Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Keeping Special

special: distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual

For no particular reason, I've been thinking about this word quite a bit lately. Ironically, I find myself lurking on either end of a broad spectrum of thoughts as to why it seems as though it has lost a great deal of its meaning in current society. Certainly, it doesn't tend to carry the weight that I'm guessing it did at some point. I can't quite decide if this is because it's vastly overused (everything is special; therefore nothing is special) or if it's because we're so demanding these days that no one sees anything as special.

By definition, "special" is not something we experience every day. Maybe not even every week. Yet many of us desire and crave it so much that we chase after it daily. We may not use that exact term, but we work hard to build "special" right into our daily lives. We look for new recipes to create that perfectly out of the ordinary meal. Or better yet for some, we look for new restaurants to create those meals for us. We buy better technology so that our media experiences exceed all "normal" forms of family home entertainment. We design our bathrooms to feel like spas every single day. (Not gonna lie--I'm totally gonna try to do this if we ever build.) The list could go on and on. When we experience something special, we naturally want to re-create that experience as often as possible. And from my perspective, there is really nothing wrong with that as long as we understand the implications.

The challenge is understanding how we impact these experiences by attempting to re-create them often. Going back to the definition, if we begin to experience something regularly--if it becomes our "usual"--it is then no longer special, but ordinary. And now we must exceed our ordinary to find a new special. If we're not careful, this can become an exhausting (and not at all fulfilling) endeavor.

I suppose we would land all over the place with a million interpretations of special and a billion different opinions of how much of it should be incorporated into daily life. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer or an established standard we should all follow. What I am suggesting, however, is that while improving or enhancing our ordinary, we should also be deliberate about preserving and protecting our special

Something magical happens when I get to see my family's faces light up as we experience something uncommon and memorable together.

Conversely, something deadening happens when I see them react with boredom or indifference to something that should be a wonderful treat.

In either event, I wonder how much I have conditioned them toward one reaction or the other through the overall design of our lifestyle. Certainly, any of us could err on either side of the spectrum. Always boring and mundane with nothing special to look forward to can deaden our sense of joy and expectation, but constant stimulation and excessiveness can have the same impact by leaving us always searching for the next perfect experience. Somewhere in the middle lies that "normal" existence that allows us daily fulfillment and occasional momentous indulgence. That's the land I'm striving to live in (but it's easier said than done sometimes.)

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