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  • The Reflective Doc

In Praise of a Perfectly Ordinary Day

Listening recently to an interview with Dr. Laurie Santos, host of The Happiness Lab podcast and a cognitive scientist and Professor of Psychology at Yale University, I heard her share a simple insight—the way we spend our days is the way we spend our life.

If I take a moment to consider this idea, I guess I’m spending mine folding laundry, making tea, and removing the thick crumb layer from my countertops after breakfast. Not the most inspiring.

But then, upon further reflection, I realized the best parts of my day were not the most monumental. I love waking my sleepy children in the morning and teasing them about their impressive bed head. Stepping into my office with a cup of tea, I’m sincerely proud to be a psychiatrist caring for my patients. And even though it wouldn’t inspire envy in an Instagram post, watching TV at night with my husband while we eat the cookies we’ve hidden from the kids is better than any elaborate date night.

We are living in dark times, it seems, with threats to public health, the environment, our democracy. Personally, I’m experiencing the anniversary of the death of one of my closest friends, a brilliant and hilarious man who could have made me laugh even as my bleak winter birthday approached. And I feel really sad. Even when I try hard not to notice.

Today, in addition to this pain, I want to feel gratitude for an ordinary day. I haven’t made any grand progress in my career or health in these initial hours. My hair is unwashed, my kids started their day with juice boxes and frozen pancakes, and there are dishes in the sink. But unlike my beautiful friend, I can still wake each morning, begin a routine, even feel a little bored. I can laugh at a cat meme and eat cereal for multiple meals, or take a walk with a smile while listening to music from my chaotic 20’s.

Like good health or enough food on my table, routine is a gift I often take for granted, its comforting presence noticeable only after significant disruption. Lately, however, it is so difficult to establish a consistent, orderly day. Cancelled plans, threats of illness, and relentless uncertainty have become daily companions, and I realize I’m pulling back from the world outside my immediately family as a way to cope.

My goals for the coming days are fairly simple—try to momentarily pause and reflect on all of the love in my life, continue to reach out in small ways to the world around me, and, most importantly, treat myself and those in my life with compassion, because we are living through something truly difficult.

I hope that, like me, you will try to remember how each ordinary day moves us forward in our extraordinarily beautiful life. We may be struggling with sadness, fear, or loneliness, but these emotions won’t have the final word. We are resilient, and we will carry on.

Today, I celebrate (quietly) the joy of a regular, uneventful day. What an incredible gift.

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