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Off the grid: Self-worth in the simple life

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

Sometimes I think I want to be a monk, but then I remember that I am far too depraved and egocentric to pursue a career in spiritual growth. So I deactivate my Facebook account instead. Really, it’s the next-best thing.

As a supporter of the media, I have long wrestled with the ethics of social media – even more so lately. And as a middle child with myriad self-worth issues, demonstrated by a childhood of stellar report cards and a subsequent love of stimulants (both of which do wonders for the ol’ self-confidence), social media appeals to many of my insecurities even while it fuels them.

The need for validation through others begins, of course, during infancy when we quickly learn that things as simple as babbling and rolling over deliver rewarding responses from our parents. Through various cultural and technological shifts that are frequently studied by sociologists at large, much of our self-worth is now defined by our social-worth, which seems to be the equivalent of what people think of the representative we send forth.

The irony of the columnist does not escape me.

Thus, I set out to explore that which validates me, only to find it had less to do with what people think and much more to do with the tiny acts of self-love and selfless impact.

The latter I fulfill by sitting on my child’s school board, where I also fill my karma account and I-was-an-involved-parent account.

Selfless indeed.

The truth is, self-worth is experienced when we do things that remind us of it. Like putting my vitamins in a tiny porcelain dish and actually remembering to take them.

Or making myself a cup of tea with a rather gluttonous serving of honey and sipping it while I write. Or putting an extra log on the fire because I like it when my house is the kind of cozy the Danish brag about in coffee table books.

I find it in going for walks, buying the softest ball of cashmere yarn, and taking time to interpret Billie Eilish song lyrics with my daughter instead of rushing to wash dishes. Then I find it in the simple act of washing dishes, because it means my kitchen is clean for me in the morning.

In the morning, I wake up to a chilled house and I wrap myself in a comically huge robe that I try not to trip over as I make my way down the stairs to the fireplace. I open the vent and watch the coals turn to flames, lighting up the clean counters. Even the click of the igniter on the stove, or the scrape of the coffee pot as I pull it over the blue flame, sounds like love.

Whatever has happened that has driven us to seek our self-worth outwardly is sadly misleading, for the search is an internal one. I have spent decades seeking it in the mountains, in race times, in social engagements and on social media, only to find it diminishing – sometimes even replaced by anxiety and fear.

Or worse: competition.

As I sip my coffee, breathing deeply the scent of wood smoke and percolation, I wonder if my experience and the value of it are diminished because I failed to post it on Instagram, or have I kept something sacred and intimate just that.

Not everyone has a right to share these moments with us, and those who do are probably passing the sugar.

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