Editor’s Note: Lisa-Jo Baker’s newest book, The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good on You invites us to get a good look at our middles and gives us permission to embrace them — because Lisa-Jo knows that the middle might be the best part of the love story of life, kids, faith, doubt, marriage, failure, wonder and the muffin top—and that these are all good things. Read on to get a glimpse Behind the Book with Lisa-Jo Baker.
I like to think of my latest book, The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good On You, as a love letter to ordinary life.
Because if we’re not careful, I think midlife will actually run right over us. Like a runaway hamster wheel. There’s so much carpool and extracurriculars and work and before we know it we will have missed the chance to relish the very stories that will line our empty nests one day.
Between meeting thousands of women at speaking events and hearing from podcast listeners, I’ve learned that we all keep waiting to feel like grown-ups while going through all the grown-up motions. It’s weird to have all the responsibilities of a grown-up and look like a grown-up and have a grown-up job and a grown-up mortgage and still not be sure how or when to change the air filters.
It’s a shock to most of us to find ourselves here at the midpoint of our lives and still be figuring so much of it out. Normal feels all stretched out and squidgy around the edges when you’re splitting time and to-dos, and yet it’s the stuff of life and marriage and kids and work that everyone lives. The intimidation of financial planning and the reality of retirement as more than just that infomercial you used to fast forward through but also something you will actually need in the no-longer distant future.
And the just-as-crucial fighting for time to keep dating the man you’re raising kids with so you feel like a couple and not just a couple of people running a summer camp together. Turns out we’re all trying to make sense of this season we’re in. And it helps to talk about it. How exhausting it is to constantly feel pressured to seize every minute of every day. How lots of days just feel like figuring out new ways to make chicken.
So many women today feel the nagging frustration that their lives seem small, ordinary and terribly routine. Especially when you compare them to what the movies or social media or the latest viral video seem to think we should be living up to.
It’s exhausting to live up to everybody else’s expectations of what a meaningful life should look like. And impossible to live in a constant state of seizing the day. But slowing down long enough on random afternoons to really look around at our lives and husbands and the human beings we are raising together and truly see them on any given day? That we can do. Forget seizing the day; what’s changing me is learning to actually see the day. That right there is a new pair of lenses for every woman desperate to find meaning in her daily routine.
When you see the middle in all its glorious ordinary you realize that this is the place where we might have outgrown the shape of our teenage jeans but have finally grown into the shape of our souls. Not because of what we do or how we look or what we weigh or who we’re married to or who our kids are. Rather, this is the season of soul growth. And I know I’ve made my peace with this time and place when I put on my jeans and care more about their comfort than their size. It is always worth it to be the truest version of ourselves. Because of our age, our size, our shapes, and our stories.
That’s how this book was born. I wanted to write a collection of essays that help me and other women doing life in the middle to stop and see the day. To share my own stories so they can see their stories with new eyes. Stories about everything from body image and marriage at midlife to failure, doubt and faith, parenting and friendships.
We battle with the scale and measure ourselves in pounds instead of memories, callings, convictions. I wanted to tenderly reach into some of the deepest insecurities women carry around with them and lift that unnecessary guilt and baggage off their shoulders, turn them to face the mirror, and help them see themselves through a very different set of eyes.
I wanted to write about what marriage looks like once the Hallmark glow has faded and the anniversaries look less like date nights and more like flowers picked up at Costco—along with the mega vat of peanut butter. And somehow, it’s in these middle years that marriage actually starts to mean something deeper.
Our kids are no longer toddling into the living room but into high school and college and driver’s permits and heartbreak, and it’s all so much more intense than the first day of kindergarten ever was.
This book is a collection of essays written like a photo album, capturing the vivid colors of life that set our hearts on fire. How terrible and how wonderful this stage of life can be. Here are the stories of what sports and failures can mean for our kids and the stories of how home will define us and our people, and how hospitality is always more about the heart than the architecture.
This is the season where we’ve learned not to be afraid of our failures; here is the reminder that failures are how we learn and how we teach our kids to learn.
Here is letting go of white-knuckling our lives, resisting the urge to quit, and instead reminding ourselves that sometimes it’s the failures that make for the very best stories.
And that faith, as it ages, is more and more comfortable with questions. How these days and roads and stories and moments are weighed down with the kind of ordinary wonder that will take your breath away more than a good run, more than that raise or praise or all those accolades.
I wanted to write it all down. Every single story. So that I could give women a new way to see their own lives.
And I can honestly say, I’ve been the first one changed from the inside out by this new pair of eyes.
With her ability to laugh at herself and her mistakes, Lisa-Jo Baker continues to gather women around her into a community that is tired of hearing how things are supposed to be (perfect or easy) and passionate about hearing how things actually are (hard, scary, stretching, and wonderful). A former attorney and longtime community manager at (in)courage, Lisa-Jo is the best-selling author of Never Unfriended and Surprised by Motherhood. Pick up her new book, The Middle Matters, at your local Half Price Books or at HPB.com.