The Meaning of Life and What’s Important and The Purpose of It All

So…long time no blog post.

The hard thing about writing when you haven’t for a while is that there’s just so much to say, but it’s all a big jumble in your head. Well, it is in my head anyway. “I’m not getting on your hamster wheel” has become something of a catch phrase in our house this summer.

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Rather than try to sort it all out, I’ll just lay it all out, from the beginning:

Thoughts about home and community and purpose started spinning back in late April, when I went back into the classroom for the first time since 2009, which pretty much blew my hamster wheel off its axle.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Classroom

If you want to question the value of the ways in which you are spending your life, I’ve got a great 10-step DIY tutorial for that:

1. Return to a long-time pursuit you thought you’d closed the book on.

2. Feel yourself come alive.

3. Realize how much you’ve missed feeling alive in that way.

4. Realize that it wasn’t the pursuit that you didn’t love, it was the ways in which you had to do it.

5. Realize that the story you’ve been telling yourself about it (that it’s just not your thing) was a survival mechanism to keep you from feeling how crappy it is not to be able to do it.

6. Be given an opportunity to keep doing it.

7. Think really, really, really hard about doing it again.

8. Ask yourself really, really, really hard questions about The Meaning of Life and What’s Important and The Purpose of It All.

9. Understand that all the reasons you walked away are still valid and that, as is true in so many situations, love is not always enough to make it work.

10. Walk away again, without the protective armor of the “it’s not my true calling” story to protect you.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Classroom

So. There was that.

Then, at the end of May, there was this post by Katherine, with these words:

“Then I remembered how “install new shelves” is, inevitably, a project that takes us all weekend and makes us both cranky and frustrated with each other. And means we won’t actually hang out as a family all weekend. And always costs more than I think it will.”

I read her words and suddenly knew one big reason I was dreading summer. Yes, dreading.

WTF?!? How can an educator who does not live in a drought-stricken area of the country dread summer? How can an educator/DIY-home blogger dread the time of year she is most able to get ‘er done?

But there it was:  I didn’t want to spend another summer working on the house. Or blogging about working on the house. I wanted to spend the summer enjoying the house. And our kids. And Cane. And the garden. (Because: Meaning of Life and What’s Important and Purpose of It All.)

This (sorta) Old LIfe:  Garden lettuce

So–WTF!–Cane and I gave ourselves permission to live this summer in the space we’ve got. (Thank you, Katherine.)

For a week or two it was lovely. In the space that opened up, I started exercising again. I went to the library and actually read some of the books I checked out. We made jam. (Which was not entirely lovely, but it was good all the same.) I sewed curtains. I took naps.

This (sorta) Old Life:  strawberry jam mess

You know how it is with space, though:  When it opens up, you see things in different ways. You pick up and turn over and ponder how much each item that’s filled it means to you. You start asking yourself, Do I really need this? What value does it add? What does it cost me to keep it?

What, I wondered, does it mean that we write a blog about making home, but so many of our online reads are about making home in only the most tangential way? Why do we find so many home blogs boring and frivolous? And where (someone, please, tell me) is the line between providing useful information and gazing narcissistically at one’s own rug navel?

This (sorta) Old Life:  wool rug

Yeah, we recently scored a good deal on a vintage rug. Does this matter to anyone but us?

As July melted into August, the questions got harder. And sharper:

Why use the precious resource of our time to blog about making a home–which, ironically, sometimes detracts from our efforts to make one–when we aren’t doing it for money, when it’s not furthering any professional agenda, when we aren’t experts on doing so, when we’re not promoting a worthy cause, and when we’re unwilling to engage in social media in the often-trivial ways that it seems bloggers must in order to find and build an audience? And what’s the point of a blog without an audience?

Please don’t misunderstand. We know that some people blog (and Tweet and Pin) about home decor and DIY because it is their livelihood. We get it. But that’s not us. So, why are we doing it?

I mean, really:  Why am I using the time of my life to take photos and write about such things as bedroom furniture in a world where school girls are kidnapped and no seems able to do anything about it, where the most powerful fuel denial that we’re changing its climate to protect their own interests, where–oh, hell. I’ll just let a recent Anne Lamott FB status summarize all the recent reasons any of us might want to spend our days hiding in a cave and/or preparing for Armageddon and most definitely NOT stewing over wall colors:

The drunken Russian separatists in Ukraine with their refrigerated train cars? I mean, come on. Vonnegut could not have thought this up. Dead children children on beaches, and markets, at play, in the holy land?? Stop. 

The two hour execution in festive Arizona? Dear God.

And let’s not bog down on the stuff that was already true, before Ukraine, Gaza, Arizona, like the heartbreaking scenes of young refugees at our border, the locals with their pitchforks. The people in ruins in our own families. Or the tiny problem that we have essentially destroyed the earth–I know, pick pick pick. 

Hasn’t your mind just been blown lately, even if you try not to watch the news? 

If I can’t do anything concrete about any of the huge problems of the world, if I can’t even manage my life such that I can remain in the classroom, where I might do some real, direct good for others, why not just turn inward, burrow deeply into the microcosm of our home and try to live out my days as peacefully as possible–with plenty of time for books and jam and naps? Does it really matter if there is some line between home as refuge and home as escape? Why not just hunker down and hide out and hope that catastrophe stays away from my corner of the world until I’m done living in it?

This last set of questions drove me right to the place my friend Megan found herself this summer, a place where she has “…been thisclose to quietly closing it all down – the blog, the social media, all of it – to indulge in a life with no Publish button and no deadlines.

But but but but…!

I really don’t want Megan (or any of the many other writers I read regularly) to close it all down. Although some aspects of our online world make me despair for our actual world (truly, that is not hyperbole), I’m still in awe of its power for true good.

Every single day, my life is made better through the contributions of others who work and play online. I’m so, so grateful for the ideas, information, and inspiration they share.

I mean, really:  I couldn’t have written this post without them.

Our life is richer for the ways in which we’ve been able to interact with those of you who read and take the time to respond to what we do here. Those of you I’ve come to know through your words (here and/or on your own blogs) make me smile and think–probably two of the most important things I do. Your stories haven’t just entertained me; they’ve also gotten me to change my ways–to use cloth napkins, to begin growing our own vegetables, to appreciate old things, to buy fewer clothes, to cook from scratch, to plan meals, to DIY like a girl, and so much more. Because of you, I live more creatively and mindfully and reflectively and purposefully. I am nicer. I laugh more. And I think all of that makes the world better. Maybe only very, very incrementally, but better all the same.

All of which is to say:

GAH! I love blogs and I hate blogs and I haven’t quite figured out how to walk the line between my love and hate of the online world.


Now, here on the cusp of mid-August, I re-read Katie’s words in her own (fairly) recent questioning-the-purpose-of-it-all post, and I find the words that bring my spinning wheel to a full stop:

“…blogging in itself is not the problem, it’s how we’ve been going about blogging that has stopped working for us.”

When we began this blog, we intended to have a broader focus. (There’s a reason we’re This (sorta) Old Life and not This (sorta) Old House.) We narrowed it to home renovation for reasons that no longer feel important. Since we now know for sure that we’re not blogging for money or career, and it takes too much time and energy to do it just for frivolous fun, the only reason left is to achieve some greater good around issues that truly matter to us.

Can a couple of middle-aged teachers telling stories about their quest for a good and meaningful life create some kind of greater good? Maybe this notion is too lofty or idealistic to be true, but what can you expect from a pair of teachers? Lofty idealism is our stock-in-trade.

You never know.  Maybe something we write will go all Faberge Organics on us and touch someone who can change the world. :-)

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As we move forward, you’ll see some changes around here. We’ll still have posts about home projects we’re working on, but only if they seem relevant to the one question that’s driving us these days:

What is a life that matters, and how do we live it?

We hope our exploration of this question will have value for others who find it as important as we do. We sure don’t know the answer at this point, but we’ll keep you posted on what we discover as we try to figure it out.

Rita and Cane beach sunset

Taking time to catch a beach sunset together is definitely part of a life that matters.

PS:  I’ve linked to several bloggers I read all the time, but I’ve left out many more. One planned change is to do a better job of connecting those of you who read here to other bloggers with great things to say. I’ll get to all of them, but not all at once

Love/Hate Photo Credit: the half-blood prince via Compfight cc