My Word of the Week: Middle

middle – adjective | mid·dle | \ˈmi-dəl\

: equally distant from the ends or sides : halfway between two points
: in a state or place between two things or people

I hit the snooze a few extra times and even reset the alarm twice before I finally got up yesterday morning. I don’t know what it was except Monday sitting heavy on my chest, and I could barely breathe. I felt tears forming.

When I finally got up, I walked downstairs to the kitchen, popped two pieces of coffee cake (hey, they were small) on a paper plate and closed them inside the microwave. I pressed the “add 30 seconds” button while I stuck a mug under the Keurig machine and turned on the power button.

Coffee, cake, Bible, journal, yellow bistro table on the back patio. Before I sat, I took the risk of leaving the coffee cake unattended while Tilly nosed around, and I pulled a few weeds from the garden. I felt the tears rise again as my hands stained green. Stupid weeds. And suddenly, it was the weeds’ fault that life isn’t perfect.

I remember just about two weeks ago thinking, Life is perfect! I had a battery of health tests that all came back negative. Not only do I continue to live cancer free, but my cholesterol is good and bad in all the right places, my blood sugar levels are low, my heart is healthy and strong. We finalized plans for a California vacation with the boys. I bought a new car. My writing life is productive. Our boys are healthy. My marriage is happy.

What happened?


Nothing. Everything. Life. Death. A hundred happy moments, and a dozen really difficult ones. We celebrated birthdays and Father’s Day and 4th of July. The boys fight, and my workload feels stressful. We eat delicious food, we mow the lawn, we buy groceries. We forgot birthdays and attended funerals. The dog escaped. The cat killed a bird and left it on the patio headless. We work, we rest, we play. We laugh, we cry. We are outraged by injustice, we forget to say thank you.

What happened? We are past the beginning and far from the end (at least we hope). We are digging into the long, tedious, exhilarating middle.

“The middle of things is less exciting than the beginning and less dramatic than the end. Middles can seem humdrum,” writes Andrew Solomon in the New Yorker’s “The Middle of Things: Advice for Young Writers.” “Say that your current relationship to writing has been like falling in love: we exalt falling in love as the finest of all possible experiences. But the reason people marry and stay married is that the middle, when it can be made to work, far outclasses the beginning.”

Like the rest of the country, we celebrated July 4th in the middle of last weekend, grilling steaks and watching small explosions fill the sky. Without regard to the actual calendar, I’ve always marked July 4th as the “middle” of summer. If your children happen to go to school in Frankfort, Indiana, like ours, and if your family structure is such that you actually gauge the beginning and ending of summer according to the ending and beginning of the school year, then that calculation is just about right. But as middles go, I’m ready for an ending. Or a beginning. Even though we’ve got vacation to enjoy and a trip to our favorite state park to take and a good amount of ice cream to eat before then. I feel the need for a little exhilaration or devastation or anything other than the horrible blah of the middle.

Interestingly, as I began to think of a word for this week, thoughts circling just as I’ve described above, acedia came to mind, which Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary woefully under-defined as simply “apathy, boredom.” I know enough to know that acedia accounts for much more than that, and an overdue library book buried within my reading pile called Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, beckons a good read-through not only for a definition, but maybe even a way out of this middle-stuck-crying spell I’m in. I picked up the book back when things felt good. Even then, I guess, the signs were there, and the fact that I have neither read the book nor renewed it nor turned it in makes it even clearer.

I would be remiss to leave out the very spiritual component of what I feel, the very spiritual component that is acedia itself. I read my Bible, I pray, I attend church, I give to gospel work in the world. I visit the sick, I sing psalms, I meditate. And still I wrestle with the “noonday devil”—as desert monks characterized the malaize of the middle.

My faith doesn’t make it better. God doesn’t make it better. In fact, maybe it’s partly my faith and mostly God who draw me to this place—this ordinary, middle time where much of life passes—because this is where trust and devotion and love are lived out. For God, for others, even for myself.

In her book, Still: Notes on a Mid-faith Crisis, Lauren Winner recounts her friend Julian’s story about her confirmation, a ceremony which marks the middle of a Christian’s life—a time to reaffirm what was already believed and to make a promise about future belief.

“She was twelve, and she was preparing to be confirmed,” Winner writes. “A few days before the confirmation service, she told her father—the pastor of the church—that she wasn’t sure she could go through with it. She didn’t know that she really believed everything she was supposed to believe, and she didn’t know that she should proclaim in front of the church that she was ready to believe it forever.”

And I feel this tension in my soul even now, even after years of believing what I’m supposed to believe. In the middle I wonder … will I believe this forever?

Winner continues:

“What you promise when are are confirmed,” said Julian’s father, is not that you will believe this forever. What you promise when you are confirmed is that that is the story you will wrestle with forever.”

So, I get out of bed, I eat cake on the patio, and I carry on in the middle as if this story I am wrestling with will never end.

What’s YOUR word of the week? Drop it into the comments section, or share it on this week’s Facebook post. If you post about your word on your blog, please slip the link into a comment below so I can stop by and join you.

Photo by Flavia, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.


Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • Diana Trautwein ,

    LOVE THIS, LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT. yes, you’re in the middle. And . . . THANK GOD FOR THAT. It’s good to be in the middle and you’ve got a whole life ahead of you. Hooray. And that pastor’s word to his daughter? RIght on the money. Perfect. Thanks so much, Charity.

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      Charity Singleton Craig ,

      Thank you, Diana. I was thinking that none of us have any control over our own beginning, and though we can anticipate it, we really have little control over our ending. Maybe that’s why we try so hard and expect so much from the middle. I am glad I am sharing my middle with you!

    • carol longenecker hiestand ,

      I love what your friend, Ann said above / well maybe below, however these comments stack up. Not doing life alone, reaching out for help. Oh, I could preach that all my life, but actually doing it was and still is sometimes harder than I would like to admit. I found I believed asking for help was a sign of being weak. As in I SHOULD be able to do it myself. I imagine all of us are hopefully learning a lie is what it is. I’ll be writing my “wondering” post yet this week.

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        Charity Singleton Craig ,

        Carol – I think you are on to something really important in the middle. Not only should it help us empathize with others, but also to ask for help for ourselves. That is a hard thing to do.

        Pop a link here to your “wondering” post when it’s done so that I will be sure to read it!

      • jean ,

        Love how you explored the word MIDDLE. Reminded me of the dash story – how people really do their living in the dash between the dates of their birth and death. Now that is truly the middle isn’t it? I get so bogged down in the middle of things – perhaps it is there the work is really done, growth occurs, but no end in sight. I think this topic could become a great book – you go girl, write that!

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          Charity Singleton Craig ,

          Thanks, Jean! Thanks for the encouragement to write more about this. I have heard that dash story, too. And you are right, so much of life is lived here in the middle. Maybe that’s part of the difficulty.

        • Ann Kroeker ,

          Ah, friend. I’m in the middle, too, friend. The middle of marriage. The middle of life. The middle of the state that’s in the middle of the country (after all, we have a TV show set in our state called “The Middle”). I hope I’m mid-career, too, in that I hope I have as many years ahead of me to work as I do behind me. And it does feel kind of inexplicably quiet and heavy at times. Right now I’m better than I have been–maybe because I’ve had a lot to keep me busy in the past few months–but I have felt the malaise, I’ve battled acedia in years past. I’m sorry you feel like this.

          I love how you’ve written this piece. I think you’ve captured well the seeming contradictions of what is happening around us and inside us.

          Let me know if I can hand you a sword for your battle. Or I’ll fight alongside you. You might have to slay your own demon, but you don’t have to fight alone.

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            Charity Singleton Craig ,

            Thank you, Ann. You are fighting alongside me. I feel it. That’s the strange part of being in the middle. It’s where most of us live most of the time. I think knowing that allows me to have more grace toward others.