“Yah, I used to think that, too.”
The thoughtless words flew out of my mouth like daggers and landed in the heart of one of my dearest friends. We were just finishing a morning run when the conversation turned to faith and doubt. She was sharing with me something that she believed deeply would help my current struggles, and I felt cynical about her suggestion to keep trying.
As soon as the condescending words came darting out of my mouth, I was filled with instant remorse. Everything went silent.
A friendship that had developed through years of endless conversation and laughter went quiet in a single thoughtless moment.
I had hurt her feelings.
We went inside my house, and I immediately found a secluded place to go and collect my thoughts. A few minutes later, I returned with a heavy heart to apologize to my friend for my thoughtless response and ask for her forgiveness. I let her know I completely understood if she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore after seeing such poor behavior.
“What are you talking about?!” she stammered.
“You hurt my feelings. You were thoughtless and that remark WAS totally undeserved…AND…of course I still want to be your friend! I can be mad at you AND still be your friend. I’ll just need a few minutes.”
THIS was a revelation to me. She saw me at my worst AND loved me anyway.
At 38 years old, I was hearing a principle that clearly revealed my lack of conflict resolution skills. The ‘AND’ principle.
I’d had an either/or, black or white approach to most things in life. This idea that maybe it didn’t have to be one or the other stirred the possibilities in my mind:
“You mean…I can love someone AND be frustrated with them?”
“I can hurt someone’s feelings AND they won’t just call the friendship off?”
“Is it possible that I can be imperfect AND still be lovable?”
“What if I’m allowed to have weaknesses AND still be worthy of a good life?”
The last few years have turned my very black and white world into an endless world of grey. Things aren’t so cut and dry, all or nothing like they were when I was in my twenties.
There are hard questions that don’t have clear answers. There are complex situations that need compassion instead of hard defined rules.
People aren’t always their best. Some days don’t go as planned. Relationships fail. Tragedy strikes. Cancer shows up. Life is sometimes hard…even when you’re a good person.
As the calendar turned, I had the expectation that I would slough off the challenges of 2018 and step into the new year with new energy and vitality to lift others and add goodness and beauty to my growing online village.
And sometimes I do.
This past week was hard, and I woke up yesterday thinking about “The AND Principle.” It’s not just about me and my relationships with others. It’s about me and my relationship with myself. It’s about me learning to accept myself right where I am in my growth process. I’m not perfect.
I went to work making a list of ANDs that I would benefit from acknowledging:
I’m thoughtful and loving AND sometimes I am inconsiderate and hurt people’s feelings.
I’m smart and gutsy and ever-willing to take on large projects AND sometimes I get paralyzed by the details.
I’m brave and fearless and start businesses and take my kids to far off places AND sometimes I lie in bed shaking with anxiety.
I laugh. I cry. I’m grateful, AND sometimes I complain.
I’m generous and kind and love to throw parties and make people smile AND sometimes I’m lonely and depressed and feel like life is too difficult.
I love my kids like crazy AND sometimes I’m on my phone too much.
I’ve lived a life of action-packed faith in an unseen God with infectious hope for a better world…AND…I have felt abandoned by my faith and suffocated by the pernicious tentacles of despair.
I nourish my body in the morning with whole foods AND eat the rest of the plate of cookies in the afternoon.
And that’s when I got it.
I’m the whole enthralling package of ups and downs, highs and lows. That’s me.
I’m not just this or just that. I’m a fascinating combination of paradoxes…happy and sad, saint and sinner, emotions and logic.
Sometimes I’m at my best AND sometimes I’m at my worst AND most days I’m somewhere in the middle learning to navigate all the different sides of myself. And that’s okay.
And yet, I am not all that okay showing up to friendships or Facebook with anything less than the shiny parts of myself. It feels safe to tell the stories of life when I have motherhood victories or road trip adventures. It feels downright uncomfortable to give others an inside look on my melancholy days spent figuring out my purpose, the constant failure at my latest attempt to eat healthy foods and the sometimes debilitating anxiety that has paralyzed me in the last few years.
About a year after I was divorced, I bought an old Volvo for a thousand dollars. This car was definitely a no frills kind of automobile, but it took us on our first extended road trip from Idaho Falls to Seattle. I hung a “Beach or Bust” sign in the back window and took off with two little boys to find the ocean.
It was while we were lost in the layers of Pike market that I picked up an air freshener that would hang from the car mirror long after it had lost its scent and its bright blue and yellow print had faded. With her sleeve rolled up ready to work, Rosie the Riveter smiled at me every time I got in the car.
“We can do it!” she proclaimed, and I believed her.
Nearly fifteen years have passed since then, and if there’s one thing I have learned, it’s this:
Yes, I CAN do it, AND I can’t do it alone.
I need people. I need people to celebrate my joys when I’m riding the high waves of life and my bank accounts are full. I need people to sit with me in my heartbreak and just be okay with the sadness when life serves up bitter disappointments. I need people who have been where I am and give me hope that it will all work out. I need people who know my whole self…my joys and my sadness, my hopes and dreams, my darkness and light and love me just the same.
This is the power of the #MeToo movement. Women acknowledging their pain and realizing that they were never alone.
When it comes to any of the challenges we face… depression, anxiety, sickness, addiction, death of a loved one, rocky marriages, the sting of loneliness, the despair of infertility, the weight of finances, abuse, busyness…any of a thousand different sucky parts of life, I can’t think of a single problem that wouldn’t be made lighter by setting down the need for working it out alone and openly sharing the dark parts of life and hearing someone say, “Me too.”
Sometimes life isn’t all shiny, but I’m going to try to more fully work with my whole self…the light and the dark that is within me and give you the opportunity to accept me right where I’m at that day. Ups or downs. Highs or lows.
I’m willing to step up on the good days and give the world my shiniest, funniest, happiest, most magnanimous best…AND…on the low days, I will practice having compassion for myself and accepting myself exactly where I am…still figuring it all out.
No matter the highs or lows this year, I will keep showing up and asking for your input and sharing with you the ups and the downs as I navigate the intricate facets of everyday living.
We can do it, AND we don’t need to do it alone.