Extreme much? Here's another way...
I remember sitting in my therapist’s office several years ago (probably twelve). Gail was her name and she’s everything a brilliant therapist is in my mind: accepting, compassionate, wise, firm, seasoned by her own broken story, and the kind of listener that makes you feel like you’re the only soul on the planet.
I was in the chapter of my life I refer to as the “falling” stage. Everything around me seemed to be crumbling and my job was to let it do so against every ounce of my will. She held the sacred space for that painful season to unfold. At every break, she simply wanted to better understand me, not try to fix me. Gail saw me.
Have you ever been in that frustrating place where the best and safest thing to do is NOT break the fall? I’ve often heard this with surfing and skydiving, for example (two pastimes I have zero experience with). In my understanding, there are actual ways we must learn to fall—to lean into the plummet.
Resisting with tension, grit, and that secret stash of Xanax bars you snaked from your mama’s medicine cabinet aren’t included.
Gail patiently taught me how to fall, over time. Something she said to me one day, in the vortex of my despair was, “Katie, it doesn’t have to look a certain way. You get to choose.”
Those words stuck with me perhaps more than anything else she ever said. Funny how that works isn’t it? We usually remember much more poignantly how people make us feel, not necessarily what they say. However, these are some of the few words still glued on.
Much of my struggle was existing in a world of extremes—all-or-nothing thinking—you know, “either-or.” Either I would be alone and depressed my whole life with little hope for anything or I’d be Miss Perfect: married with kids, a clear cut path forward, an enviable career, oh, and liked by all.
Looking back, I’m so grateful that zipped up idea of success stayed just that, an idea.
Falling for me meant moving from this dualistic, binary brand of extremes and living into the open relief that life, in fact, didn’t have to look a certain way. It could be the messy middle, or, the “both-and.”
I could feel striking depression and understand that hope was available. I could feel lonely, longing for relationship and community and know that it very well may look different in several weeks time. I could long for certainty and lean into the unknown. Richard Rohr calls it “holding creative tensions.”
Holding the tension between a longing and its unmet fulfillment is indeed a creative, tight space. It looks a whole lot like faith.
Does your extreme thinking feel exhausting? Do you find yourself awfulizing situations by projecting worst-case scenarios onto perfectly neutral possibilities? If so, I feel you. It’s a relentless crapshoot.
I believe that old way of “either-or” is how we learned as kids to make sense of the world growing up. However, as adults that rigid mindset needs some revising. What if we could practice a softer, more curious approach?
Next time you get stuck in either-or thinking, simply notice it, honor it, and let it be. Then ask yourself what you’re needing in the moment. Is it hope, acceptance, a friend, time, or provision?
Find the space in that very moment that allows for the lack as well as the possibility. “I’m overwhelmed with deadlines, and, I know there is light at the end of the tunnel.” Or “I’m so angry with my friend and how she’s treating me, and, she may be really struggling right now.”
Let’s lean into the contemplative, creative space that invites more possibility, yes?
Love & Gratitude,