One of the many challenging aspects of living is to understand and experience that two seemingly opposing things can be true. This life lesson doesn’t come easily however, because as humans, we like to keep things simple. Black and white, either or. Our brains are designed to put things into nice, neat, and uncomplicated categories. This sorting and categorizing serves an important purpose: it’s a lot easier for us to interact with our world this way. Everything seems to settle into a nice category. Happiness and sadness. Good people and bad people. Healthy food and unhealthy food. True and false. Jean Piaget, a prolific child development researcher and psychologist suggests that when new information comes into our brains, we have two options: fit it nicely into an existing category or schema (assimilation) or do a complete overhaul of the categories to fit the new information (accommodation). At some point each of us realizes that our world is not so simple and our categories do not seem to fully encapsulate our experiences with life.
Embracing the “AND” or holding two ideas at once can be very freeing. Think about holding these truths: You are resilient AND you need a break, you are kind AND have boundaries, others have it worse AND your pain is valid, you are independent AND you still need others, you can be sad and grieving AND relieved and joyful, you are strong AND you need support, you can be sure about something AND change your mind, you are sad sometimes AND you are happy. Someone has suggested that perhaps that’s why we have two hands—to be able to hold the complexity of feelings and experiences of life. Dual feelings and beliefs can be equally true. One of them doesn’t cancel out the other. Writer and podcaster Tsh Oxenreider says it this way: “Two opposing things can be equally true. Counting the days till Christmas doesn’t mean we hate Halloween. I go to church on Sundays, and still hold the same faith at the pub on Saturday night. I shamelessly play a steady stream of eighties pop music and likewise have an undying devotion to Chopin. And perhaps most significantly: I love to travel and I love my home.” Somehow it seems that as we get older life presents to us many more nuanced, gray areas that don’t fit into nice, neat, black and white categories. Sometimes we need to be easy on ourselves and others, we are all just doing our best! We can celebrate AND be challenged by the fact that we are complex, loving, impassioned individuals that deserve to feel a range of emotions without judgement from ourselves or others.