Recognizing Your “Both… And” Traits


This post started as a reflection on saying good-bye to the house that my parents have owned since I was three years old. But, as reflections are wont to do, it began to take a different path, a path that recognized a contrast within who I am. Sometimes it takes a landmark occasion to prompt you to put words to something like that.

Several days ago, as I fell asleep in the room I slept in as a young child, I recalled figments of my childhood imagination. I loved the story of Peter Pan. I have a distinct memory of my mom drawing me a picture of what the clock would look like at the time I could turn on the television to watch the animated TV series.  I used to pretend Peter would come visit me at night the way he would visit Wendy.

I have always related to Wendy. She’s rarely included in the “Which Disney character are you?” quizzes (people forget there are lots of Disney movies that aren’t about princesses), but if I were any character, it would be Wendy. She’s the mother figure to her brothers and the lost boys, the responsible one; yet, she’s the little girl who doesn’t want to leave the nursery and grow up. I was usually the responsible one of my friend group and often felt older than my peers; yet, I was a crumbling mess when it came to leaving my home and family to go to college. Now, I’m the independent career woman who owns her own home; yet, I feel like a little girl in shock that her mother is moving to an unfamiliar place.

There are times that I haven’t been ok with this contrast. There are times when the ambitious, independent me would shush the scared, homesick me, or when the ultra-sensitive me would shut out the tenacious version. But I’ve come to know–love, even–that this contrast is simply part of who I am. I’m not either one or the other; I’m both one and the other. Instead of spending my energy worrying about the fact that the contrast exists, I can let the strengths of both traits play out (while coping with the weaknesses entailed in each).

We all contain many of these contrasts, and some are more defined in us than others. This particular contrast is pretty defined for me… right down to more than one piano instructor observing my strange combination of adeptness for Bach (structured, predictable) and Chopin (flowing, emotional). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, then, that it comes out in occasions like wedding planning. I make choices based on strong personal statement (like wearing a color rather than white) while at the same time making choices specifically to make the ceremony feel, well, not traumatic (like choosing comforting, familiar music). It doesn’t seem to make sense to make choices that could draw unsettling attention while at the same time trying to make things as calm for yourself as possible.

But we don’t live in an either/or world. And we’re not either/or people. 

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