an exciting life

Here is an excerpt of a typical e-mail I receive from friends these days:

“Sounds like your life is really exciting in Cameroon.  My life is really boring.”


Let’s get real for just one moment.  The life of an overseas volunteer is far from exciting 24/7.  In fact, if I look at my typical days, I’m walking to and from work, talking about the weather, trying in vain to access the internet, shopping for food, cooking with whatever I can find, cleaning the ever present layer of dust and taking incredibly cold showers.  Is that really exciting???

No.  It’s routine.  Monotonous.  Downright dull at the best of times.

“Oh but you’re in Africa!  That’s so exotic!”

Yes! Freezing cold showers are exotic.  Thanks for reminding me.  Pardon the sarcasm, but can I have hot water now?  Or perhaps just water on a regular basis might do.

But seriously, even the location doesn’t create excitement.  Ask any of my fellow volunteer-colleagues who are going through the “dip” – that space of time somewhere near 1/3 of an overseas trip where you get homesick, depressed and things just “special” anymore.

It is only in the perception of one’s environment that true excitement can be found.  This is not location dependent.

I notice more things around me.  I am more mindful, perhaps.  I pay attention to the little detail of my surroundings.  What’s different?  What’s unusual?  What’s exactly the same and would otherwise go unnoticed?

And with this, I choose to see the wonder at the beauty, the nuances of life.  I chose to look at the layer of dust with fascination at just how fast it accumulates. I do not focus on the true frustration of having to sweep everyday.  It is a conscious choice to believe that your life IS exciting.

If you had to blog about your life, what would you have to say?

I, for instance, can tell you a story about going down the block to the banana vendor.  I can turn it into an expedition filled with trepidation – will there be good ones today or will they be all black and dried up? I might even turn it into a cultural lesson about how to bargain.  I could explain the voyage the banana made to get to me.  But is it really that exciting?  They are, after all, just bananas.

If you wanted to tell me a story about making a run to the corner store for a chocolate bar, couldn’t you twist it into a tale filled with awe?  Perhaps make it amusing?  Entertaining?  Couldn’t you choose to find excitement in the mundane too? Couldn’t you make me want to make a chocolate bar pilgrimage of my own?  That wouldn’t be hard – or perhaps it would since chocolate left outside a fridge here melts in 10 minutes… but I digress.

We can’t have an exciting life 100% of the time.  But we have the power to choose to siphon off as much excitement as possible from every moment.

Make your life interesting.  And tell others about it.  After all, our lives are all boring unless we choose to make them otherwise.

~ by Caroline Spira on April 2, 2010.

10 Responses to “an exciting life”

  1. So true! Now I know why you appreciate my e-mails, full of boring, ordinary things that I spin to make exciting.

  2. You got it Caroline my friend, noticing every moment and being present for the moment, that’s what is exciting. Our lives by the way sound so similar except I don’t cook much! kisses

  3. Bingo! I learned that lesson back when I started lifeguarding. I loved the training, and thought the job would be much more exciting than working as a waitress somewhere.

    Was I ever wrong.

    Watching a few people splash up and down the pool at 6 am is most decidedly not exciting. Supervising a couple hundred wild kids off school for spring break might be deemed excuting, but “scary” might be more accurate, especially when see Johnny push Susie and she nearly smashes her head and the… Never mind.

    One day, as I cycles to the pool, I realized I had to change because the job wouldn’t. Or I had to quit. Or I had to be put in the funny farm. My choice.

    So, I started joking around with patrons as they came and when. I started getting them to talk about themselves. I started getting Johnny to show off his funniest dive for me, and Susie finally discovered peace.

    I started to love the people I was serving and, in turn, I started to love my job. I still look back on those days with much fondness.

    I believe you, too, will one day look back on your adventure to the banana stall and your struggles to keep chocolate from melting with fondness, too.

    In fact, I think you already know that, even through the homesickness.



  4. Besides which, “excitement” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Is it exciting to take your boat across the waters with the winds and waves rising and you’re wondering how bad it’ll get before you reach the other side and if a submerged log might hole the hull and will the engine conk out this time? Not at all. You get used to the scariness but it’s not “exciting”. What is is to notice the small things, the smells and the sounds, and the little changes in appearances. And it sounds like you’ve found that zone.

  5. I’m constantly pulling teeth asking friends with ‘normal boring lives’ to share their everyday activities, but most say they do nothing. Which may be true if you take away the tv. But seriously, when you’re in a rut, or too busy with unfun things to stop and enjoy your surroundings, it’s easy not to appreciate them. i have to say, i’d love to be able to go down the street and get some bananas right now. but no, i had to cross the continent to mozambique on a quest for the perfect fruit..

  6. Very wise words, good for all of us who may have a negative thoughts of the mundane avenue of our lives.

  7. Another beautiful day

    March is crawling toward spring. It is past 7 am and just above 0 Celsius. Last night was a reminder of what winter can be. The snow is almost gone. A bit of ice remains on the river but most of it is already gone rafting down toward the Saint Lawrence and the Atlantic. As usual I bike to work. In a couple of minutes I will be seating in front of a computer, anonymous in the middle of a sea of civil servants. Until then, I bike along the Ottawa River. I can barely hear the noise of cars. Gooses are looking for food in the ice covered grass. After a tight turn I jump into the traffic. Each driver is locked in his own private bubble, a tiny cloud of smoke attached to the rear. In the open air I zigzag between the cars and the trucks. I can feel the fresh air, the sun. It is another beautiful day in my world. I leave the traffic behind to bike across the market, its closed bars and empty pedestrian alleys. In front of the Salvation Army shelter a group of homeless start their daily routine of walking across town to be back before closing time at 6 pm. In front of the bakery it smells like freshly baked bread. In front of the bus stop my look comes across a pair of beautiful eyes. We exchange an anonymous smile, trading an instant of love and tenderness. One last bridge before I reach the grey towers filled with cubicles and dreams. One quick shower and I will fill one of these cubicles with my own dreams and memories (of Maroua). Commuting is exciting! 🙂

    • Bravo! Now that’s the spirit!!

      And thank you for reminding me that ice does occur naturally somewhere other than in the freezer. 😉

  8. Another daily adventure, a french song about and exciting elevator ride 😉

    En Apesanteur (Caolgero)

    J’arrive à me glisser
    Juste avant que les portes ne se referment
    Elle me dit “quel étage”
    Et sa voix me fait quitter la terre ferme
    Les chiffres dansent
    Tout se mélange
    Je suis en tête-à-tête avec un ange

    En apesanteur
    Pourvu que les secondes soient des heures
    En apesanteur
    Pourvu qu’on soit les seuls
    Dans cet ascenseur

    Elle arrange ses cheveux
    J’ai le coeur juste au bord des yeux
    Et sans la regarder je sens la chaleur
    D’un autre langage
    Les yeux rivés
    Sur les étages
    Pourvu que rien n’arrête le voyage

    En apesanteur
    Pourvu que les secondes soient des heures
    En apesanteur
    Pourvu qu’on soit les seuls
    Dans cet ascenseur
    Dans cet ascenseur

    J’arrive à me glisser
    Juste avant que les portes ne se referment

    En apesanteur
    Pourvu que les secondes soient des heures
    En apesanteur
    Pourvu qu’on soit les seuls
    Dans cet ascenseur

    En apesanteur
    Pourvu que les secondes soient des heures
    En apesanteur
    Pourvu qu’on soit les seuls
    Dans cet ascenseur .

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