman with a history, in a life full of context, doing the best she could with difficult circumstances … and whatever else I couldn’t begin to fathom. And I got to share that sacred moment with her.
I love what Anne Lamott says:
Grace is spiritual WD-40. It eases our way out of grippy, self-righteous stuckness.
Freedom. Choice. Responsibility. Grace.