Living In The Middle Ground

Well, hi. How are you? Things here are cold, so cold that they just decided to cancel school because of it (We Okies don’t do too well with winter.) So now the kids and I are all at home, mostly thinking about things we can eat and drink to keep us warm. It’s frosty and chilled in a way we don’t usually get, and the word is crusted with ice. The streets seem ok if you’re careful, but I’m am fully committed to not wandering outside my crunchy, frozen yard.

These last few weeks have been mostly home-centered as I work on little projects (like these mitten below) and also some big projects— we had our shower re-tiled (by people who knew what they were doing, but it also was a most fantastic mess and disruption) and then we decided to cap that off with repairing cracks and repainting our bedroom. Now, I’m just sort of looking around at all the little messes I need to clean up and also stopping to admire the new work ever so often.

All these projects, as well as conversations with a good friend, have gotten me pondering all the stuff we do because we genuinely enjoy or it, or are things we get ourselves into because we think we should enjoy it, and then realize we hate it. Or at best, just don’t enjoy it like we thought we would. I don’t know if this is a phenomena of just the last decade or two, but everything we do or think or enjoy seems to quickly spiral into ‘a lifestyle.’ There is no middle ground, no dabbling. There are countless books and blogs and shiny instagram accounts whispering in your ear that if you enjoy one thing, you should dive feet-first into a whole ‘lifestyle’ that goes with it, and this typically involves a lot of money. A typical rabbit hole is– “So you like to knit, huh? How about you buy a flock of sheep and a 100 acre farm and process your own yarn and care for your animals? That is what you do if you love to knit!”

Now, I know many wonderful people for who this is a natural and soul-gratifying progression. But it’s definitely not for me. I love to knit, and even spin, but I also love doing these things with pristine wool that’s already washed and that I don’t have to feed or sheer. But there are so many things scenarios this floating around on the internet— there seems to be no room any more for ‘picking and choosing’ or ‘just doing what you can.’ No, everything is a ‘lifestyle’ and it’s often accompanied by an undertone of “well, if you want to do this correctly, you must do all these other things too.” Do you like to cook? Well then, you need a half-acre garden! Like your dog? Then you need a farm full of animals! Want to be a good parent? Then you must homeschool your from Pre-K to Senior Year! Like to sew? Open an etsy shop and take custom sewing orders! Etc Etc Etc…..

I have discovered, however, that many times one thing does not always lead to another. And if you have an interest, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to create a whole lifestyle around it. That sounds like a great way to get burned out at best, or have a nervous breakdown at worst. It seems that we have forgotten how to live in the middle ground. In all sorts of ways. But what a wonderful place the middle ground can be. You can, funnily enough, see both sides of things. And you can take a step in either direction as you see fit. In the middle ground, perhaps, there is more room to breath?

I don’t know if you’ve ever had these feelings or thoughts. But these are some thoughts I’ve been having and I know I can’t be the only one. A friend of mine recently admitted to me that she gets overwhelmed by social media telling her all the things she needs to be doing, and feeling guilty that she has no real interested in doing them. I think that is something we can all relate to— we see others truly enjoying something and think ‘well if they like it, shouldn’t I?’

If you’ve been struggling with feelings of burn-out or guilt for not wanting to do the things ‘the internet’ tells you should be doing, you’re not alone. And I am here to 100% support your decision to just buy the sour dough bread instead of make it 😉 or knit 3 dish cloths and then abandon your knitting needles for the next 6 months. Or buy a bouquet of roses and leave the gardening to those who truly enjoy digging in the dirt. We all have those things we are passionate about, but we don’t have to fanatically revolve our lives around them. Often, we will find our passions and interests changing as life progresses, I know I have. And sometimes you put something away for a season or leave it behind all together so that you can try something else. And that’s a good thing. We gotta leave room to grow.

At any rate, these are my thoughts on a very cold day in early February, just doing what I like and leaving the rest behind….

Take Joy!~
H

10 thoughts on “Living In The Middle Ground

  1. This was a thoughtful and important post today! When I look back over the decades, I think I have been struggling and straggling the center for many years. When it first started, there was no social media, but instead, those cultural expectations. Either way, there has always been pressure on what is supposed to happen, what is acceptable, what is necessary etc. etc. Like you say, so many decisions require money that you don’t really have. When children entered the scene, the pressure increased as society measures your parenting with the academic and social successes of your kids. It can be punishing and agonizing when your children are not like other kids. When both parents are working and money is always tight, there can be no entertainment of going down some rabbit hole and paying for it on credit. I think living in the middle has always been living according to what cards you hold in your hands and then making the very best of what gifts you already have, no matter as different or off center, of what others or culture would say was necessary. Correctness has always been a path of self destruction in my experience.

    This being said, it is so difficult to be who you are, live as you see is best, and grab happiness in those moments and periods when there was only an abundance of goodness and love. As you know, I am always diving into eras of our American home life from 1900 onward. I am drawn to the stories of the real happiness of people who had next to nothing and not much hope of better to come. Yet, They made do with what gifts they found in their friends and family and always shared what meager things they did have, like a few biscuits from breakfast, a couple of eggs, and a willingness to sit and listen and share a story or two. These people did not think of themselves as lacking and they never harbored grievances about their circumstances. Instead, they lived in the now, the middle, the real and from that point made their days good ones. I take heart from these now long gone folks because they have made me more aware of what really matters. Our nation’s affluence has often clouded the unnecessary and made important that which only money can buy. I do think that life in the middle is the best place that gives one a home base from which to pursue interests and find ways to live more authentically.

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    1. You are so right! This probably isnt a new phenomena, we just get our ‘inspiration’ and information from different places. Before the internet it was probably magazines and tv, before that books and movies, before that the community and church, etc. You gotta wonder, WHO gets to come up with the original idea that everyone else is then obligated to follow?? It can take real effort to truly live authentically and according to your own interests and comfort level. And I wonder if its an American thing in general to always want to do things bigger, better, more intense. Always something else to go for, never just staying still and happy with how things are.

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  2. I hear you. the pressure is really quite immense. but you are right, we must not cave to the pressure or burn our selves out! You have a beautiful life and have no need to make it ‘more’ than the deep beauty that is already inherent in it!

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  3. Oh my, I needed to hear this today. I just quit my day job to go freelance, and being in control of all my time and choosing my jobs makes me feel like a stranger in my own life at moments. Just today I was like, “Now that I have what I’ve always wanted, why does it feel so weird?!” I keep coming back to reminding myself to choose “Good Work” and to ask God what that looks like.

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    1. First of all— congratulations! That is such a big step! I think the most important part of working from home is a schedule and rhythmn for your day. That’s what I strive for, but life doesnt make it easy, lol!

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  4. Your post echos so much of what I’ve been feeling! The pressure to “declutter” has been voiced everywhere, and if one didn’t implications were somehow that you were hoarding, messy, and definitely dis-organized. I quit social media pretty much at that point, except for my blog because I love the items in my house. It took me years of hard work to get most of them. I couldn’t afford to travel until I was 50, so mementos of trips are meaningful. I love my shelves of books, and just because I haven’t worn an outfit in six months, doesn’t mean it should be discarded. I love flowers, but that doesn’t mean I must become a flower farmer. I have no desire to become either a role model or a trend setter, or even a trend follower! Anyway, I loved your post. Blessings!

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    1. Ohhh I SO relate! I remember when the Mari Kondo thing started happening and I was like “if you’re giving away your heirloom antiques, BRING THEM TO ME!” ha! I think an issue (especially for us Americans) is the expectation that we should always strive for more, bigger, better. We have a hard time feeling content and thinking “this is actually good and what I need right here, I’m good staying here.” Our society says there’s never enough. But reaching contentment is the goal of it all, isnt it? What a gift when we realize we’ve reached it!

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  5. I love this reflection and I have been thinking about this, too. For me, at least, I wonder if this impulse to make something into a “lifestyle” really ends up making the thing/activity itself about me. And, perhaps, that can detract from attentiveness to the thing itself.

    Here’s a quote from Charlotte Mason that I think relates: “Many who are sound of mind in other respects arrive at incipient megalomania, through a continual magnification of self. Their affairs, their dogs, their pictures, their opinions, their calling, their good works, their teaching, their religious convictions, fill the whole field of vision; and that, because they are theirs rather than for the sake of the things themselves.”

    Perhaps the loose-handedness you describe (i.e. resisting the impulse to make something into a lifestyle) can end up helping someone (like me!) to focus on the thing itself rather than twisting it to make it about oneself. This is a constant struggle for me.

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    1. That is a really good point about the activity then becoming about you. Sometimes the things we hold onto lightly are the things that stay, that way there’s not so much pressure. Thanks for coming to visit!

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