Does Being Average Make you Happier?

We are finishing up supper when a knock comes to the door. It is a family friend and acquaintance that we recently hired to construct a bookshelf for us just arriving for a quick check-in about a piece he’s already built. He wonders if it fits okay over the radiator. It does. In fact, it’s a perfect fit.

Earlier this month, this gentleman arrived in the middle of supper hour and spent the better part of the evening talking to both Husband and I about our dreams for our family room. What were we wanting him to fashion as an entertainment unit to house our most beloved pictures, books and games? At what level would we want our entertainment system to be set? What style should the framework be? What vision did we have?

As we talked, it became increasingly clear that this man cared a great deal about his work- and even more so, cared about our ideas, our thoughts and opinions. To illustrate my point, he had talked to Husband about some additional thoughts he had for this unit on the Sunday past- proving to me that if we were paying him for his time, we’d owe him for the incredible amount of thought he’s invested in considering our best options. You don’t get this kind of service from the box stores. To have him drive from town this evening for a five-minute drop-in just to check whether the piece he was building fit neatly in place, meant a lot.

In fact, it’s priceless in MasterCard terms.

Some might say that everyday people such as our retired friend who make furniture for pleasure- such as you or I, us plain-folk people: some might say we are not the ones that make this world turn. Not the ones who are the real movers and shakers. I read a quote about mediocrity lately and it said that being average should be feared- should push us to our limits, causing us to reach our true potential. Whatever that means.

To be honest, some of the most average people in my life have made the biggest impact. We don’t remember the chance encounters we have with celebrities (if we have them at all) nor do we chalk up as the most life-changing, the brief glimpses into the world of the extraordinary as the part of life that we could not live without. It is the average, everyday people and pleasures of life that we count as life’s greatest blessings.

After my last two posts on being average, I decided to share an article I found on-line and read called “The joy of being average” found at “http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2014/03/13/the-joy-of-being-average/  In the article, the author Sam expounds on the joys of being average, highlighting such benefits to life as lowered expectations, more safety, more happiness, less restrictions, more freedom, less pressure, among other benefits. In the article, he poses the question: should we continuously try to live up to our potential? Sam concludes that ‘no’, we should not feel that pressure- it is ours to choose how we live our lives, how we use or don’t use our potential.

I contend: there is joy in acceptance as well. I feel that in accepting that our lives are short, fragile and fleeting helps us to put perspective on things. Who are we really trying to impress? What really matters? What are the most important things in life? What decisions are the most crucial?

What really makes the difference?

Celebrity, both at local, regional, national and international levels, as enticing as it might look and seem, is just a mirage. The people behind the celebrity still have to get up in the morning and face themselves in the mirror.  They still live and die. And so do we.

The question should not be based on how to live up to one’s truest potential but rather focused on perspective: how can I live my life with joy and contentment? Gratitude and grace? And what non-essentials can I eliminate so that I don’t miss the boat and waste this one chance I have at truly living life well?

Being average isn’t a wasted opportunity, a shameful decision.  Living simply is not to squander one’s life; but chasing after dreams that are only a mirage certainly are.  Life is beautiful- even when it is average, ordinary and simple, and living an average life is more than admirable when we can do so with joy and contentment. When we choose to embrace the life we’ve been given, average isn’t ordinary.

It’s amazing. Truly amazing.

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On Being Average {And Why it is Enough}

I watch her spin and turn like a beautiful, diminutive jewellery box dancer, her hair drawn up tightly in the plaited bun that I had so quickly fashioned before we left early on a bright Saturday morning. I try to capture her on the screen I hold up to the glass (for the benefit of Husband who is doing rink duty at another venue later on this day), and finding that inadequate for my venture, reach up further in between the netting to manoeuvre an angle. In trying to find the perfect vantage point, I am disappointed to see that I have missed her sit-spin. Boo. My arm is cranked at a weird angle, but this is a mother’s work: to film her baby. And to do so ‘at.all.costs’ (to her physical comfort). I train my eyes so as to not miss another thing. Daughter is my sole focus of attention. I am all eyes for her.

Later, we await results. She informs me that she has done better this year, saying it with a confident grin- a lilt in her voice. She is so eager to get her ribbon that she bounces.  I watch her chat and kid with the other skaters, not a care in the world.

Then the moment arrives. Her name is called and she is the first in her group to come forward. I continue to monitor her face for any sign of disappointment. For now, all appears well. But she has not yet had time to process and compare- to find her standing. Somehow, things change when we measure ourselves up alongside others. At least that has been my experience.
She soon takes her seat. Hands the paper over to me. And I continue to watch and wait. In time, when all the results are in, I will know better what to expect.

And then it happens.

In finding out that she has not exceeded her own highly set expectations for herself, as well as not matched those of her cohort of fellow skaters, all comes quickly crashing to the ground. I watch her fight to hold back tears as she receives the full impact of her report. Watch intently as she compares results with the others. I feel it in me- that disappointment and loss. For loss, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant it might be in the scheme of life, is still loss.

It is still a small blow to the ego.

Later, we talk over lunch. She and I, pondering life from across a coffee shop table. I order her a blueberry muffin for dessert, hoping it will cheer her up, and all the while, I try to find the right words to tell her that she is still amazing in my books. Try to find words that will affirm how well she has done. Try to help her see. I want so badly for her to be proud of herself- not just when she is a gold, but when she is also a bronze or a merit as well. And above all, I want her to never give up no matter what the results. Want her to stay the course. Want her to never measure her worth against a piece of paper.

I listen to my heart and let it do the talking, while the mama voice inside of me insists that it still wants to make everything that feels wrong- somehow become right. Even though everything inside me just wants to gather her up in my arms and shout out to the world just how golden she is in my eyes. Just how precious she is to me. Just how much I believe in her potential. In the messy process, I somehow find the words to say. Find the right words. And I choose those words carefully- making the most of this opportunity so that she can truly see that there is always something to be proud of, always something to learn, and always something to strive for just ahead- out of reach, just out of immediate grasp.  It’s there.

Even when life hands you a paper that  shouts out ‘average‘.

I want her to know: an average performance or routine, while always good enough for this Mama, is no statement about who she is. Besides, average can be enough period, if we let it. In fact, it’s better than enough. Every experience can be memorable for the right reasons- if we purpose it to be so.  For in remembering both the times we’ve failed, as well as the times we’ve succeeded, we learn something new about ourselves, about our life. And the beauty of remembering is that there is always something to take-away from the memories of both experiences, no matter how humbling the former can be. There is always something to use for our benefit, no matter how much that experience might bruise the pride or wound the ego.

There is always something good to be had if we are willing to reach for it.

As I watch my daughter’s face, I know in my heart that we all can’t be winners. Can’t all take away the prize each and every time. Someone has to be first- and someone always has to be last as well. It’s the way things go- it’s the fact of the matter. That’s life. And when finding our place on the losing end, it is tempting to believe that losing is bad, tempting somehow to convince ourselves that losing is shameful and disappointing. It is tempting to fall privy to the belief that ‘not winning’ too is blameworthy somehow, so easy to fall into that line of thinking that asserts: we who have lost are somehow no longer adequate because of our rank and file. Because of our place value and status.

But of course, there is no failing in trying. No loss in second, third or even last place when one has given their best. No shame in being average, for after all, average is quite beautiful, quite normal and quite honestly what most of us are characterized by on any given day- days that are stormy as well as days when the sun is shining and life is beautiful.

Average is enough.

We can celebrate each moment and make it into something bigger and brighter and more beautiful than it was meant to be, or we can believe that failure is a sign of inadequacy.  I choose to hope against hope that there is always tomorrow, there is always another opportunity. There is always another chance to say ‘yes’ again and give life another go.

And if that is what average looks like on a good day, I’ll take it.

I watch her throughout the day- mama bear protective.  And when second and third results come up later on in the afternoon, I wonder how she will feel. And then to see the accepting, content look on her face when she places middle of the pack is priceless. In fact, it’s golden.

For this mama, that’s the moment her star shone the brightest today.