Thursday, December 20, 2012

Living in the Gray

Ten weeks ago I was living in the now. Today I'm living in the gray. Well "now" is "gray," so maybe it's all the same.

I grew up seeing the world in black and white. Maybe all kids do, but I think my robust church-going and Bible-reading youth especially instilled in me a comfortable association with rules and the "right and wrong" ways to live. My Type A, perfectionistic personality also contributed to my embracing a life lived inside my own carefully constructed box.

I realized this week that recently I've stepped out of that box, discarded some of my longstanding rules, and said good-bye to the certainty and safety of a black-and-white existence. This has nothing to do with my moral code and little to do with my faith. Instead, it's about how I think about life today and in the future.

Perhaps this is another part of growing up. As a youth, you have this vision of what your life is going to look like, where you'll be in 10 years, what job you'll hold, when you'll get married, at what age you'll have kids, and so forth. But then inevitably you realize those dreams and all of that idealism and your picture-perfect perspective is not real life. And that safe box of predictability and contentment cracks...or shatters.

I think this happens to all of us as we gain life experience and human wisdom. But for me, this box-shattering and black-and-white blending is about accepting that I do not know what the future holds, and coming to terms with the discomfort that creates within me. Some days I'm content with not knowing, not having a plan. Some days I'm so uncomfortable with the absence of certainty that I either obsess or disengage—neither of which are constructive.

I continue to realize how far my people pleasing nature reaches. Not until I allow myself to be influenced by others' opinions or questions do I begin to think that I should feel a particular way, or that I should be charting a a specific course of action. Even if I feel a peace in the process, I am easily swayed by your voice.

And that enrages me about myself.

Because your voice will always be there. But this is my journey, not yours. Your box may be intact, but don't try to fit me within your lines, please. You may have a lot of unanswered questions, appropriate concerns, and well-meaning opinions, but please keep this in mind: I, and I alone, have to answer for my own happiness. I have to chart my own course. To you, it might be simple—it might be black and white.

But me? I'm living in the gray. And I'm OK.

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