I Am…Both/And

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emotional health / human experience / Uncategorized


Now that’s a concept “Both/And”….What the “F” am I talking about?  (I refuse to use the f word in this blog as I am talking, in part, about my dream guy, who just happens to be a Franciscan Priest for Christ’s sake.  That wasn’t a swear word either as I meant it quite literally.  Geez…)

In Richard Rohr’s amazing book, Falling Upward, he speaks about “Dualistic Thinking”.  Much as the term “Manage My Now” in my last blog excited me, so does this one.  I’m a word girl…what can I say?  Some people get hot over naked shit stuff. Sorry Fr. Richard, I digress…

Father Richard Rohr is probably the most human, God-like fellow I know of. He would tell me humbly to take his name off of the same pedestal as the man upstairs, but that’s the part of his humility that I adore.  Plus he’s a balding older gentleman who laughs and tells funny stories as he talks to us about deep love and relationships.  He transcends any one religion.  He knows he’s human and full of flaws (though I’ve never seen such and I don’t believe it for a minute!) and yet he is all light and spirituality and joy to me.  Maybe, just maybe he didn’t need a dark side growing up in order to be able to see through it and join others in their pain; as I did.  Maybe he did.  I don’t know as we haven’t had that discussion yet.

What Rohr has done is to open my mind completely.  He introduced terms that put all of my individual thoughts together and made me feel both validated and expanded.  Dualistic thinking very simply put is not very simple. I shall state in plain speak and then “borrow” words from the master, my crush, if you will.  It boils down to dividing information, values, and authority into right and wrong, good or bad, we and they.  It is the line of thought that believes in two mutually exclusive minds, like good and evil or ying and yang.  It is a pattern of knowing and interacting with life by the rule of comparisons.  In this we are constantly placing ourselves in the role of “judge”.  Which, incidentally, has a secondary emotional gain of consistently feeling in control or right.  Take a moment to think about some of your thoughts and reactions in your life.  If you are honest you will notice a pattern similar to that which (my) Fr. Richard describes as being:

“up or down, in or out,  for me or against me, right or wrong, black or white, good or bad…it is the basic reason why the ‘stinking thinking’ of racism, classism, religious imperialism, and prejudice of all kinds is so hard to overcome…” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

You will find your thoughts automatically may go to this not because you are inherently bad or mean or even a bully (I hope).  You find it because of the environment you and your parents and grandparents and great grandparents and so on and so forth grew up in.  This is learned behavior.  God help me, I’m here to help you unlearn it.  And that scares me because many people aren’t really open to that kind of “help”.  Or any kind of help for that matter.  Which is ok too, except if we are those narrow of the minded folk, then we aren’t open to learning and the beat lives on and on and on…how on earth will we ever be at peace when all we want is our piece?

Another favorite person Anais Nin (aka: Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa
Edelmira Nin y Culomell) says so eloquently “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”  That makes perfect sense and actually boosts my argument, which makes me so very grateful to this woman with the longest name in the history of names!

If what we’re coming from is a childhood characterized by mishandled anger, unspoken feelings, and adults lacking respect for others as well as themselves, than we certainly aren’t going to be any the wiser initially. As long as we are thinking like this we doom ourselves to remain in our little sheltered worlds of personal preferences.  Nothing and no one stands a chance.  Which says to me that we stop growing.  Our critical thinking is stifled in whatever time period we were fed and digested this idea that the world was so far in one camp or the other that there was simply no need to expand our minds any further.  Imagine that at twenty three years of age you know it all!  I know I did. I paid dearly for it too (another blog for another day).  What a pity.  So much is lost when we don’t want to gain; when we become complacent; when fear takes over.  Because that is exactly what happens.

Fear of the unknown replaces complacency.  We become rigid and hard.  We take attitudes that we are “just fine” (oy vey…you know how I feel about that!) and there’s no need to keep open to new ideas or thoughts or even feelings.  Feelings…. Ah…those damn feelings. They either suck or they don’t.  Either/or.  I disagree.  Feelings suck AND feelings really don’t (suck).  What they actually do is make us inconvenienced.  The negative ones anyway.  They show up when we most want to be Teflon-like.  They mess with our arguments.  They make us say incredibly stupid things.  They make water flow from our eyes and sounds come out of our mouths that could startle Jason from Halloween: The Movie  or  wake a coma patient’s stilling heart suggesting life over death.  Feelings are both/and. 


Eventually we may realize that kindness and caring for oneself is a big part of being healthy and happy; however, that may not come until a.) we get our heads and hopefully our entire beings out of the hole we’ve been raised in; and b.) we learn something better, something that works in getting what we need and giving others what they may need in the form of time, talent, love, compassion.  A win-win or merger-of-the-minds for my business type friends.

I’m not proud of this, but I always hoped to be that catalyst for change in a person.  I am just vain enough to want to be that person who lived the change she wanted to see in this world and so somehow became a role model to all sorts of differently hued little children and smiley adults (not my filthy mouth, of course, actions only).  My plan is not to be even remotely perfect.  Or even-tempered (for damn sure!)  Or the best looking (thank God) or even the Olympian gymnast I thought I’d become (right); not (♥sob♥)….George Clooney’s fiance’ even.   I could just go on and on, but the point being those that live in a black/white world have no vision for the grey that is so often synonymous with balance that I aspire to in my world.

I would be the template of balance.  Of course that is akin to me saying that I am about ready for this honor, which clearly I’m not; however, when I am, watch out!  I shall be comfy being the poster woman for compassion and my poster will show a picture of St. Francis of Assisi holding the paw of a moose (my favorite animal, so shut up) while the other animals rest in a beautiful show of nature…birds, trees, plants, streams, blah, blah, blah. I stand with my arms around St. F showered with tons of flowers in my hair as a delicate cherry tree branch peeks over the top of my head. An infant at my bosom.  I am fully present and ready to help. The text states simply: “she that cared deeply and lived with honesty and integrity with gobs of humor and a cherry on top”.  Unbeknownst to me, my friend, Fr. Richard photo bombs the scene, creating a masterpiece of joy, balance, love and delicious humor.

I am both ready for my mission and scared shitless to death.

I shall leave you with a thought from my main man;

“You no longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, with me or against me.  It just IS.  This calm allows you to confront what must be confronted in life with even greater clarity and incisiveness.” Falling Upward


The Author

I am a licensed clinical social worker who just happens to adore the written word. I have had a private practice and am now writing a memoir on my life in the company of my father and many of my clients who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I hope to dispel some myths and break down some barriers for those with mental illness. I write out of need and complete joy, which I hope to convey throughout my blogs. The human experience is not exclusive to one group. I hope to appeal to most as I touch on some pretty heady material with some self-deprecating humor and raw emotion thrown in for good measure. I have four amazing children, one HUGE dog and a tolerant husband. I am blessed.


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