The binary world we live in has us constantly drawing lines in the sand around us. Am I “with” you? Or “against” you? Do I agree? Or do I see it differently?” Am I “at Peace” or am I unsettled?” Am I “in” or am I “out?”

The contrast in our identities has played out viscerally in the US Political Arena. Taking sides, rising up, accusations, violence…Although I will not comment specifically on Politics, I will point out what a blatant example of how extremism leads us further from, rather than closer to, our shared (even if unseen) goals. With no room in the middle there are only two opposing views, leading us to miss out on all the intelligence, creativity, and solutions that sit in between.

As a young Mom who lost my Daughter in 1997, I spent a lot of time in grief therapy. The world seemed binary to me at that time. “Alexis was alive, now she is dead.” Hard stop. I couldn’t see anything in between.

My compassionate and dedicated counselor led me down a path that opened my eyes, not just about my grief, but about everything. We were discussing my desire to become a PICU nurse in Alexis’ honor. I felt it was wrong to do something so positive when I was in such pain, and also felt that it was wrong to live life well, after she’d been taken from me.

My counselor gave me a new view: “It is not inspite of Alexis dying” that you are moving toward a contribution to the world by serving as a nurse, but “rather, because” Alexis lived.

The ah-ha moment for me in my late 20s was that we don’t have to choose sides. We can stay open to everything in between. “BOTH, I love Alexis AND serving the pediatric medical community honors her.” Instead of “Either I will be a basket case grieving mother without her daughter for the rest of my life, or I will go on as if nothing happened.”

The concept of the “Both, … And” has been with me ever since. Recently I asked a close friend who has also lost a child, what she knows for sure. Her answer was poignant: “I can smile and feel joy while being excruciatingly sad, all in the same moment.”

Staying open to navigating the duality of life’s seeming oppositions, allows us to at least take a peek at what exists between two polar opposites. Then we can choose from more than just two options.


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