What if all I want is a mediocre life?

I posted a link to this blog post by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui some time ago on Facebook but want to link to it here because I think it expresses well how I often feel myself about the idea of ‘getting ahead’ or ‘success’. Read the whole post, it’s worth it.

What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?

What if all I want is a small, slow, simple life? What if I am most happy in the space of in between? Where calm lives. What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?

What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted? Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?

Near miss

I have worked in labs for a long time and it is generally a pretty safe work environment despite what some folks imagine. However, occasionally something happens that has the potential to turn pear-shaped.

Today I was making some 5 molar sodium hydroxide solution, which is corrosive. In fact, 1 molar sodium hydroxide is corrosive, 5 molar is five times stronger and so is very corrosive. It was also hot because the solution heats up as the solid dissolves. Without giving it too much thought, I covered the top of the measuring cylinder I was using and inverted it to mix. Unfortunately the combination of heat and alkaline solution dissolved part of the seal on the lid, resulting in a spurt of liquid bursting out and across my bench. Fortunately it went away from my face and didn’t hit anybody else so was mostly just a mess and some on my hand which was easily washed off.

In hindsight there were a few things I did wrong there: Inverting a measuring cylinder is a quick and dirty way to mix solutions but always has the potential for spills – I was taught better than that but have become slack over the years. It also was luck rather than good planning that caused the splash to go away from my face. I was wearing eye protection but probably should also have had a face shield on. Sodium hydroxide in the eyes is one of the worst accidents that can occur in a lab and the only reliable way to avoid it is to have protection between you and the corrosive liquid.

As with most mishaps I’ve had in labs over the years I was not injured, just got a fright. Whether that means I’m a safe worker or just stupid but lucky I’m not sure! It is good though to be reminded of the need to be careful and aware that something could potentially go wrong at any time.

photo of right hand with deep chemical burns from sodium hydroxide on the palm at base of thumb
What could have happened (Sodium hydroxide dermal burn)
Image of burn from: BMJ Case Rep. 2012; 2012: bcr2012007103. Published online 2012 September 11. doi:  10.1136/bcr-2012-007103

Your Money or Your Life

I have a dilemma – my job is negatively affecting my health, but we really need the income to stay afloat as a family.

My current work is at the NZ National Poisons Centre giving phone advice to both the general public and medical professionals for acute poisoning exposures. As with all jobs, there are good and bad days, interesting parts and boring parts. Unlike many jobs, we work rostered shifts covering 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the aspect of the work that is messing with my health.

I suffer from depression which can be severe for months at a time when I am not well. A key element in trying to stay well for any mental health illness is to maintain stable, adequate sleep habits – not easy with this job.

My training and most of my work experience is in science, a field known for crappy pay rates. The job I currently have pays better than any I have previously had and more than any position I am qualified for that I’ve seen advertised in the last year.

(an incomplete draft that I’m choosing to post as is, 14 February 2018)

Missing them

Alone at work in the middle of the night.

I don’t enjoy this. I want to be at home with my wife and three children, together in the same house, sharing our lives.

This separation is the way it has to be during this particular season. There are some benefits but the cost of separation is high. For some, perhaps, not having the family routine we had become so accustomed to would be a trivial thing. I have a good job, an adequate income, this is a great blessing.

Yet the evening routine with it’s ‘jungle hour’ when the kids become hyped-up and unruly, the wrestling of baths and pyjamas and nappies while trying to catch snippets of today’s news and tomorrow’s weather from the telly. Wanting to collapse with a cup of tea, just my lovely wife and I, but needing to do the bedtime routine first. The dishes to wash, toys to pick up yet again, stories to read for the hundredth time (does he ever tire of Thomas?).

I miss these things, the mess of being a family together.

The little I can do

In my job at the Poisons Centre, I recently received a call from a person who was very distraught and sincerely seeking help, but the situation was outside both my area of expertise and also my role so all I could do was to give some cautionary advice and encourage her to contact one of several agencies that may be able to help her. It was the middle of the night so the options were limited, but she did seem a little calmer by the end of the call and thanked me for my help.
“What help?” I thought to myself, feeling that I had been next to useless in giving her the sort of help she really needed. Though I suppose sometimes just having a calm voice offer a few more options is better than nothing.

There are so many times I have encountered situations in which I felt powerless to be really useful. Either I lacked the training, skill, tools or resources to be of much help.

But recently I was in the opposite situation – I was the one needing help. Having already sought professional help from experts, who did I then turn to? The person I sought out is someone I have known for a while now, and has one primary attribute that the professionals lacked: he is passionately God-focused.

At that particular time what I needed was to chat with a friend who would consistently keep pointing me to Jesus Christ. We yarned about all sorts of stuff, the overall message I went home with was; God is in control. The help I had already received from other experts was transformed as a friend faithfully gave of what he had.

The world around us has some massive needs – right now 10 million people in East Africa are facing drought and possible starvation. How do we fix that?

The Burma Army continues to enslave, rape and slaughter ethnic peoples in their own nation. Is there even the will to fix that?

How often I see the needs of the world around me, consider the puny contribution I could make towards those needs and end up thinking, “It wouldn’t make any difference anyway.” Even if I gave my entire income and the remaining years of my life to serve the needs of the world it would not make a noticeable difference. But is it my role to make a difference? It is God who is in control. Our job is to love, on a small scale maybe – but if multiplied…

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
(Galatians 5:13-14 ESV)

Can we truly love our neighbours, and in so doing be pointing people to Christ? In words and deeds acting in love?

As thousands of ants can move huge amounts of leaves despite each individual’s small size, surely the Body of Christ each loving their neighbour can do God’s will on Earth as it is in heaven.

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