Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Narrow Life

Have you been on Pinterest? It's a social networking site organized around pictures that people gather from the web. You "pin" a picture onto a "board" and write whatever you like about it. Other people can comment on your picture or "repin" it to their own board.

It is a fun distraction, but one of the things people like to pin are inspirational sayings. I have now read dozens and dozens of mottos, motivators, quotes from famous people and slogans. I could sum up the sayings in two categories (these are my words, not any actual quotes): "I demand you find my character flaws charming" and "The more experiences, the better."

I don't personally find my own character flaws charming, so it's hard to see how I could make that demand my mantra. There is a difference between asking someone to forgive my failings in love, and asking them to praise them as my own special kind of uniqueness. If, for example, I turn into an insecure, critical wife for a day or two every month, I don't really expect my husband to clap his hands and shout, "Yay! I have missed this part of you!"

But "the more experiences, the better" is a philosophy I had to think about a little more. At first, I liked it. It sounded brave. I do not like risk, and I need to be encouraged to take more of them. But Pinterest turns small things into a deluge, and the more I read this inspiring message in different forms, the more it didn't sit right.

Risk more, have adventures, amass a collection of life experiences of variety and intensity. Run don't walk, throw yourself into every new exploit, and at the end of your life, greet feeble old age with a kind of post-coital exhaustion, knowing that you have wrung out of life every drop of excitement you could.

It sounds exhausting. It does not sound peaceful. But more than that, when I think of the people I respect most in life, the people I most want to be like, this describes none of them.

When I think about it, the people I respect most are people who create peace. And they are almost always people who chose one path and followed it to the end, instead of exploring every branch. They did not choose more life experiences; they deliberately chose fewer, in service to a single end. Maybe it was parenting, or feeding the hungry, or helping abused women. Maybe it was scholarship, or creating a comforting marriage. But instead of variety, they chose focus.

I want to be one of those people. As hard as my current SAHM life can be, I know that this temporary narrowing of my life has good effects. I can see how I have changed over the last seven years, and the changes are good. Patience, perseverance, compassion - I have found more of these in the narrow life.


  1. Bravo! I love your point of view on this.

    I have become more and more wary of using quotes to sum up "big ideas." It just doesn't work.

  2. I think I do find my weaknesses charming. I am even somewhat charmed by my propensity to find my weaknesses charming.

    I cannot even say how glad I am that you are back!

  3. Well said. VERY well said.

  4. One of the things I missed most about blogging were comments. Thank you!

    And Bea, we ALL find your flaws charming. All of them. Every one of us.

  5. Yay! you're back.

    "I know that this temporary narrowing of my life has good effects" true.

  6. "and at the end of your life, greet feeble old age with a kind of post-coital exhaustion"

    Perfect turn of phrase, perfectly captures your point. Love it.

  7. Happy happy joy joy!

    Narrowing of life. Sometimes I think it is very important to just pick a thing and stick to it for more than five minutes.

  8. I was thinking the same thing as I wrote my comment on this post - how I miss this part!

  9. This is how I feel exactly. Like narrowing is where I am supposed to be. It's very uncool, but I will continue to follow that still small voice.

  10. Hello, I came over here from Jennifer's Quicktakes post, and I'm so glad I did :) You are lovely! This post was so so much what I needed to read today - commit to one thing, cultivate peace, stay the course. Thank-you.

  11. I really appreciate your insight here. Currently finding myself asking exactly what it is my life should be about- besides children . . . to create peace, choose a path and follow it to the end . . .this is wise advice. Thank-you!