Both And


The more off kilter I am, the more black and white my world becomes. I think it’s a kind of coping strategy. A way to order and manage and keep things inside my mind under control. Not a trace of grey here! Everything is good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or terrifying. Either Or. It may be false, but it sure is neat and tidy.

In the last few years I’ve begun to lose my ability to see the world in quite this way. I think it has to do with being a part of this family. Something about the intensity of these relationships has burned right through the dichotomy. Long before Yogi and Monkey arrived I understood the falseness of this kind of thinking. I totally got it on an intellectual level. I am a psychologist after all, but at a gut level those boundaries made me feel safe and I hung on to them  for dear life.

These days it’s impossible to escape the BothAnd-ness, the wholeness, of everything. There is not one thing about life in this family that is not colored with shades of grey. Two boys playing together in a bathtub is incredibly sweet, but it is also a riot of splashing and resisting getting your face washed and the occasional wailing episode that follows any head bump. Rocking your baby in the dead of night is a precious thing, but your neck is sure to get a crick and night is cold without socks.

What I’m saying is that it’s a lot. This everything-all-at-once kind of living. So far this year has been a crash course in BothAnd-ness. Every time I turn around something is either spectacularly lovely or soul-crushingly awful. Shootings followed by births followed by explosions followed by pregnancies followed by loss followed by healing. And on and on it goes. In both the great big world “out there” and my own personal little world “in here”.

Just yesterday Yogi and I were at our neighborhood Farmers Market preparing to buy our weekly “pop-so-ba” (popsicle to the non-Yogi) when we were met with toddler disaster. After beginning the popsicle enthusiasm the night before and walking all the way from the bagel shop where we had breakfast to the market talking only of the popsicle (a distance of maybe a mile and a half), we were met with no wireless connection for the card machine and no cash in our pockets. This could mean only one thing. NO POP-SO-BA!!!! As Yogi was preparing to launch into a frenzy of devastation, an older man handed me a strawberry popsicle. Just the flavor Yogi had requested. He smiled as I thanked him and no sooner had I handed Yogi his prize than my hero was asking whether I liked chocolate. I hadn’t intended to order one for myself, but I accepted gratefully and enjoyed every bite.

It was a little thing. A small every day kindness, but it filled me up. Helped me hear the birds singing and the fierce blueness of the sky on our walk home. I had spent the morning in my head. Thinking mostly of how terrible everything seems. How a man from Tupelo MS could put ricin in the mail and how anyone could ever set off an explosion in the middle of a marathon and how families that dream of babies lose them while families that feel complete learn that they are not. How any of this happens and how it keeps happening. None of these things are things I’ve been able to let go of. To pry out of my clenched little fist. The popsicle didn’t make all of that go away like magic, but it did clear out a little space. Space to notice the rest of the world. To see the new flowers all around me and really hear the chatter of family. To make room for the beauty alongside the ugliness.

Kindness will do that.


9 thoughts on “Both And

  1. The more I live, the less I believe in almost anything except kindness. If I have a God, kindness, more than love, is what it consists of. I am seriously considering tattooing part of the Mary Oliver poem I’m obsessed with right now onto my body, the part about kindness, the part about how that’s what grief gives us: the chance to notice things. “How I linger / to admire, admire, admire / the things of this world / that are kind.” Kindness. It makes the love and sweetness all the sweeter and the darkness bearable. And for what it’s worth, you are a great bringer of that particular magic. I’m glad a kind man brought you some when you needed it.

  2. This post made my day, and has reminded me to offer small acts of kindness to others, because we never know what they’re going through. What a lovely thing for that man to do. Cx

  3. Lovely. Kindness and tenderness are just so damn good. Such a gift to give to both strangers and the ones we love, and so inexplicably affirming when we receive it ourselves.

  4. Goodness. I hope I’m not the only one with tears in my eyes after reading this. A relatively small gesture, that pop-so-ba, but what an impression it made. I feel inspired.

  5. So true. So touching. Thank god for that pop-so-ba savior (!) and may we all learn to live in the BothAnd. In our own (seemingly constant) upheavals, I try to remind myself to accept the gray areas. Thanks for this.

  6. Lady! Your writing has changed. Seriously. Amazing. I can’t tell if it’s content or form, but something happened to you, I’m sure of it. Yay for your popsicle hero.

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