Choosing a ‘mediocre’ life

It’s time to apply for The Simple Year 6! Click HERE for details, or check out “The Handoff” link above. Hey, fun fact: I’m extending the deadline to April 15.

I was drinking coffee and reading one of those blog post roundups delivered straight to my email on Saturday when I clicked on a link to “What If All I Want Is a Mediocre Life” by Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui.

I don’t really have art for this post, so here’s a picture of Bear. I’ve noticed that no matter what Pearl is doing, she looks like a super model … but Bear always looks like he just barely made it out of the mosh pit and is possibly still strung out on something.

And, as 5-year-old Johanna was prone to say, “Connection!”

O’Reilly-Davi-Digui wrote about embracing a simpler life — well, she calls it mediocrity — and just being happy with the life you’re living now. I could quote the whole thing, which would be awkward and also plagiarism, but my favorite part of the piece was actually her opener:

What if I all I want is a small, slow, simple life? … What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?

If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to do so — it’s definitely food for thought. O’Reilly-Davi-Digui is basically saying, look, we’re leading lives that are good enough — just enjoy where you are now. That can be hard, even when you’re a minimalist and pretty good at simplifying. I’m just as guilty as anyone of letting what I perceive to be expectations — by myself, by others — cloud my vision. There have been times this year, for example, when I haven’t felt zero waste enough because what we’re doing doesn’t quite measure up to what others are doing. I want us to do more and be more and achieve more.

But maybe that’s not realistic. Or maybe it’s my perfectionism getting in the way.

Johanna and I were at the grocery store this weekend, standing in line to get tare on my jars, when one of the cashiers was like, hey, you’re the model zero waste family! And I was like, um, maybe it’s more accurate to say, ‘the family who is trying to be zero waste,’ because I can’t get to zero, and she was like, you know what? You are a model family.

And I was like … huh. I don’t feel like we’re a model zero waste family, but maybe that’s because I’m trying to get us to a place that is possibly unattainable in our situation. Maybe I need to just say, enough.

I mean, not enough, let’s just quit with this whole zero waste thing — we’re happy with this lifestyle, and we won’t be stopping just because our year is up. (Although the girls seem to think there are more chips and ice cream in our future.) I mean, enough, we are doing the best we can with what we have to work with, and that’s all we can do. 

How wonderful it would be to just be at peace with where we’re at!

I don’t know, you guys — I say that to other people and I mean it with my whole heart, but when it comes to myself, I’m tougher. Less flexible and understanding. I don’t know if that’s a personal problem or if it’s human nature. (Man, self-refection is hard.)

Thoughts? Feelings? I feel like I should say more about this, but I also need to make Johanna pudding because she’s getting braces today … and Jo is gonna win.

Next up: More updates and wrappin’ this thing up.

22 Responses to Choosing a ‘mediocre’ life

  1. I have thought of you as a model family all year ! And you have done so much good. I’m not anywhere near zero-waste, but I’ve been able to use some of your ideas and make LESS waste this year, thanks to you.
    You are right about how we are too hard on ourselves. There must be a point in the middle — with enough motivation to DO things, but not so much motivation that we beat ourselves up for not doing enough. I do think the struggle is worth it though!

    • I like the struggle too — it’s fun to press yourself and see what you can do — but yeah, there has to be a happy medium so you don’t drive yourself nuts!

  2. I was reading a bit about buddhism yesterday and basically Siddhartha Gotama realised that no matter what people had or achieved, they were never happy. It wasn’t about wealth, just that people always want more or something different. If they’re sad they don’t want to be sad (d’uh!), if they did something great, they want to do more ‘great’, if they have something, they want more of it. Once he realised that (I think) the basic teaching is, be content with what you have. Be mindful. Even if you’re sad, accept it and move on … I’m guessing that’s the bit most folk struggle with lol!

    But what you’re saying is basically that – be mindful of what you have achieved, where you’re at and be happy with it rather than thinking you’ve not done enough because you have more waste than fits in a Kilner jar (oops. US translation, mason jar 😉 )

    Off to read the link now.

    Will miss you, I’ve really enjoyed your posts this year. Thank you 🙂

    • Oh, that’s interesting! And very true.

      And thank you. I’ve so enjoyed my year and meeting everyone, you have no idea. This community is the best.

  3. I had a friend introduce me as a minimalist the other day and I was like “Noo I’m just aspiring to be a minimalist”. But at what point can I just own that?

    • Oh, good, it’s not just me. 🙂 I have an easier time saying I’m a minimalist than a zero waster, I guess because zero implies no waste, and we’re not there, even after a year of trying. I think I need a new term, like minimal waste. I would be more comfortable with that!

  4. Just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed your Simple Year! I’m more inspired than arrived but definitely taking baby steps. You’ve done that!
    And I love your writing, do let us know if you carry on elsewhere.

  5. I echo Ann – you’ve inspired me to change some of my ways and you’ve clearly inspired others–how cool is that?! We can’t make change alone, so even if you’re not “perfect,” at least you’ve inspired a bunch of other imperfect people to join you in our imperfect mission to be closer to zero waste. That counts for something, right?!

    • Oh, I like that — that makes me feel better! It is kind of astounding to think how many people are trying to reduce their trash output. That is rather inspiring!

  6. Long time reader, first time commenter. You’ve opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about the purchases I make. For what it’s worth, at the start of your year, I thought zero waste was this impossible goal I could never reach, but you’ve shown me “almost zero waste” is obtainable–so, thanks for sharing your adventures, your humor, your successes and failures, and your “realness” with us this year.

    • Oh, thank you so much! I wasn’t sure how far we could actually go, but I did hope that I could at least help others think about waste differently. This just makes my day.

      (Sometimes I wish we were a little less “real,” LOL. It’s been interesting putting it all out there!)

  7. I read (and have since re-read quite a few times) ‘What if all I want is a mediocre life’ . It was such an eye opener. I immediately forwarded it to both of my daughters. It moved me and changed me in many ways. It felt soothing and like it was giving me permission to be the person I am secretly longing to be (but always denying). How crazy is that? I love your blog, you are an inspiration and I really enjoy your humour and ‘keeping it real’ way of writing.

    • Thank you, Mandy, I appreciate that.

      Reading the article was like a breath of fresh air — things that I know, but don’t “know.” I’m so glad it’s resonated with others too!

  8. I agree! I read you regularly…just don’t comment. I am far from the “model zero waste person”. However, I do what I can with what I have available. Sometimes much better at it than other times. But I read an author who motivated with her phrase “nothing is too small to make a difference”. Which for me means, anything I do is better than not doing anything at all. I will continue on that path. Thank you for your motivating me and all your research and ideas. I would sure say you and the family are not mediocre! Thanks for your writing all year and allowing us to share your journey!

    • Thank you, Linda! (Wow, you all are making me blush. I want to take you all out for coffee in our reusable mugs.) I like that, “nothing is too small to make a difference.”

  9. How about being “a” model family, not “the” model zero-waste family? You can be a stepping stone on the path, without the pressure of being “perfect” — you can enjoy your “mediocre” progress, and others can use your example on their own journey. Because I know you have helped inspire me!

    As for braces: pudding, smoothies, soup and scrambled eggs are all good choices. My daughter just started braces in February, so the horror of it is all fresh in my mind. I did not like that she hurt because of my bad genetics. But it doesn’t last that long — less than a week before she was back on normal food.

    • I think I just don’t like the word “model.” It implies that we are something that we’re not. We’re just us! But I appreciate that — it’s definitely been a ride, and it’s been so fun to share it with everyone. And it’s so … it makes me so happy to hear that this year has helped people look at waste differently. That’s very gratifying.

      Poor Johanna! She really hurts! Same here, it’s my overbite gene messing up an otherwise gorgeous mouth. Glad to hear that she’ll be back to normal soon!

  10. Being real about what you aspire to and the difficulties you face in the process is more inspiring than you may realize. You don’t need to be a zero-waste rockstar to have a huge effect. I’ve found your honesty about the challenges to be more inspiring to me than many of the big names that seem to be operating at an unattainable level. It’s what I love about this blog in general.

    Last year I applied to be an astronaut and saw what an incredible opportunity I had to be a visible role model for things I value and believe in. I didn’t get the job, but the process really helped me see that there are so many things I can do in my ‘ordinary’ life that to achieve the same effect many of which just require me to live a life that aligns with those values and beliefs. It won’t come with fame and glory, but those things have some major downsides anyway.

    • Thank you, Renee! That’s a nice way to think about it … There have definitely been challenges!

      Love your story! That’s incredible, even if you didn’t get the job. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “I applied to be an astronaut,” I’d have exactly five cents. 🙂 That’s so awesome!

  11. Pingback: Choosing a ‘mediocre’ life – Minimally

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