Mortality is an admonition and invitation to love harder.

Over in my Reading Room is an introduction to a series of posts on an insightful book discussing modern romance. It is written by a comedian, but it’s proving to be an good book. Early on was a quote from an author and relationship counselor I’d never heard of, Ester Peler. A short bit of reconnaissance led to an excerpt from her book on the subject of a supposed dichotomy between passion and security which she claims is inherent in marriage.

You can find the excerpt from her book here.

Peler’s overall assertion is that the very nature of marriage is designed to short-circuit passion and connection. Most people, she notes, are just not able to stay engaged in a satisfying way over several years of marriage. She describes what happened when she dared reveal publicly, at a party, what she was writing a book about:

As often happens in a public discussion, the most complex issues tend to polarize in a flash, and nuance is replaced with caricature. Hence the division between the romantics and the realists.

The romantics refuse a life without passion; they swear that they’ll never give up on true love. They are the perennial seekers, looking for the person with whom desire will never fizzle. Every time desire does wane, they conclude that love is gone. If eros is in decline, love must be on its deathbed. They mourn the loss of excitement and fear settling down.

At the opposite extreme are the realists. They say that enduring love is more important than hot sex, and that passion makes people do stupid things. It’s dangerous, it creates havoc, and it’s a weak foundation for marriage. In the immortal words of Marge Simpson, “Passion is for teenagers and foreigners.” For the realists, maturity prevails. The initial excitement grows into something else—deep love, mutual respect, shared history, and companionship. Diminishing desire is inescapable. You are expected to tough it out and grow up.

I couldn’t identify with the extremes her two camps fell into. Why you can’t have both? You may not have both 100% of the time, but certainly you could a lot of the time. Finally there was something later in the excerpt to which I could relate:
For a lucky few, this is barely a challenge. These couples can easily integrate cleaning the garage with rubbing each other’s back.
For them, there is no dissonance between commitment and excitement, responsibility and playfulness. They can buy a home and be naughty in it, too.
They can be parents and still be lovers. In short, they’re able to seamlessly meld the ordinary and the uncanny.

While contemplating how we got to be this way (since I don’t believe it’s because I’m a perfect wife nor my husband necessarily an alpha stud), I was suddenly reminded of what Paul wrote to the Romans (chapter 15) about the things recorded from before being written for our learning.

Depending on your perspective this might seem morbid, but we have been -ever since we’ve known each other-  intimately connected to the fact of our mortality. It is said that the young don’t believe they can die, but that was not true of us. My mother died when she was 31 (I never knew her). My mother-in-law passed away at 44 (I barely knew her). My husband had a strong sense as a young man that because of where he was culturally and geographically, he was as likely to be cut down young as old.

Our kids have experienced a lot of loss as well.. This may be a part of life when you hail from very large families on both sides, but when you’re paying attention, it can inform your sense of what’s important.

It is not at all uncommon for a knock down drag out fight to be concluded swiftly with one sibling making up with another before parting ways because they don’t want to part on that note. The Dictator and I are far from perfect, but we can really piss each other off, say our peace, go right to bed, and wrap tight around each other. The next morning it’s as if nothing ever happened.

I used to think this is what most couples do: Keep short accounts, expect that your spouse will be irritating sometimes, or that mundane routine might kick in, but knowing that you’d miss all of that if it were suddenly not there anymore. This is the kind of thing that keeps you turning toward your mate with a love, energy, and gratitude that can’t help but keep a spark there.

Peler did offer an example of one couple whose marriage floated on their understanding that life is fleeting, but their understanding did not produce much in the way of good fruit, which brings me to the point of this ramble.

Embracing rather than ignoring the reality of our mortality can make all our relationships better, starting with our marriages but certainly not ending there. The fatal mistake is believing the lie that we should do whatever we feel like whenever we feel like it because “we only live once.”

Understanding that this life is not all there is provides the missing link needed to distinguish between choosing to love your mate with abandon versus choosing to shower all that “love” on yourself.

Exceptions don’t validate fat acceptance movement.

This post is mostly fresh, and partly re-warmed leftovers from a 2012 entry on my now defunct blog. The message is still relevant as the trend of forcing the national consciousness towards acceptance of what should be rejected has gained more steam over the past five years.

This couple’s photo and story, along with glowing commentary on how this husband proves that love and sexual attraction are much more about what’s on the inside than the outside, is another boon to the fat acceptance movement. It comes when many women are working out harder to look good in bikinis and tank tops as summer kicks into high gear.

This hoopla is an attempt to do two things. The first is discouraging women from exercising self-control and taking charge of their health. The second is to denigrate natural, healthy male sexuality by implying that men who prefer fit women are evil, mean and shallow creatures who value a woman’s appearance over her character.

The problem with this is that our outer life is usually a decent gauge of our inner life. In other words, a few extra pounds as we age or after the birth of a baby are one thing. It’s easy to see how this can happen when we do not make the necessary adjustments to mitigate the natural changes which come with aging or child birth. Perpetually carrying around an extra 50 or more pounds for years on end, however, may indicate an issue with self-control that will rear its head in other areas of life as well.

To use a woman who has earned the love and devotion of a man over several years, has given him two young children so far ( this is a young couple),  as an example to indicate that any chubby chick can reasonably expect to land a hot guy is ridiculous on its face. Does it happen occasionally? It does, but exceptions don’t create new rules. Rather, they highlight the opposite tendency of most people.

I seem -perpetually- to be losing (and gaining) 20-25 pounds so this isn’t body shaming. I am also, despite the extra weight which makes me painfully average among American women my age, married to a man who is above average in looks and indisputably conventionally handsome. He is not rocking abs anymore like that guy, but I digress.

Like the husband in the Yahoo story, mine is virtually blind to what I view as the disparity in our presentation, roundly dismissing with incredulity any assertion on my part that he is the better looking half of this duo. Gratitude doesn’t begin to summarize my response, but I’ve also had nearly 25 years to rack up the track record that led to his love blindness. I was also pretty fit when he first laid eyes on me.

There is a bigger problem here though, no pun intended. I was discussing this with a friend and she pointed out that we (the larger culture) have reduced this subject to black and white, when there is plenty of room for gray.

We have relegated “fit” almost entirely to the realm of emaciated models or world class athletes. Normal healthy ladies who aren’t obese yet also without muscled arms and bikini worthy abs lament their lack of fitness. So you’re either a total health nut or you eat donuts and Doritos, without much middle ground in between.

For those women who can’t or don’t want to get to super fit, they give up on just trying to be a normal healthy human weight. It would be good for us to accept that normal human doesn’t usually look like an athlete or a model, but nor does normal healthy human equal obese. We’ve fallen into the ditches of extremes.

As I thought about her words, I was reminded of a trip I recently took with our girls into an Under Armor outlet store, drawn in by the desire to take a closer look at a very large Incredible Hulk statue they had placed there. Instead of being shirtless, as the Hulk is normally seen, he was wearing an Under Armor shirt.

The store was a picture of the extremes my friend mentioned, with the super fit perusing the racks alongside those who clearly seemed to view the clothing as athleisure rather than something to get sweaty in. Since I don’t fall into the former category, I voiced my concern that I looked like I belong in the latter category. Our daughter looked at me and assured me that I am not what anyone has in mind when they think “fat people”. In other words, I’ve allowed my mind to be trapped in the thinking of extreme dichotomies when considering what it means to be healthy. And I know better.

Even though I find this love story romantic and sweet, it’s a bad idea in these cases to celebrate exceptions. Especially at the expense of encouraging the greater population to do their best to be as healthy as possible. It is not only foolish. For many women, this is downright deadly.

The paradox of faith that wrestles.

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet because I’m probably going to unfold it over several conversations over several weeks. It’ll be interspersed between lighter subjects, but it’s something I am curious if other believers think about.

I’ve never been able to relate to people with no tension in their Christian faith. People who somehow walk in the certainty that they are doing Christianity right leave me incredulous (stay with me because I understand that we don’t *do* Christianity). Despite the fact that I have spent the lion’s share of my adult life -including my young adult life- living what most anyone would declare the “good Christian life” of a “good wife and mother”, the comfort of having seemed to do a few things right eludes me.

This is primarily due to an intimate knowledge of the inner working of my mind and the struggle Paul writes about so eloquently in Romans 7 and Galatians 5.

It is largely understood that the former passage of Scripture denotes a season of the journey that everyone must go through. We should surely graduate from the place of doing the things we hate. Most of us do, and I have as well. It’s a mark of maturity to rise above how we feel and do the things we should even when we don’t want to and to avoid the things that would satisfy our darkest desires simply because they are wrong. Since we live in a culture where people reduce everything to one subject, I’ll offer an example in line with what I am thinking of.

Transplanted Floridians are the worst drivers and traffic down here is absolutely terrible at all hours except those between 10 AM and 2PM. That’s only true if there’s no construction, and there is always construction.

When you live with a schedule in your head like I do (24 years of loving a spontaneous guy has NOT tempered the tendency), it’s a short leap from a tolerable drive to one where I want to 1) curse, 2) zip by someone and give them a dirty look or worse and 3) just flip out and start yelling. I know these things are wrong, so I don’t do them, but I want to. I want to several times a week.

There are those Christians who would say, ‘Well, you don’t do it so that’s good enough.”

There are others who would say, “You should be beyond such the temptation to temperamental reactions to something so mundane after more than 2 decades of walking in the Faith. You’re still a baby Christian.”

My thoughts hang somewhere in between the two of those places.

I don’t have much use for Christians who are so spiritual that they are no longer tempted to anything. I once heard a preacher refer to them as being so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.

On the other, I wonder how good of a Christian could I possibly be if I think such thoughts in the first place.

I could go on but this road is windy, so I’m gonna park and rest for the night.

Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

I’ve thought a great deal about our culture’s tendency to formalize things which best happen organically. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be intentional about the way we live, nor that formalization has no purpose (the Bible clearly references the need for corporate worship, for instance). However in the absence of familial and social infrastructures, we seem to have determined that the only way to insure certain things are done is to do them in a formal capacity.

Play dates. Bible studies.  Marriage conferences. Mommy and me classes.Titus 2 mentoring blogs, books and websites. Exercise classes. I could probably list at least twenty more with very little mental exertion, but I think you follow. I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad things. I do some of them myself as this is the postmodern way of life. Without them, many of us would never connect with anyone. However the proliferation of formal connections at the expense of organic connections is bad, especially since they don’t seem to be doing much to make life better on the main.

They speak to our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to achieve the ends these things are designed to produce: greater community, real and deep friendships, and most important, the accountability needed to motivate us to do the right things as we are inspired by these connections. Formalization makes it easier to disconnect from people. Heart connections don’t allow this as easily because when we love someone or something, it’s harder to drop them and walk off. Our practice today is to be just close enough for social connections but distant enough to be unencumbered.

These equidistant relations makes it easy for us to feign duty to others -by way of self-proclaimed authority- with little knowledge or appreciation of the fallout. It is this danger which gives me pause about being so quick to offer prescriptions for someone else’s life. Bible quotes sans relationship can give the erroneous impression that I got my spit together through stellar obedience when in reality my life is what it is due to heaping amounts of Grace, no small amount of good fortune, and the love and protection of excellent men. It’s easier to offer my thoughts when asked,  be succinct, and get back to minding my own affairs unless I’m dealing with people who know me well enough to filter what I say through the lens of knowing me up close and personal. And to whom I am close enough that I don’t disrespect her heart or trials with pat answers.

Despite every earnest attempt to walk out my “mind my own business” approach to life and family, we frequently find ourselves in situations where it feels like I should say something rather than nothing. I am sorely tempted to call every married woman I know and ask, “Please tell me you regularly find yourself in a position to share your philosophy on marriage! This I am told, is NOT normal and I would rather not live in the Twilight Zone if I can help it.” One told me”it must be God” and that’s not what I really want to hear.

Even more puzzling is that these opportunities present with people I barely know or don’t know at all. I pray thus: “Lord, when these things happen, give me the words to say that are most appropriate and will bear the most fruit.”

Benevolent Dictator takes these things, as he does most things, in stride but  I find my apprehension rising when they occur. I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?” Case in point:

We are doing some decorative updates to our home since we haven’t done that in a while. We went to one of the big box stores over the weekend to buy paint. I’ll spare you the back story but when I am picking out paints it is very helpful to have the Dictator around. I tend to look at the big picture and miss the details. He sees the details in relation to the big picture. To that end, he was asking me (ever so politely) to consider certain aspects of our house, walls, lighting, etc. as I was choosing the color.

We were having a good time, laughing with the paint guy about something, as my husband is usually having a good time no matter what he’s doing.  Another couple, about a decade older than us, walked by. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.” Her husband concurred in a less jovial manner, to which my husband laughed and replied, “We don’t really do it that way but thanks.” That should have been it.

But the other husband continued,  adding that as my husband gets older (he seemed to think we were younger than we are), he’ll find out this is “how the game is played”. [Sigh.] “Nah, we don’t play that game”, my husband replied. [omg what is happening here!!??] The man persisted, “You may say you don’t play it, but you play it.” [sigh]  I should say something.

Finally, I said, “No, we’ve been married a long time and we really don’t do it like that. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life, to always be right? I gladly let him have it.”

The wife looked as if she had heard something revolutionary and you could almost see the light bulb come on. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and unless life causes our paths to cross, I will probably never see that woman again, but I know I unwittingly planted a seed that will hopefully grow into food for thought. Which brings me to the point of this winding road of commentary.

I contemplate what it is I’m doing here in this space, what the end game is. I am loathe to declare it a teaching tool. I feel deeply that mentoring is best done in the flesh and I invite anyone who reads here to try and make that your reality. When I sit down or stand at my counter top and start typing, I am more interested in a conversation with other people (particularly women) of like faith about myriad thoughts that I may not get to hash out with a real life friend over coffee for two weeks or a month.

I want my girls to be able to come back here and contemplate the lessons we’ve gone over together and the conversations we’ve had that have touched on all of those subjects at some point.  To the extent that something I jot down here helps someone figure out some tangle of thoughts and emotions they are dealing with, I am eternally grateful. But these are seeds of thought, not pills offered as prescription.

It would be all super spiritual of me use a Bible quote if I were going to end with a quote at all, but I like this one, which I think applies to the faith journey as much as any other:

Perhaps the secret to living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.

Commitment as long as it works for you isn’t commitment.

During a very edifying time with a friend, we got on to the subject of the innate problem most Americans, including Christians, have with commitment. We weren’t discussing marriage.  Although there is certainly an argument to be made even on that subject, there have been (literally) no divorces in the relatively large circle of families we have been blessed to have fellowship with over the past five years. A couple of close scrapes, but they weathered the storms and came out on the other side, usually happier it seemed. So no, this isn’t about marriage commitments.

It’s about the kinds of commitments that make a viable Christian community over the long haul possible, but which no one -myself included- really want to commit to. At some point the needs of my family, my kids’ education, or my perspective may change in a way that continued commitment to that community won’t work for me anymore. By won’t work, I mean become inconvenient, not comforting, non-affirming, or in some other way fail to add measurable benefit to my life as needs dictate at that time.

The freedom to go for the gold, forge our own paths, rebel against “tyranny” and maximize our potential are what it means to be an American. There are few things in life worth giving up that kind of autonomy for, so in order to spare ourselves the messiness of disentangling from one thing to seamlessly move on to another, we resist committing to anything. Then we wonder why there is no depth of Christian community nor sufficient support, socialization, and connections between believers so that our young people aren’t floundering when it’s time to find a good job, Christian social lives, or a suitable Christian mate. Or why some of them have already determined that family life is not worth the risks or the sacrifices. It’s because we’ve set a poor example.

This admonishment is as much for me as anyone else. After all my impressive rhetoric (according to my friend), when she proposed that I might be the perfect person to fill a particular role, my immediate response was, ” I don’t know, [Carol]. That’s a big commitment!”

…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 

Modern practice and ancient principles aren’t mutually exclusive…

…but they are differently applied. Expecting the lifestyle of a suburban Christian family of 2017 to look like the lifestyle of a family who lived in 1900 -or even 1950- is an invitation to all kinds of battiness and heading off the rails.

I’ve considering several different takes on the subject of the Proverbs 31 wife and how she translates in our current era. Depending on where you look and what you listen to you, can find countless books, commentaries, and discussions on the topic. For example, here and here.

Many debates, in my opinion, miss the point of the “ideal woman” vignette and it’s too bad, because there is a lot to be learned from it, and most of that has little to do with the practical matter of how one keeps house. That matters, but too much criticism and too little thought are given to the strains of postmodern homemaking because a lot of the physical demands have been mitigated by modern technology.

Life today offers many opportunities for leisure and with that the attendant mischiefs. I often think about Maslow’s hierarchy and how perfectly his pyramid applies to postmodern life.

maslow-pyramid

In the absence of a need to focus on survival, we fall prey to distractions, some of which seem good, but are their own form of mischief. One of the ways this manifests is in our insistence that the solution to today’s problems is to live life exactly the way it was lived when the struggle for survival occupied the majority of people’s time and thoughts. And so wives are advised:

  • We should sew our clothing even though it’s often far less expensive to buy comparable clothing ready to wear.
  • We should grow large portions of our food even if we live in areas or climates which again, can make this difficult and expensive compared to buying produce.
  • We should eat the cheapest food available to save money even though we know that many of those processed foods are not nutritious or good for our long-term health.
  • We should have one car while having many children despite living in areas where public transportation is inconvenient to nonexistent.
  • We should spend all our time at home, with little contact or support from other believers. Even though this is not how families and mothers lived 100 years ago when multi-generational and woman to woman support was a significant part of family life.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but as I contemplated it I remembered something written a few years ago by a prolific blogging friend of mine, and she pretty well captured a lot of the inherent problems with trying to pretend that we can live a simplistic, 19th-century lifestyle in the context of the isolated, atomized 21st century with its complicated economy, proliferations of choice, and higher expectations and standards which most all of us embrace:

We are incredibly mobile now, and getting my children in and out of the car is so stressful that we need 30 minutes head-start in order to get everyone buckled in without a meltdown. There is one day in the week where we undergo that particular torture 4 times, and by the end of the day, I’m exhausted even though I haven’t really done anything. I’m increasingly purchasing with local businesses, many of whom will deliver for a small fee, in order to spare myself a bit of that pain.

Visiting friends and relatives is equally grueling, as everyone lives at least 15 minutes drive away. We visit grandma at least once per week, and it’s a 1.5-hour drive in each direction, longer if there’s traffic. And there’s usually traffic. In my MIL’s homemaking days, everyone lived in the same neighborhood and visiting her sister entailed walking two blocks down the street. She was also never in the position of caring for her children while nursing a fever, or alternating making them snacks and vomiting up her own lunch.

I’m lucky that my husband supports me letting the children play outside, and that our house is small and sparse enough that cleaning it is short work, but other women aren’t so lucky. I know women who clean four bathrooms twice a week, as opposed to my 1.5 baths, and cleaning the floors takes them hours and involves lugging a vacuum cleaner up and down stairs to clean their wall-to-wall carpeting. The truth is, anyone who had a house larger than mine “back in the day” also had a cleaning lady or shared the house with other women who could help her.

Yes, you have a washing machine in your basement, but you used to only have three changes of clothes per person, and many had their laundry washed for them. I know this for certain, as my aunt’s family used to run a laundry service and she swears that her family washed the laundry for the entire urban neighborhood. Women bought washing machines, which killed the washerwoman business, but then everyone’s wardrobes grew exponentially.

For all of the talk of “pioneer women”, they were a small minority of women and tended to all be dead before they hit 50. Most women 100 years ago were doing a similar level of housework and homeschooling as I am, but they didn’t have to take on the additional chauffeuring duties, they weren’t as isolated, and they weren’t expected to look like a lingerie model and turn tricks in the bedroom that would put some prostitutes to shame. The workdays were also shorter before cheap electric lighting and most people got more sleep.

So spare me the rewriting of the past. Spare me the rewriting of the present, as well. Far from the “Desperate Housewives” meme, the majority of homemakers are in the lower and working classes. The equation has flipped precisely on its head: the middle-class homemakers are now middle-class workers and the lower-class workers are now lower-class homemakers. And the latter are increasingly male.

I’m not complaining, as I enjoy my life, just pointing out the obvious: then and now aren’t really comparable.

Am I saying that the Proverbs 31 ideal woman is irrelevant or obsolete? Absolutely not! She is more relevant that ever, in context. One of the first areas of the passage that I focused on when I stopped running from it several years ago was this:

The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.

This alone encompasses a lot, and when I focused on this with my whole heart, a lot of things came into clear focus and instantly fell into place. Along with that, every single item on my bullet list above? It became unnecessary or at least pared down significantly.

Most of my days are quite full, although without very young children underfoot, I certainly get more breaks than a mother of many littles. The priorities of my days are the priorities which will keep me in line with the verses I highlighted above, and my husband is very much a postmodern American man. Take that as you wish, but coupled with faith,  this means a combination of modern things executed in the spirit of eternal truth. Mostly it means lots of editing: of memos and emails, or other stage management type deals. Also, lots of cooking. The proliferation of food choice has certainly infected this family.

So, while there is a small garden, a bit of sewing, and even homemade bread from time to time, for me Proverbs 31 means that at the end of my child-rearing years, I will prayerfully be able to look back over the decades and see where I struck all the ideal woman notes. I cannot get it all done today. Trying to do so would illustrate a stunning lack of regard for the priorities of the man whose heart’s trust I am trying to maintain and the ultimate goal of a life which represents a woman who fears the Lord.

Contentment with ordinary life marks you as extraordinary.

…most modern women are not even themselves. They’re grasping after some notion that they’re supposed to have moxie (when they don’t) or are hyper-sexual when they’re clearly uncomfortable with it. ~Wannabefarmwife

If not those things, they are trying however they can to be special. This is partly due to the overwhelmingly successful childhood self-esteem campaigns of the past thirty years. Some of it is due to the proliferation of platforms available for self-promotion. No small part is owed to the watering down of education which induces most people to believe they are smarter than the average bear.

Recently, Benevolent Dictator acquired new subordinates, millennials who had to be disabused of the notion that they know everything. After working primarily with older men who respect hierarchy, knowledge, skill, and problem-solving ability, it takes supernatural patience to deal with youngsters who know little yet think they know it all.

This isn’t unique to the young.  Generation Me notes the trend began in earnest earlier, with my generation in fact. The erudite concluded that the best route to stable, confident children was to convince us that we are all smart, kind, and important. Additionally, to convince children that they possess these qualities in at least equal measure to every other child, regardless of whether it was true.

The goal is to convince everyone that they possess large amounts of whatever attributes are currently deemed valuable, and to ignore or reject anyone who would insinuate otherwise as a jealous hater trying to extinguish their light. Everyone must feel good about themselves, whether they are good or not. I’ll offer examples from the 80’s onward.

I’ve read several commentaries which debunk the assertion of the 80s as the zenith of American materialism. That the lifestyles of average Joes and Janes at the time paint a starkly different picture. The materialism of the 1980s, however, was mostly of aspiration. Unlike today, television was the primary source of entertainment for most and television shows promoted lifestyles of the rich and famous as the American ideal.

The result was a people willing to pull out all the financial stops to be “middle class”. That is, the pursuit of material wealth was less the issue than the pursuit of the image that you weren’t working class, which described most Americans at the start of the 80s. To be middle class represented attainment of the ‘American Dream”. It’s a subtle difference but one with implications that extend until now.

The 90s began the education bubble and credentials  became a marker of intelligence. When I graduated high school at 17, no one assumed college was a prerequisite of success. Most of my siblings did fine without it, and expectation of my college enrollment was based on the assumption  that I was “college material”, not that college was necessary for a good life.

By the time I married 5 years later, college was something assumed necessary for a full and prosperous life. Enrollment in prepaid college programs exploded in the 90s, and “responsible parents” invested in the program. By the end of the decade, nearly everyone matriculated, although few graduated. In other words, going to college was no longer exceptional, especially as the response to the exponential increase in enrollment was to implement policies that increased graduation rates. As a result, college no longer meant you were necessarily smart. Not to worry because, in typical American fashion, the goal posts of specialness shift accordingly.

The 90s contained the last gasp of community ties and geographical connectivity. In the 2000s, the mark of superiority is less about the degree itself. Today’s bachelor’s degree is less impressive than it was 20 years ago. IQ testing and the ability to do higher math and science marked the special. This overlapped the increased exaltation of beauty and fitness, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Tech is king now and those who can navigate it, understand it and are otherwise at home with it are the people able to check off all the boxes of superiority. They can make good money, graduate college quickly from a high IQ degree field, and are “smarter” than the rest of us. To quote the theme of a hit television show marketed to girls in at attempt to lure them into STEM: Smart is the new cool.

Of course, there are some of us who despite our best efforts, will never quite *get*  Einstein’s theory of relativity, for whom the differences between a MAN and a WAN is outside of our wheelhouse. However, the other marker of being special in this era is one I alluded to before: fitness and beauty. All of us, we’re told, can accomplish this. With some blood, sweat, tears, and sufficient willpower, it’s easy to push ahead of the masses addicted to junk food and sedentary lifestyles.There are countless books, strategies, apps, and products we can partake of to help us as we work hard and achieve optimum beauty, fitness, and health. In that order.

In the interest of transparency, as I type this, I have sore triceps, lats, delts, and quadriceps from pushing myself via torture of a boot camp class. I track almost every calorie I eat; 1500 most days, and 1800 on Sundays I try to be a good steward of my  “black don’t crack” genes. I’m not against taking care of yourself nor insinuating that it isn’t important.

I am against pretending that this face of a 45-year-old mother of five, is anywhere near the level of youthful beauty young women enjoy as a result of being young. Going to irrational lengths to pretend otherwise is madness I can’t be bothered with.

This is the bill of goods women of every generation are being sold, that if we just try hard enough, we can be *hot* at any age. Rather than chase the wind, I appreciate more with each passing year that I have a man who has looks at me and sees a beautiful woman. The jig will soon be up, anyway. It’s better to embrace reality rather than delusion. There is so much grasping that I concur with the commenter quoted: most people, especially women, have no idea who they really are.

Most of us are varying degrees of average: average intelligence, looks, income, and accomplishment. We’re conditioned to believe that this is bad, but since God made us all, and called His creation good, we insult Him when we chase the shadows of the culture. We should be good stewards, rather than shallow pretenders.

We can be above average in character, in faith, in our relationships, in the way we take care of the people and things we’ve been blessed with. We can be sure not to take for granted that we have families and friends who value us beyond measure. In other words:

Contentment with ordinary life is extraordinary all on its own.