I love the beginning of something. The promise of a fresh start with no mistakes always makes me feel hopeful. The first day of a new job, the first day of vacation, the first time driving a new car…these are all things that include a little bit of the unknown. As I say this, I realize the paradox in my feelings about new things and the unknown. On one hand, I have often thought that if my life was a book that I could read the last chapter of, to know it turned out ok, I would be less anxious about the uncertainty of what lies in between then and now. And yet, as long as I could remember, I have had the belief that things could get better if they were bad. That interesting adventures where right around the next corner. This contradiction of loving new things and being afraid of uncertainty is a paradox that I know is present in my life.
One of my life goals is to write a book on universal truths. These are things I see in the world over and over in different ways. They show up every day in big and small ways. People who have extensive education see them and people who have no formal education see them. They are things that feel like they come from the deepest places in our soul. When we hear them, we collectively nod, like all that are hearing it know it to be truth.
The first universal truth I hold dear is that paradox is present, even necessary, in my life.
It is present in the lives of my clients and especially in the world at large. Some people really struggle with this, and some days I do too.
Para is a word of Greek origin, meaning distinct from. Doxa is also Greek, meaning opinion. A quick Google search, provides several definitions I love for the word paradox.
Paradox – a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or truth.
Paradox – a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.
Contradictory features! That makes me we want to look right, look left, and wonder who just saw me.
Contradictory features first became real to me in middle school. Yes, it was true that I wanted to be liked. It was also true that being liked often meant behaving in ways that did not fit who I was, or at least who I wanted to be.
In working with divorced parents in my practice who are trying to navigate tough co-parenting issues, I see paradox all the time. A mother knows his ex-husband loves their child but sees him ignoring their daughter on his visitation nights to spend time with a new girlfriend. A teenage girl wants to be kind to a friend that is not welcome at her lunch table but sticking up for a friend being left out forces her to spend precious social capital she may never get back. A young professional just out of college wants to live a simple life with meaningful work and travel but struggles with a definition of success from their family and peers that say success is measured in your job and your bank account.
The reason we struggle with paradox is that both parts of it are true at the same time. It leaves us cocking our head like Scooby Doo, Zoinks. Carl Jung tells us “the paradox is one of our most valuable spiritual possessions only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life.”
Fullness of life? Sign me up! That is what I want.
But it comes at a cost. The cost is that we have to stretch ourselves and struggle with the reality that some things we once thought were concrete are fluid. Some experiences that we thought meant one thing, mean something completely different at a different point in our lives. Getting to the place where that is ok, can be a beautiful place to be.
I would love it if you walked that path with me. You never know what might be around the next corner. I am braver when I walk the path with friends but some days, I do it alone. I do it alone and I find belonging with myself. Paradox found!
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