Just Life

And | January 2020.

Holly and I took our first walk outside the neighborhood cul-de-sac this morning. Pink-tipped trees don’t seem like January. and yet. We were both wearing our “heavy coats” because it was freezing (literally, 32 degrees). and I didn’t plan a photo like this to open a first reflection on this year’s One Little Word. and yet.

I had time with my journal a few hours before our walk:

“I am not at all sure what I want to say. maybe just a little about how I am paying attention to the ANDs. thinking/noticing my own choice of words. which is impacting how I think. holding paradox. being uncomfortable.”

Truly, I am trying hard to not say “but” or “or”. To think if I might be able to say “and” instead. (sometimes “or” really is the right choice!)

Thinking about how I chose this word, I flipped back through the pages of my “morning reading” journals*. These past few months have been full of Sarah Bessey, Madeleine L’Engle, Luci Shaw, Diana Butler Bass and Mirabai Starr. I ♥ these women’s voices. I’ve started writing “and.and.and.” in the margins and of course a ♥ or two. or three. (sometimes “or” really is the right choice.)

This entry from January 17 is a great example:

“the path of the mystics … blesses us with an expanded capacity to sit with ambiguity, to treasure vulnerability, to celebrate paradox as the highest truth.” (Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy, p. 49, emphasis mine)

I’ve been troubled by the reaction to Kobe Bryant’s tragic death. to name him good or bad and judge our response to his passing in that light. He was 41 years old and that’s too young to die. His daughter was with him and she died too. His wife and three children are still living. I am not an NBA fan. I grieve. He has a complicated (and maybe violent) history with women. He had a family. I grieve. He loved basketball. His last tweet was congratulating a fellow player on a huge accomplishment. I grieve.

I wonder why it’s so hard to hold two conflicting ideas in our heads (our hearts?) at once?

I wonder what the woman who sat at her keyboard a year ago and typed out a post about Hope would have thought about where she is today.

Today, I’m ok with it. mostly. sometimes. (and.)

THANK YOU Honoré for taking up Juliann’s mantle and hosting us again. These monthly check-ins are core to my OLW journey.

*These journals are the ones I keep for my spiritual formation reading … always dark early in the morning – it’s for my Friday morning small group (currently Mirabai Starr), which is usually 2-3 mornings a week, and the other days (which is all the rest). I don’t really journal about the other books I’m reading – and this morning’s exercise maybe makes me wish I did. Much of the work I did last year on Hope – and expect to do this year with And – came from that morning reading time. And maybe I need to branch out. The day is a lot longer than the morning. And I read a lot more than those books. (I do have a goal to Read Better this year. and maybe this will be part of it! and wow! how cool is that!)

13 Comments

  • karen

    I like how you are replacing but with and. I am on a slippery slope of holding my breath of WHERE my son will land. When you commented your wish of the same time zone, well that brought me joy. He might be very far but being in the same time zone is a blessing, isn’t it? Today it looks like a 9.5 hour drive…so we wait and see how it goes the next few weeks!

  • Juliann

    Such a beautiful post. And that question about holding two ideas, two differing opinions, I think you are getting to the heart of something. And I look forward to reading more and more and more about what you are learning.

  • Kat

    This is really so beautiful – last year was one of struggle for me in my religion walk and I have learned that my faith walk was entirely separate from that. I am happy to say that those struggles brought me to a better place, but still… my faith is not my religion… and I am very happy with that statement.

    Struggles I think are good… I have been leaning into Frederick Douglass’ wisdom ‘if there is no struggle, there is no progress’

    The best bits of my life have come through struggle. adversity. being unsettled. being unsure.

    Perhaps I need to discover who these women are (I am ashamed to say I do not have a clue) and see what wisdom they have to impart.

    Thank you so much for this post! XO

  • Sarah

    You’ve gotten me thinking with your post, especially about how hard it is to hold two conflicting views at once. What is that old saying about how people contain multitudes? We are not one-dimensional, and we’re all capable of thinking and doing things that seem contrary to our values and beliefs. And yet when we think of others, often we want them to fit neatly into one particular box. It’s something to ponder.

  • Vera

    Holding two conflicting ideas…and…yes it is difficult (and [rather than but] familiar). Looking forward to your “and journey” this year.

  • Carole

    I also wonder why we think we can have conflicting emotions at the same time. I’m angry with my brother-in-law for taking his life and leaving us to handle this loss. I love my brother-in-law and miss him and feel compassion for his despair. I can feel anger AND love at the same time, they do not have to be separate from each other. AND that’s a weird thing to try and comprehend.

  • Bonny

    It feels difficult to comprehend holding two (or more) feelings, emotions, or opinions at once, but I think that is human nature and the reality of things. It’s especially difficult if the feelings are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, but human beings are complicated beings and feel and do complicated things!

  • Patty

    You always give me something to ponder Mary and for that I say Thank-You. The two conflicting ideas are a struggle for me as well…about a lot of things!

  • Jane

    I have read some thoughts on paradox and one writer (I can’t remember her name) wrote something about the ability to hold paradox contributes to making us feel whole. I think paradox and contradiction is one of the things that makes us human. The older I get, the more I understand that things, ideas, people, are not all one thing or another. I enjoyed your thoughts on the beginning of your journey with “and.”

  • Honore´

    …AND there are some people in this world for whom there is no ambiguity, no AND – or so they’d like us to think that is the case. I think differently and appreciate that life is filled with questions and that we can constantly ask, evaluate, judge, choose, reconsider, etc…I like to think that questioning helps us make different choices, hopefully the best… and I can be/ am wrong…
    Looking forward to sharing your journey.

  • Lydia

    Feeling two conflicting thoughts is part of what makes you a caring human, and shows that you have a heart that feels. There are so, so many people out there whose hearts are just pumping blood.