I don’t know whether this is a uniquely American problem…or if it’s more of a universal human problem…but it’s amazing to me just how many people fall into the either-or trap.
You are either happy in your relationship, or you are not.
You are either grateful, or you are striving for more.
You are either content, or you are stressed.
You are either sensitive, or you are strong.
You are vulnerable, or you are capable.
You are an optimist, or you are a realist.
You have faith, or you have doubt.
Over the last few days, I’ve listened as friends have told me about the challenges they are facing at their place of work…or the uncertainty surrounding their unemployed status. They have told me about the challenges in their relationships, or the woes of being single.
Many of them start with something akin to “I know I have a lot to be grateful for…” followed by a pained expression as they say, meekly,
And you know what?
You’re allowed to be both.
More than that…you are always both.
It’s perfectly reasonable to be grateful to have a job AND feel overwhelmed by all the changes being thrust upon you at the office as your superiors ask you to pivot and change your workflow.
It’s entirely understandable that you are both grateful to have a beloved to come home to and/or healthy children…AND be desperate to have some time alone to simply be still for five minutes.
It is valid to feel at-ease as a single person who does not need to manage the emotions of other people, while also feeling the pangs of loneliness as you stay home, again, for yet another day of solitude.
Life is not an either/or answer. It’s a both/and question.
To give you some personal context…in my life, at least at this moment, I am single and I am employed. There is a lot of wonderful that comes with that status. When I walk into my apartment, the only two beings around to greet me are my dog and my cat – and they are always delighted to see me. I am in a position that requires me to go to work, which means I get to leave the house. I have no children I need to home-school. I have no spouse who comes home to me lamenting about the woes of his day. There is no one around asking for me to take on their challenges. There is no one I need to account for but myself. So…basically…my life is filled with contentment and ease.
I am a single person aiming to make a sustainable life for myself amidst trying and uncertain times. There is no lover I can come home to and lean on for comfort, and no sense that said option will emerge any time soon. I am employed right now, but should that change (and I am oh-so-very-aware that it could at any moment), it is only me, myself and I who will be around to figure out next steps. That isn’t to say I don’t have friends who love me or family who would happily help me if they are in a position to do so. But…I mean…you get where I’m coming from, right?
The point I’m trying to make, here, is not “so feel bad for me, too, guys!” The point I’m trying to make is, quite simply, that regardless of where you are or what circumstances you find yourself in, you are probably facing very real challenges. ALSO…I imagine there is probably at least one thing (probably more) that you are wildly grateful for.
Look on social media and you’ll find a flurry of people who fall in one of two camps. You’ll see people who are saying “awe fuck it. Just give me some junk food and some Netflix. I’m just trying to get through this thing.” You’ll also see people saying “No! I’m not going to take this lying down! I’m going to be nimble and quick. I’ll use this time to start my own business! I’ll use this time to refocus my attention on my relationship! I’ll use this time to get 6-pack abs!”
If you see yourself in any of those quotes, please don’t take any offense. I certainly don’t mean any.
But my only question is….are you sure it’s not both? It is for me. My hunch is that YOU are probably a little of both as well.
There are days when I find myself charged and ready to hit the road with a tank full of ambition to get me to my vision of a better future.
There are also days when I realize “oh…wait…it’s okay to sit still. It’s okay to rest. Life is hard. This is a marathon. Take a breather.”
So if you find yourself, at any point, feeling like an extra character in a looney-tunes cartoon, I only ask that you take a moment to remember you are not crazy. There is nothing wrong with you. If you are confused and lonely and overwhelmed and excited and optimistic and terrified and desperate for connection and desperate for space…
You are merely human.
If you’re coo-coo for cocoa-puffs right now, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It means you’re doing it right.
Welcome to the world of counter-intuitive paradox. Do enjoy your visit.
Also…remember…you are not alone.