The thing that drives me crazy more than almost anything in the world is when someone is unwilling to consider life from a perspective other than his own. I think that 98 percent of the world’s problems would be solved if we were better at that. (The other 2 percent could be solved if everyone took a moment to enjoy a slice of pesto gouda cheese on a turkey sandwich regularly. TRUST ME, that stuff is powerful.)
I do not claim to be perfect in this arena. I have plenty of judginess welling up inside me at any given time. However, I generally am intentional about trying to imagine what’s behind other people’s behavior and words, what life must be like for them, what forces are pushing and pulling them around, even if (sometimes especially if) I disagree with them. I’m sure part of it comes from being a writer. It’s my job to learn people’s stories.
And part of it comes from noticing more and more that my own truth, who I really am and what I really want, is not so easily defined. It’s often fractured and contradictory. Less Instagram, more kaleidoscope.
Here are some truths about who I am:
In January I returned to work full-time after the birth of my daughter. Some days I ache to be with her. Others I am grateful for the break from constant providing and for the opportunity to flex my non-mom muscles. Sometimes I feel both of those things in the same hour. Or in the same second.
I am bone tired, nothing left in me at the end of the day AND yet really want to stay up to watch another episode of Bloodline on Netflix. (Is anyone else watching this show? Does it actually exist? I have seen literally zero mentions of it anywhere ever. Kyle Chandler, people!)
I am both delighted at my son’s rapidly expanding independence and set of skills AND terrified that he will suffer some catastrophic, Final Destinationish injury.
I crave a simple, meaningful, uncluttered life. I CRAVE ALL OF THE CLOTHES.
I am a calm, confident mama bear raising interesting, kind, strong children. I am a weeping mess with an embarrassing lack of patience and no clever parenting hacks.
Ketchup is great. Tomatoes are gross.
You see? Two truths at once. All over the place.
As I try to better understand myself, love my husband, take care of my children, spend money wisely, get enough sleep, and make BIG LIFE DECISIONS, these dualities can get in the way. I don’t know what to make of them. And some of them interfere with me being perfect. How annoying.
And yet there they are. I must acknowledge them, work with and through them, for better or worse. I must remind myself and hope that other people realize that one part of me does not define all of me. And that’s why I’ll try to do the same for them.
I came across this post from Design for Mankind the other day (thanks for sharing the link, Alysa Bajenaru!) that so eloquently captures this struggle:
We know that labels are for jars, and we know that we are not jars. And yet, it is an easy trap, boxing ourselves into characters or avatars, for brevity’s sake, of course. We have 140 characters, 5 minutes in the elevator, 10 minutes at a dinner party to explain ourselves, to introduce the passion that beats within our soul. To announce to the world, or whoever is in front of us, yes, yes, this is who I am. This is how I will define myself.
Nailed it. Later she writes:
And so, the new goal is this: I am what I am. I am what I have done in the past, and what I will do today, and what I plan to do tomorrow. I am a combination of my contradictory thoughts, my elemental surprises, my deepest character flaws.
After all, it is with the same hands that I scramble eggs, and braid hair, and type on keyboards. It is with the same mind that I dream of hiking and yurt-living, but with clean sheets and a fully stocked refrigerator, please. And it is with the same heart that I seek to live a life filled with love for my neighbor, and yet still find myself the passive aggressive toe-tapper at the local post office.
And it is with the same eyes that I look at your avatar and squint, knowing there, too, is much, much more.
Doesn’t that perspective sound nice? And like it would solve roughly 98 percent of our problems?