Saturday, May 5, 2012

Memoir of My Mediocrity: Magnificence and Meaning in the Midst of it.

Disclaimer: this introduction is self-absorbed where I am pouring out how I am feeling with my struggles as well as my victories. Writing is a private experience that heals me by allowing me to process experiences, thoughts, and the abundance of rich symbols I construct or notice in life, but I share my thoughts publicly because I'm an extrovert. In the hopes that readers and/or my loved ones could deal with their own deepest feelings or insecurities, I share because I believe in the power of being honest and open. In addition to the personal ritual of processing, I have a deep need to be understood, which I think is why I enjoy writing. Searching for the right words to convey what I mean, to articulate a connection, provides serenity.


What I'm trying to say is that this may seem like a pity party or bragging, but I promise you that neither is my intention. I'm just sharing. My feelings are not who I am, just like my successes or failures aren't either. So, if you don't care to take something from my openness, will judge me or label this TMI (too much information), please stop reading now.
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This year, I have really struggled to feel content with teaching and feel caught in between being too old to start something new but too young to be miserable for the next several decades dealing with crowd control and discipline, not really getting to teach.  Recently, when my friend Whitney came to visit, she made me feel like I'm not too old to do something new as she is going to start an MBA and has a very successful established career as well juggling family and home and health.

I have so many friends who are successful, who are really, really great at a lot of things. 

My brother is one of those people who is really, really good at where he places his dedication and has a history of excelling at his endeavors.  And, isn't his daughter, Kitty, beautiful?!

He is willing to sacrifice sleep and hours of leisure to be the best. I am not the best at ANY THING. This mediocrity is a little bit because of my lack of talent, but mostly due to my inability to focus on one thing, or the unwillingness to sacrifice another. I simply don't dedicate myself to excellence or make the sacrifice to achieve success. (I originally typed obtain success, proving that achieve isn't even a part of my lexicon).
Among my brother Douglas's many talents are listening and advice-giving with a challenging yet comforting tone. 


Recently, I had a great long talk with him about my considering to get of teaching. I shared with him a story of a fabulous teacher who gives of herself to be the best teacher, and my wondering if maybe the fact that I'm not willing to do those things is a sign that I should get out of teaching.


I think to myself, Surely there is some "career" out there for me at which I can be really good and find success, where working harder means financial success for my family. Maybe I could be a full time writer? Maybe I should retake the Foreign Service Exam (which I did not pass over 10 years ago) and give it a go with the State Department. Could I consider going back to school and find success in a career that would offer more personal rewards or more gains for my family? 


But in a way that only my brother can, Douglas made me realize that it is ok that I'm never going to be the teacher who gives up time at the gym or hours of sleep to be the best teacher. Just like, I'm probably not going to want to make other sacrifices for any career, and it is ok. These words came out of his mouth "It is not who you are, and that is ok." He has a way of saying things to me that make me believe I should be happy with what I do, what I have, and the choices I've made. He pointed out that I'm not a competitive person, and it is ok.


If everyone in the world could have a person in their life who makes them as content with their choices and passions in life as Douglas does for me, the world would be a much happier place. In a forty minute conversation, my brother can assuage any fears about my lack of ambition and boost my confidence in the myriad of {mediocre} endeavors to which I devote my time. Douglas knows me, understands me and says Be who you are. Enjoy the life you have.


A sibling may be the keeper of one's identity, the only person with the keys to one's unfettered, more fundamental self. - Marian Sandmaier


I got to thinking about all the things I'm able to do because I don't have to be the best.

 Like....... when I run a race, I almost ALWAYS finish in the bottom half, but this Spring I will be running my 11th half marathon. I think of all the miles I'd miss if I would have quit because I wasn't a fast runner. I’m still running.


 I usually put up the slowest time or the least number of rounds at CrossFit, but I'm there. 



In education, I might not change every life I teach, but I impact what I can.

I'm not the best church worker, but I'm there two times a week and sometimes I help where I can in my family of faith.  

My daughters don't speak multiple languages and they watch tv and I sometimes completely loose it and yell at Anna Cate when we can't agree on what to wear in the morning.  But she gets to do swim team and she says, "swimming is my passion."

(BJ takes Molly to swim while Anna Cate practices.)


 I'm not the most active PTA mom, but their clothes are clean, even if I do have to fold them while they play outside and I don't really get to pay that much attention to them.

 They eat healthy and they know that they are loved. 

I used to think that contentment was an unsatisfactory emotional state to feel about life, that contentment bred failure but maybe feeling content with my mediocrity allows me to actually accomplish more, not less.  I was reminded last week of the blessings that come with being average. Last Saturday, I competed in a trail run created by Rare Crossfit, 8 miles of trail running and several obstacles in the form of heavy lifting or jumping or burpees. 

I fell THREE times. (Not only am I uncoordinated, but I have a slow reaction time.)

 I sprained my ankle on the second fall and ran about 6 miles on it afterwards along with performing a bunch of other crazy moves.

I finished almost last because after the third fall, I decided I needed to walk where it was treacherous for my klutzy self. But I finished.

I was so bummed about my ankle that I couldn't even be proud of the physical feat of finishing this type race. I took five days off from working out, which was really hard for me, but quality times with the girls were enjoyed simply because I fell, because I'm not elite.


Our usual afternoon rush of getting ourselves to the 4:00 or 5:00 class was replaced by lazy afternoons while I lied in bed with a bag of frozen corn on my elevated ankle with the girls jumping on me. We read books and looked at pictures of Molly's birth while I showed her the before picture of her in my belly and the after picture of her perfect little being. She giggled and chatted it up.

I tried to be elite by running that race, and I got knocked down a notch (or three with every fall), but the fall was pretty soft with the simple joys of the presence of my daughters. 


I just read a blog (www.momastery.com) where the mother of three described life as "brutiful" a perfect mixture of brutal and beautiful, and I have to agree. My insecurities and struggles abound, but so do blessings and beauty.

We have good friends.

And, good times.



On the Sunday after I sprained my ankle, it was rainy and a good excuse to skip church and build a fort.



I got to chaperone Anna Cate's first field trip to see "Seussical."

It was extra special because it was Leana's 6th birthday.



We've enjoyed planting flowers.  


Since Rosie likes to dig bones in containers, we've planted in beds, hanging baskets and are trying out window boxes.




Certainly there is a metaphor for wearing pearls to get your hands in the dirt with Daddy.

'Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl chain of all virtues' -Joseph Hall


Moderation....Mediocre......silk -- the good stuff.

I think the point is getting your hands in the dirt.

Enjoying all the colors.

In a variety of packages, containers, experiences.





I don't have a great metaphor for this, but Molly is funny.




The past few weeks Molly has been saying "Sissy Sleep with me." Anna Cate promises she sleeps well in the crib. It is so sweet and makes putting them both to bed SO. MUCH. EASIER!


I think life, in general, with a good sibling is made easier.  Thank you Douglas for perspective.  Thank you, God or universe or luck for all that I had to get perspective on.

Thank you family and friends and health and flowers for all the magnificence in spite of my mediocrity.




Moderation, which consists in an indifference about little things, and in a prudent and well-proportioned zeal about things of importance, can proceed from nothing but true knowledge, which has its foundation in self-acquaintance.” ~Plato





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