Moving From either/or To both/and

Photo by: Daniel Convertino (IG: @danielconvertino)

Photo by: Daniel Convertino (IG: @danielconvertino)

After staring at my blank computer screen for two days, yesterday I decided to make a video instead of writing a blog. I have been thinking a lot lately about embracing a “both/and” life and I wanted to share some thoughts. Sometimes writing is hard! So first, I’d love to hear from y’all. Do you like the videos or are blogs better? A combination, maybe?

I spent most of my life living in a very black or white, good or bad mindset. It wasn’t until I found out that my Mom had cancer — on my son’s first birthday! — that my mindset started to shift. Over the next 6-9 months every day felt bittersweet. When someone you love is dying there aren’t any totally sweet moments. In the joy there is always a painful reminder of the future. But even in those moments we get to decide whether we embrace it all, and still feel the joy, marred with pain, or if we block is all out. I chose the former. Don’t get me wrong, while I was in the thick of these days I was bitter about it. I resented that my pregnancy and my son’s birthday were forever linked to cancer — and the pain that came with it. But now I can look back and see how this terribly painful time was also an invitation to a new life.

Here’s my story…

What do you think? Can you relate?

Here’s the other thing. I think that this either/or stuff is totally linked to my capacity as a social justice change agent. Thankfully my friend, mentor, and phenomenal coach, Dr. Kathy Obear, helped me recognize and overcome the limitations of my black & white mindset. I can’t even count how many times I wondered — or asked someone! — what the right way to be an ally was. What’s the right thing to do as a white person? But here’s the thing. There is no one right way. There are many ways and all of them are messy.

I also know that my right/wrong mindset fostered significant white fragility and defensiveness in me. If I was either right or wrong, there was not room for multiple perspectives. It was about protecting my ego and being right, versus leaning into the discomfort to be more just and loving. What does it even mean to be “right” when “right” isn’t rooted in justice?! Right or wrong doesn’t consider goals or outcomes, it only sees ego and fear.

My goal now is to be able to hold multiple truths. To hold my intention and to hear the impact and accept the consequences of that impact on someone else. If I can hold all of that, then I can leave an interaction full of information that I can download and make sense of. I leave with an opportunity to be more aware, more compassionate, more just, more loving, and more inclusive.

Keeping a both/and mindset, and embracing a bittersweet life, has dramatically improved my life. I was able to stay present and engaged during some of the most painful moments of my life— while my Mom was dying — celebrating the joy of our loving relationship and feeling the deep pain of grief. But I have also been able to take risks with my business, engage in difficult conversations with my children, and build a life that reflects who I am and not what I thought was right or good.

How is a black & white or either/or mindset showing up in your life? And how is it limiting you? What strategies have you embraced for letting go of this mindset and embracing both/and? I’d love to hear!