I am a black-and-white, all-or-nothing, in-or-out type of person – no matter how earnestly I push against this label, the honest to goodness truth is this is at the core of my being and I do not foresee it changing anytime soon. I distinctly remember the day I stumbled across this particular facet of my personality. I was spread over the most comfortable chair in my parents’ living room, home from Duluth on a school break (maybe Christmas?), seated across from one of those friends who invites deep conversations like sitting around a crackling fire. He is one of those friends with whom I connect in a way that makes me ponder and consider and dream, with whom I have had more valuable and vulnerable conversations about myself and the world than just about any other person, with whom the words never run dry. For the girl who holds her heart close, holds her tongue more often than not, and must hold a high opinion of someone before they earn the gift of honesty, friends like this one come few and far between.
In the midst of the easy conversations that I’m sure included catching up on life events and analyzing life changes and chatting about the insignificant, I stated something along the lines of this: “I am coming to realize that I kinda sorta see the world in black and white. I don’t do well with the gray scale. I tend to be all in or all out. Yes or no.”
The look of raised eyebrows and half-concealed smile told me this was nothing new. He quickly informed me that, yes indeed, I was dead on and accosted me for not making such a glaringly obvious connection sooner. What can I say, I either see something with gleaming clarity or miss it completely – that’s what we’re here to talk about, remember?
I do not live in the gray.
I live in the extremes of life. I have been joyously aware and accepting of this quality as often as I have been paralyzingly terrified by it. Because I live life at a different decibel than the world around me. I feel and express joy in ways that I cannot for the life of me tone down – tears in my eyes over the sun hitting the trees just so and running through the pews with unconstrained celebration, laughter easily bubbling over and dancing in the streets when the right song captures the day. I tap into the emotion around me, celebrating fully when those I love have need to celebrate. Sometimes, I feel the world in me and around me with such dizzying clarity that I literally feel a buzz at the front of my brain and running through my body. I love the beauty of the small things, and I feel those things to my core. I feel them and am changed by them.
I feel them and am changed by them. The sharp pain of rejection and the dull ache of being second best. The pain and heartbreak and regret of those I love. I carry them right up next to my heart. I am changed by them. I feel them at a deeper level.
Black or white. Up or down.
In or out.
I react to the world in the same way my emotions and body react. I accept and celebrate or I deny and hide. I rarely settle into a comfortable place in between. Nope. Jumping off the cliff or refusing to play. I see the bad and decide to avoid or I am blind to any negative and am all in.
As I have gotten to know myself better in this specific way, my continual hope is that I will be able to change my habits, change my brain, change my reaction to the world. So far, I am woefully unsuccessful.
What I really need to focus on is accepting my personality in all its good and bad. I believe in the good with the bad, the light with the dark, the glitter with the dull. I truly, truly do. I believe life is made more beautiful beside pain, and happiness is more true when found amidst sadness. But man, oh man, am I having trouble believing that when it comes to the way my brain is. I would rather do an overhaul and come out the other side with better ways of thinking, and acting, and being. I would rather trade in this part of my personality for one that seems to have fewer glitches. The plea on my lips during late-night moments of vulnerability among friends: “I just want to – need to – feel less.”
But I don’t think God works like that.
He may have plans to grow me. To change me and how I react to the world. But for right this very moment, I believe he is sitting with me in this messy, black-and-white place and letting me learn lessons in the hard way.
To be quite honest, I don’t learn lessons in any other way – unless, of course, I wholeheartedly dive in.
Latey, I am holding my too-tender heart tightly and allowing the people who know and love me best speak life into my bruised soul. This way of being is a blessing. Feeling every bit of the world around me deeply has nurtured in me deep compassion and fierce love, given me eyes to see to the core of the broken-hearted, and caused me to seek out moments to celebrate every single day. I admit with trepidation how very dark my black is when it comes, but I am also learning to welcome the bright, bright white born of a life not lived in the gray.