Average and Ordinary

Last night I was up with Pearl from 12:30 to about 3:00am. She ate a bowl of oatmeal with milk and raisins. She squirmed, she fussed, she puttered while I checked email. Finally, belly full, she konked back out by my side in Aviva’s bed while Aviva slept snuggled in next to Greg in ours. Musical beds, I call it.

This morning, Pearl was predictably out of sorts. Greg took her downstairs. I showered, coveting the clean, the hot, the cleanse, the wake-up, while she clawed her way back up the stairs towards me. Amazing that after a whole night together, she could still want me that much in the morning.

Yesterday, I got caught in a downpour on my way to pick the girls up at school. It was a last-minute decision to walk; I felt a few drops when I set out but decided to keep going. And then, sure enough, I was in it, drenched, soaked to the bone as the rain blew in from across the lake.

By the time I got downtown, my vest was so wet I had to ring it out; my cheeks were flushed from running; my ponytails dripping down my back; my jeans looked two-toned from being washer-wet in front and perfectly dry in the back. I stopped in the bathroom to dry my head off before picking Pearl up. I looked in the mirror. I actually looked great. All rosy and fresh.

Last night I looked in the mirror just before bed, around 11:00. I did not see rosy and fresh. I saw lined and drawn. I heard the judgment, followed by mind-chatter and more judgment about the judgment itself: Man, look at my skin. When did this happen? I am so vain for caring. Really, aging is a good thing. I’m getting wiser. Jesus, are those wrinkles really mine? There are so many more important things to think about. Go to sleep, Jena.

An hour later, Pearl got up for our midnight rendezvous. (And I wonder where the lines come from.)

This morning, I left both girls crying at drop-off. This doesn’t happen that often anymore. I feel vaguely like I have water in my ears. The sticky breakfast dishes sit unwashed, the clean dishwasher waits to be unloaded.

So far, this has been an ordinary week of accepting that there might not be any brilliant blog posts or projects or epiphanies or peace deals or book advances. This has been a week for applying for a new part-time job, and for volunteering, and for serving my clients and Greg’s business and my soon-to-be-former employer, for celebrating my very first poetry-for-hire gig over at Evolution. For slinging hash in the all-day, all-night diner that is our kitchen. For not sleeping. For my period.

Yesterday, as the sun came back out over the mountains and the traffic backed up down Main Street, the five of us (don’t forget Bobo) walked home together. Aviva ran ahead and behind and all around, so excited to be outside with no coat, collecting old beer cans and picking up trash. As she squished in the muddiest mud puddles she could find, her inimitable way with words came bearing joy: “Now you’re talkin’ to my boots!”

This has been a week of average, ordinary living. My average, my ordinary, my living. Because that’s what we all get. No matter how much we might want to believe that “other people” have something other than average and ordinary, something more glamorous or less stressful, luckier or easier.

In a culture of comparison, where “you can never be too thin or too rich,” this blog is my way of keeping myself honest, forcing myself to say the words: I am thin enough. I am rich enough. I am, simply, enough.

And so I receive the blessings of this ordinary, average life: The musical beds and the worn, wet clothes, the un-career path of my own making and the accidental entrepreneurship Greg and I find ourselves embracing, the homegrown and the patchwork and the crow’s feet and the muddy boots and the jewels in the crown of my rejoicing. And what better day than this to bless it all, to say thanks for the layers of life that I woke today not seeing?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to bed.

Artwork: Layers of Life, Micha Archer

13 thoughts on “Average and Ordinary

  1. She She says:

    I was up from 11:30 until 3:30 last night. Must be spring in the air.

    Pearl was happily blowing bubbles when I saw her this morning, no worse for wear.


  2. PixieDust says:

    Hee,hee… you are more than enough, a beauty like you… congratulations on your poetry gig! I’m off to take a peek!




  3. Mika says:

    There is something in the air, because everyone I have been speaking to has been up with their kids for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. feels lonely at 1am, too bad there is no way of knowing who else is up!
    Here’s to sleep!
    xo m


  4. bella says:

    maybe because I grew up in a rather extremist obscure sub-culture, but for as long as I can remember I have always loved the ordinary. My god is the god of small things. It feels, to me, like freedom, human bliss.
    Not to say I don’t have dreams, desires, sometimes compare myself and all such nonsense, but what you wrote here spoke to me on a very tender level, directly into my own ordinary life as I experience it, and it is beautiful.


  5. Meg Casey says:

    Dear Jena-
    It is almost on a daily basis that I find myself reflecting on what is average and ordinary and wondering if MY average and ordinary is really NORMAL. And then it dawns on me that it doesn’t matter. But this vascillation between the need for the glamour or the craving for a REGULAR life (like the more neatly ordered kind other people MUST) that I find myself swinging between felt so palpable as I read this post. But I too always find myself coming exactly to your point–I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one thing–no matter how messy my average or ordinary is.


  6. Mere Mortal says:

    Oh how many nights has my daughter awakened requesting oatmeal too? Sigh.
    Thank you for reminding me of this: “And so I receive the blessings of this ordinary, average life”.
    Indeed, I too have to remind myself that I’d rather have an ordinary, crazy life than a sad, lonely existence.


  7. Cassy says:

    I tried your number but it rang and rang, so I checked in on your blog. Now I am sitting here just sobbing my heart heart with your words.

    I have an hour and a half till my kids come home and a list that would take that long to get started on. But right all I care about is finding that place that must exist where I can say those words and really believe, that I too, am enough.


  8. Honey says:

    I can’t thank you enough for the poem you left at Bella’s it reached in and pulled me to the surface for air.
    You have everything. So do I. And it is enough.
    you are right but it does not make it easy.
    thank you


  9. Jena Strong says:

    she she – send me a telepathic message next time. Mika – same goes for you!

    Pixiedust – I realized after this post that the Evolution link didn’t actually include my writing. Maybe I’ll post it here. Love your :-D !

    Bella – If that god of small things smiles on this ordinary moment. You are absolutely, perfectly ordinary.

    Meg – you are so accidentally glamorous I just want to leap into your arms!

    Leigh – I remind myself of that very thing all the time. Ordinary, crazy – all of our own making.

    Cassy – keep saying the words. Your heart is listening.

    honey – Karen Miller’s words come back to me here: It’s simple, it just isn’t easy. That poem is one I’ve come back to in so many moments over many years. Thinking of you with love as you grieve.

    Karen – your presence serves to remind me of this when I forget, which is often enough.


  10. Shelli says:

    This was such a beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing your life. I always find it uncanny how when we put our ordinary lives into words, our lives become extraordinary. At least I think so. It’s the power of the story.

    Congrats on the poetry gig too!


  11. Shawn says:

    Sleep deprivation always send me into a bit of that ENOUGH spiral … great post, once again. Would like to know more about that part-time job opportunity … for my husband’s sake. He is a wannabee teacher.

    Happy Week!


  12. Jena Strong says:

    Shelli – The ordinary becoming extraordinary, in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it helps to have a witness. Thanks for being that for me.

    Shawn – your comment serves as a helpful reminder that that spiral is so easily remedied (by sleep and a little loving care).

    Email me offline and I will tell you what I know about TNTP (which isn’t much, but it’s something)…

    xo Jena



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