Being somewhat of a self-proclaimed expert about what it means to live in “the middle” i.e., born mid-century, the middle child, in the mid-west, into a middle-income family, the middle of my class (several times), and stood on many ladders of success mid-rung (so what if I couldn’t make up my mind which one to climb…), I do know that living in the ‘twixt is far from being mediocre, or incomplete…or easy, for that matter. My experience has shown me that being in the middle offers an equidistant perspective. The tension of being in the middle of something, whether it be geographical, chronological or in the pursuit of a goal, is really worth more regard than it is presently given these days. When you’re in the middle of something, the beginning is close enough to remember what the bottom is like, and the top is close enough to hopefully demand the present work necessary to complete the journey. I fear, though, that as we become isolated to either polarity and having no work to fuel the fire, or having the misguided expectation that we should arrive at the top, or reach our goal without any difficulty, we will simple entropy ourselves into non-existence. The heat of work transfers into energy, an energy that moves us. That is a simple law of thermodynamics. Without the “work” we will simple dissipate into disorder. Excuse my attempt on the laws of thermodynamics, but my point is that the difficulty and effort of “work” is essential to movement. It will never be someone else’s job to make our lives easier. Easy equals death in my book. The tension of being in the middle, and the decisions we make about moving forward will define who we are when we reach the end.
I say this because the most difficult part of being in the middle will often define what the journey will look like. The creative tension of being on the way, and yet not quite there is so important. It is where the height of problem solving and critical thinking skills can be used and where we learn the most. As much as it is completely uncomfortable, it is necessary. Which is a sentiment that I have to remind myself of every time I just want to just be done and curl up in a ball and watch really bad television instead of facing my middle life and all the opportunities for gaining wisdom that I’m afforded every day. While the conflict of standing in the middle may be uncomfortable, I force myself to use this vantage point and all that it avails. Truth? I think that the “easy” button for sliding through difficulty is bullshit, and yes I cursed, but that is because of how strongly I feel about taking the easy way out. I don’t know any body who has slid through life easily that hasn’t suffered for it, or hasn’t imposed suffering upon others who were sacrificed so they could reach whatever it was they were striving for without earning their merit badges first. So when I hear talk of how horrible the struggles we’ve had to face over the last few years are, I do pause and reflect. What if we are simply at the point on our journey to greatness and success when we have to struggle and problem solve, and engage our critical thinking skills, and apply the wisdom that emerges as a result. Perhaps this time is the best time because it where true evolution occurs. Those who rail against the present struggle and insist that is shouldn’t be like this, are either liars, or too used to getting whatever they want, without the necessary work/energy that will move us forward.
Our worst mistake is to panic and let fear of the tension of being in the middle of something cause mayhem. This is where courage comes into play. We may not know what the final end may look like, but this is where faith in where we want to go and the willingness to roll up our sleeves and dig in comes in. For me personally, it means many things: changing how we understand what being healthy means, living with the tension of teenagers, living in a community torn with polarizing convictions that can put neighbor against neighbor, and yet still serving and building up my community. Each of those simple tasks are colored by how well, or badly at times, I exercise my faith and how much work I have been willing to generate to move me forward. It is overwhelming at times, but that is a sure signal that when I arrive, complete or succeed at something, it won’t be by pushing the easy button.