Friday, April 13, 2018

Oppression, Freedom, and the Toothpaste Aisle

Oppression, Freedom, and the Toothpaste Aisle @ Mt. Hope Chronicle

Eleven years ago I began blogging. Eleven years ago I was in the early stages of parenting (my boys were 5, 2, and 8 months). Eleven years ago we moved into our little “forever home.” Eleven years ago we began our homeschooling adventure.

I had plans. I had big plans.

I had it all figured out.

My dreams, if I admitted them, were ambitious. On paper (and in blog posts), a decade ahead was the decade when it all came together. I would be experienced. I would be successful. My kids, oh, they would be amazing. All my passions would have become honed talents. Photography, interior design, parenting, homeschooling, reading, blogging, writing and speaking—expert level, right?!

Maybe you have noticed how quiet the blog has been for a year, or two or three.

Turns out, I don’t have it all figured out. The further into this life gig I get, the less I know and the less I feel qualified to share what I think I still know. Not only do I know less, but I do less.

I have a gazillion blog posts started. One of three things always happens:

1. I’m too lazy or distracted to finish it.

2. My perfectionist side can’t get it up to snuff.

3. I realize I am in no place to give any sort of advice or encouragement. About anything.

But a web, of sorts, has been forming in my mind and in my heart over the past six months. I’ve resisted writing a blog post because this web is woven of many different topics (the golden mean of virtue, politics, health, freedom vs liberty, minimalism vs hoarding, self-care vs self-limits, slothfulness vs leisure, independence vs community, depression, stoicism, Charlotte Mason). There are few topics the web doesn’t touch, and my thoughts are not linear. My perfectionism wants them organized in three winsome persuasive parallel points. With alliteration.

Of course, I also want these ideas to have transformed my life so I can share my successful experience. And I can be an expert.

Truth is, I’m wrestling with these ideas and preaching to myself. You can join me if you like. Wrestle with me. Discuss with me. Share with me your thoughts and experiences.

I have to take this in bite-sized pieces, so I’ll give you the short version if you’re the type of person who reads the last page of the book before starting the first chapter.

Short Version

Unbridled freedom is not freedom.

Options become obligations become oppression.

We can mitigate the damage in two ways:

  • By limiting ourselves.
  • By loving our neighbor.

The cruicible in which these actions are practiced is FAMILY.

Chapter One (of the Long Version)

I’ve been thinking about the sliding scale (or pendulum swing) between the oppressive lack of freedom and choices that much of humanity has had in other times or other cultures and the unbridled freedom and abundance of our own age.

For so many people throughout history, the occupation of their hours was fixed, their diet was fixed, their relationships were fixed, their knowledge was fixed, their cultural traditions and village of residence was fixed, their housing, clothing, number of children, personal hygiene, careers, creative outlets were fixed. So little freedom. So few choices.

But in this culture in this age?

We have a rapacious appetite for freedoms and choices. We resist all external limits.

You cannot tell me what I should or should not, may not have. You cannot tell me what I should or should not, may not do.

I have the freedom and ability to purchase 100 different items for personal hygiene. When I run out of one of these, let’s say toothpaste, I am faced with a string of decisions/judgments.

When shall I go to the store to buy more? Is it in the budget, or shall I go into debt? Which of the 20 nearby stores shall I visit? (This in itself requires a long string of judgments including distance, convenience, selection, thriftiness, and business ethics.) On the dental hygiene aisle (loaded with countless types of tools and potions just for teeth), I have 40 different toothpastes to choose from. Which is safest? Which is most effective for the purpose I wish it to fulfill? Which is the most economical? Which is healthy? Which is tastiest? Which packaging is attractive? Which one impacts the environment the least? Which company is most ethical? The list goes on. Do I buy just one, or do I stock up? What fits in my budget? What fits in my space? Will that save me time, energy, or money? Do I buy other items at the store while I’m there? Shall I pay with cash, check, or credit card? Which of the 10 credit cards in my wallet shall I use? Is the transaction safe?

We are so conditioned to face these endless strings of judgments and choices every single moment of every day that we hardly notice them.

But do we know what toll they take on us, emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually?

Is it healthy to demand no limits to our choices? Decisions that fatigue or paralyze us. Closets and counters overflowing with stuff that clutters our life. Excess or harmful food that weighs us down and cripples our bodies, minds, and emotions. Relationships that break us. Debt that burdens. Immoral or unethical actions or thoughts that destroy us spiritually.

Or is it possible to self-limit in a healthy way that brings us to the center of the pendulum swing, to a place of equilibrium, a golden mean?

In order not to be damaged by unlimited freedom and choices, I must have the self-discipline to set my own limits.

That is difficult in a culture in which choices are a right, almost an obligation. It is difficult in a culture of excess and permissiveness to find the self-discipline to deny ourselves any pleasure, convenience, desire, privilege, or entitlement. Especially when these limits seem (or are) arbitrary.

What if I choose to reject my 465 health care options? What if I wear the same items of clothing every day? What if I haven’t changed my hair style in 20 years? What if I choose to eliminate electronics from my life? What if I choose not to take a promotion? What if I choose to eat the same meal for dinner every evening?


I have been contemplating the idea of freedom and self-limits and finding that it is applicable in myriad arenas of life. I am hoping to share how this concept illuminates specific topics in future blog posts. Let’s see if I can write chapter two…


Alison said...

It IS possible to have to0 many GOOD choices. I'm having some stress lately with curriculum selections, spending so much time trying to research, plan, etc. And it probably doesn't even matter. I just need to pick some toothpaste already!

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts as you explore the topic of self-limits, something I have always struggled with.

Kim said...

Powerful words. You are not alone in the journey. My blog has also been quiet. The words seem more like vapor. Thank you for the encouragement. Thank you for the questions.

Briana Almengor said...

I echo everything you’ve e written here and appreciate the fact that you don’t have 3 alliterated, tidied points to persuade us how to think or live. Those posts tend to make me even more certain that I’ve missed the classes that would’ve taught me how to do life by my age. Truth? I’m with you—more questions, less answers the older I get.

Lisa Morgan said...

This is so powerful! I have a blog that sits neglected for the same reason. Your words have given me some food for thought and have articulated what I have been subconsciously feeling for some time. Maybe our blogs aren't to display our authority over a subject, or an expertise of anything, but a way to share our struggles and thought processes. Thank you for the food for thought!

oldjove said...

I find this post very interesting because it nods to minimalism and the benefits of such. It is these very choices, or should I say overabundance of choices, that leads to indecision. It is minimalism, or so the minimalists say, that can deliver us from such an overabundance and therefore, such indecision.

carrie said...

Oh how I’ve missed these type of posts! Glad to hear your voice and thoughts again. I’ve always thought there has to be a reason “self-control” is listed as the last fruit of the Spirit. I think “self-control” or “self-limiting” is an even bigger factor in my life as a homeschool Mom whose kids are presently not in any extracurricular activities because really almost nothing pushes or touches any decision or schedule in my life right now except me. In my own little kingdom it’s easy to be a lazy tyrant who sets no self-limits if I’m not careful.

Laura at By the Bushel said...

today the preacher described the 'leatherman' type tool in relation to having so many skills, we can't determine to use it at all. Yes. We have so many options, so many skills, so many resources, and even-- so much time, due to our time saving resources, apps, convenience foods, etc...
I gave him the 'high 5' in the hallway after assembly. He had no idea he was echoing these thoughts.
Thanks for posting and sharing your thoughts. :)

Tara M. said...

Excellent thoughts. I have decision fatigue a lot of the time it seems so I have been intentionally cutting down on the number of decisions I am asked to make each day. Some are inevitable, but too many is not good for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

Anonymous said...

Please do write chapter 2. I’ve missed you!

Unknown said...

I'm glad you're untangling thoughts here, again. I've missed your words and the common struggle ; )

Heidi said...

Alison~ We are blessed to live in an age of homeschooling in which we have so many GREAT options! So many homeschooling philosophies. So much curriculum. So many resource. So many activities. Yikes! It can be paralyzing to choose. And how many of us buy shelves full of the "good" stuff and then let it sit there?! I know I do!

Kim~ Thanks for joining me in conversation!

Briana~ Definitely more questions than answers. And no concrete advice in sight. :)

Carrie~ Our "own little kingdoms" sure do give us many opportunities to practice self-control. It's much more difficult than working with outside accountability!

Laura~ Absolutely. Think of all the tools that have become necessities in the recent years. Tools not even dreamed of 30 years ago.

Tara~ Decision fatigue is a real thing, for sure.

Anonymous~ Post #2 is up! :) Thanks for the encouragement.

Tresta~ I'm glad to be back, and glad for friends along the journey.

Lisa~ Thanks for chiming in! I definitely have more struggles than authority to share.

Beverly~ I have an upcoming post on minimalism, but I think that topic has a fine balance as well.