I feel stuck between two philosophies, trying to find the balance and the nuance. One tells me that you can’t wait for things to happen or to stumble across meaning, adventure, joy, etc. It’s best summed up in this quote. The other tells me that fighting for things to be different than they are is a form of aggression and control. I run through different scenarios in my life wondering how each philosophy plays out, reflecting on which I chose in various moments, and wondering what most aligns with how I want to live. I both don’t want to be an aggressor and I want to be brave in creating a life with rich connections, inspiring moments, true vulnerability, etc. Perhaps there’s a way to do both? To try to make things happen and, when they don’t, know when to let go? It’s that latter piece that I will forever bang my head against it seems. I want to believe in second (third, fourth, fifth…) chances, reunions, working through things, growing together. Of course, I can believe in this with all of me but it can still not be enough inherently because it takes two.
There’s another element of this that recently has cropped up: time. There are so many windows in life, where circumstances are just right for a period of time for something to happen. I try to keep my windows broad, thinking it allows more to happen, but perhaps it just burns me out. I wish I had a way to turn that window of opportunity on/off to align with others better. Does that make me an aggressor? Hah. Sigh.
I’ve been in the process over the last decade of seeking out healing in a very specific area of my life that involves others. I’ve had friends tell me I’ve tried everything and to feel good about moving on from those that caused harm. At the same time, I’ve been reflecting on how asking for healing on my own arbitrary timeline isn’t fair and how one can truly try everything but, if it’s the wrong time, it won’t matter. What do you do in those cases when the window isn’t there? I’m reminded of a line an old soccer coach said to me once when I was baffled by how little my teammates tried, “You can’t make people care no matter what you do.” Ironically, my job today is basically centered around getting people to care across products/roles/teams/companies, to act, and to work together.
Finding a way forward is a dance of timing and action. If you’re missing one, the momentum is lost and pain might actually intensify. One side is left baffled by there not being space to process and the other can’t even conceptualize what’s being said because it simply might not be the right time. Perhaps healing is more dependent on timing than I might realize and I have become an aggressor in trying to bring others into it when they weren’t ready. Perhaps part of giving folks a chance to recognize something is more about planting a seed and seeing what happens.
Can you think of a time when you were told something you weren’t yet ready to hear? A therapist in high school outed me to myself when I was 16 and I promptly both shut it down and later recounted it to two friends almost laughing. Can you believe she thinks I’m gay? Wild. She was 100% right and I 100% could not hear it at the time for a variety of reasons. Something in me just could not go there and I can go back to that moment so easily, feeling all the same things.
Certain truths can be hard to hear, even if they are also important, life giving, and carry with them opportunities for vast healing. Having been unable to live out different truths related to surrogacy and my queerness for so long, I have a strange relationship with wanting to pursue it all costs, forgetting that others don’t have the same desire or relationship with hard truths. Rather than recognizing our shared humanness in how hard it is to face certain things, I wonder how much I’ve just pushed ahead, unable to wait any longer. Life feels too short.
Time can be a tool though. It reminds me of how in soccer you’re taught to use the sideline as a second defender when a forward is attacking. If you can use that boundary line to your advantage you just might be able to force a pass or a misstep compared to if you positioned yourself so that the forward has more space to roam. Time feels like that a bit. It’s an element we all live with and experience differently yet it also plays a role in all of our interactions, including with healing. I continually feel that sideline is there, whereas others might completely forget. I recognize this is obvious but I’m noting it as a needed reminder for myself.
I was listening to an episode of Esther Perel’s podcast recently where she talked about the degrees of truth in the context of someone’s family not knowing they were gay:
“The same thing happens around the word truth or honesty. There are conceptions of honesty that are about telling all, transparency, but there are also understandings of honesty that are about “what is it for the other person to live with the truth?” and this is the understanding of truth that she has carried… it allows her to very comfortably say “truth is relative” and that truth interacts with other values that are equally important such as maintaining harmony, preserving closeness, not shaming the honor of the family… and truth gets titrated with these other values. It doesn’t stand alone above all else.”
I replayed this part a few times, recognizing both how much I have valued truth over the last decade or so and recognizing more ways forward. Perhaps this is the nuance I seek — a greater ability to know which situations need truth weighted above all else and knowing better which situations truth can be titrated. Of course, to a degree, we all do this in everyday life but I seem to have a clear pattern in big moments and it’s tough to know right now whether it’s something I do want to adjust at all.
Healing doesn’t happen on anyone’s timeline, whether individual healing or collective healing. In some cases, it never happens at all. What a gift to have even a taste of it. A morsel of hope. A tiny step forward, together. I never feel like there’s going to be enough time though. I sometimes bring a death bed conversation vibe to everyday dialogue, overvaluing one to the detriment of appreciating the mundane where so much hidden and simple joy lies. My thoughts run back and forth across these extremes on a loop, stopping to ponder specific details and follow rabbit holes before returning again to the same path with the hope I’ll at least be more conscious of what I’m doing, rather than relying on habit. I’d rather consciously choose.
In an interview with a comedian I adore, she said a line that stuck with me. She was talking about folks who influenced her and said, “Seeing some of those sketches when I was 15, the absurdity and the commitment to the absurdity was something I had never seen before and that made a huge impression on me.” Something about the commitment to the absurdity lit up part of my brain. I’m so hesitant sometimes to commit to my intensity, wary of the tradeoffs of picking one extreme. A friend recently told me that she’s “all in on vulnerability” and only associates with those doing the same. I both found myself totally getting it and cautiously resisting the line of logic. If we only associate with those with a shared kind of vulnerability, what and who might we miss? I could think of so many in my life that I would have outright dismissed if I was expecting a certain level of vulnerability right out of the gate. At the same time, I don’t acknowledge the downsides to not committing, perhaps it’s a sign I don’t mind the downsides too much and can tolerate them. Perhaps those downsides are the “problems I want to have“! I’d rather have the chance to know more people and different kinds of people than some pure form of connection that might be easiest for me.
I think this entire post encapsulates a broader topic that I will spend the rest of my life examining, which might just have inspired a new favorite question: What’s a topic or problem or thought you have continually cycled through in your life? Expect more words in the years to come as I continue to feel my way through these thoughts. For now, I’m leaving in the “all over the place” approach of this post — it best reflects how this all feels to think about. I can’t make more sense out of something that doesn’t make sense to me.