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Melanie’s Marginal Guide to Mediocrity in 2017

I keep fantasizing about spooning a standard poodle. I need a fluffy poodle in my face.

At the beginning of every year I want to hide in a bunker in the backyard until everyone’s self-improvement posts run their course. I feel myself start to spiral down as I scroll through diet after gym membership after Bible reading plan. After two weeks of my kids being on top of me trashing my house pulling things out of cabinets and freaking out on each other daily, I am not my best self nor can I find it even after hours of looking. I can’t think about improving myself when I’m using all my available energy to merely survive Christmas break and not cause even more reason for therapy than my kids already have.

But around me other people seem to be conquering 2017 with gusto, announcing their Word of the Year to the world and updating their statuses with workout selfies and photos of salads.

I’ve never had a word of the year before but as I was openly scoffing about this to my friend Chantel the other day, a word slammed into my brain and I haven’t been able to get it out. So apparently my word is STAY. Because all I want to do these days is go. Lately, I want to be anywhere but here.

Every week after therapy with various small people in my life I tell Alex that I can’t. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do it anymore; I want to run away. Not because of him. We’re good. But sometimes raising people is more than I can take.

STAY. Every day I choose to stay and then I stay some more.

This is not me telling you to stay. If you’re in a bad job or an abusive relationship I’m not giving you the word stay. But for me this year, this is my word. 

When I feel like I have nothing left to give, stay.

When I’m tired of feeling unappreciated, stay.

When I can’t bear the brunt of my people’s pain, stay.

When someone’s meltdown lands in my face, stay.

I’m going to stay in it. I’m going to stay engaged. I’m going to stay humble. I’ve known this in my heart all along, but this year I’m saying it out loud a lot: “I’m not going anywhere.”

In the middle of all the tutorials helping you become a better person and whip yourself into some kind of mental, emotional, or physical shape, I’m lowering the bar for you. For anyone else just trying not to run away from their life, I offer you “Melanie’s Marginal Guide to Mediocrity in 2017.”


As you know, I don’t run and I’m not so much into the exercise. I spend quality time in my sitting shirt watching oh-so-much Netflix. I do love yoga, but my yoga studio closed a year ago and I never found another one that was the perfect combination of close, affordable, with a good schedule. So, my marginal step this year is putting the yoga mat next to my bed, and during the 15 minutes right when I wake up that I used to spend flipping through Twitter feeling angsty about strangers’ lives, I now roll out of bed onto my mat and do some sun salutations. Is this one step burning calories and toning the swingy skin under my arms? No, no it is not. But I’m aiming for marginal, so it’s enough. It’s 15 minutes of stretching that wakes me up and it has to be better than what I was doing before, working up a good Facebook-induced jealous lather before I even had my morning pee. If you don’t do yoga, then maybe it’s a few sit-ups, push-ups, and some stretching. Maybe it’s intentionally breathing in an upright position. Be mediocre with gusto.


While I’m down there on the yoga mat, I’m reading my bible after the sun salutations. (My actual bible, because over the last year, I’ve noticed that my handy bible app, while being helpful for looking stuff up during the day, is actually much too close to my Facebook app, and in the middle of reading a chapter of Romans, I find myself reading an article about how kids are dropping dead from too much video game time and we should be doing breast exams every fifteen minutes for ultimate detection and I’m all “I was being spiritual; how did my hand click me over to Crazy Town; stupid hand make better choices!”) A regular New Years resolution would have us read the bible in a week or memorize Revelation and recite it on the street corner downtown, but we’re doing the bare minimum, so I’m reading a chapter at a time or sometimes just a handful of verses. Am I earning my Masters in Divinity with this kind of behavior? No. But I’m making a marginal attempt to connect with God before I start screaming at my kids to brush their teeth.


As a recovered anorexic person always one meal away from falling off the food train, the January onslaught of diet tips can give me the panic sweats. I stopped eating so many years ago because everyone kept talking about all the foods that were “bad” and eventually there just wasn’t anything left. If you’re like me, resist the urge to click on food posts and just keep eating. Stay. Stay with food.


All I want to do is drink coffee, but then halfway through the day my head hurts and I realize I haven’t had any water and something about 8 glasses runs through my brain and I wonder about kidney stones. Eight glasses of water feels like a lot. But maybe I can start with one. So I start my pilgrimage to the coffee pot, but first I fill up my mug with water and drink it down with some kind of multivitamin or Juice Plus capsule before filling it with coffee. We’re not cutting out coffee; that’s ridiculous and possibly life-threatening. We’re trying to be mediocre, not Captain America.


I keep hearing people say they haven’t read a book in years and don’t have time to read. Even if reading isn’t your thing, you can still work in a page here and there, which will give you a sense of accomplishment for your brain and something to talk about besides work and kids. My reading goal last year was 50 books, which seems high to some of you and tiny and sad to others of you. It would be higher but I love TV so much, and I figure if I can read 50 books in a year then I can also watch TV without guilt. (Confession: I was cramming at the end and then Alex reminded me that I had to read It’s Not Fair about a thousand times in editing this year, so I totally counted my own book.) We are going for mediocre, so don’t make this a hard goal. If you don’t get a lot of reading done, make your goal for the year twelve. One book a month. The important thing is to keep a list on your phone of what you read, because you’ll forget and someone will ask and your mind will go blank. 

These are the things I’m doing to be marginally stable and healthyish in 2017. My goal is not world domination or even really bettering myself. My goal is to stay. To get up each morning and have enough love to give to the people around me. In the words of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, “That would be enough.”