The Problem with Either/Or

From our earliest days, the world teaches us to think in either/or and like/not like patterns.

Babies wear pink or blue. Well, they used to, when we were learning to think about the world.

We’re from around here or not.

Our earliest school days were spent on questions like which one is not like the others.

I literally remember being beet red embarrassed in first grade when presented with pictures of an orange, a lemon, a lime, and a banana and being herded into choosing which was not like the others.

First, let’s just admit that the whole concept of citrus fruit may be a bit of a fine distinction for a 6 year-old raised the Midwest US.

I just thought they were all fruit.

Race. Gender identification. Age. Social and political persuasions. Religious labels.

Sometimes it seems our whole world is organized around the notion of us or them.

And it’s not just an external thing.

There are also internal categories. Happy or sad. Loving or angry.

In fact, I remember learning somewhere along the way that humans could only experience one emotion at a time.

I almost said, just now, that, in my experience that isn’t true.

Instead, let’s go with the notion that, while it may be a useful idea some of the time, it may also not be a universal experience.

Friday was a day like that for me.

My mom would have turned 83 on Friday. I felt blessed and sad.

Blessed about having had a mom who loved me, who genuinely did the best she could.

Sad that she’s not here to see my girls growing and learning and being amazing people.

Blessed by an unexpected chance for a long chat with Dave.

Sad at the news of Tony Bourdain’s apparent suicide.

Sad for grieving friends and dreams cut short, closer to home.

I felt some other things, too.

Excited by progress with my painting.

And a bit anxious about some of the next steps in the larger journey of becoming an Intentional Creativity leader. Maybe a bit more than a bit!

Reminded that life is a great deal more about ambiguity than it is about certainty.

So… what do I write in the face of all that?

Three things come to mind.

  • Perhaps it would help if we were at least as conscious of the both/and nature of life as we are about the either/or’s that surround us.
  • The ability to claim what is precious, even in the face of what hurts, opens our emotional doors to hope.
  • And, an old favorite… assume less!

Check, as the Facebook sages have been reminding us, on your friends and loved ones. ALL of them.

Be where you are.

Reach out if you need company or perspective or someone to listen.

Sometimes the strongest, most hopeful thing we can do is to ask for help.

And make soup! (Also art!!!)

Some of you may be wondering about the art for today. It’s an image that appeared for me in a guided visualization as part of the painting I’ve been working on. The visualization had a lot to do with doors and keys and key holes. (I didn’t realize that the image was perhaps supposed to be more in my head — where I don’t so much do images — as in the middle of my painting.)

So there it is. A little bare foot, minus the classic t-shirt, and a key with the initials SA.

They stand for the Latin phrase, solvitur ambulando, which means, literally, “It is solved by walking” and, figuratively, that problems are solved by taking concrete action. 

In my world, a polite suggestion by the being in my painting that some intentional walking might be in order. 

In the world where we all live, a reminder that, perhaps, there are lots of things to do if we want things to be different. 

Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope




2 comments on “The Problem with Either/Or”

  1. Just loved this post! First because I loved hearing from a fellow IC creator; it makes me feel less alone with my struggles in the training. Second, I love the idea of looking at things around us from the perspective of both/and instead of either/or!

    And third, Be Where You Are. Luv, luv, luv. 💕

    How often to we forget to do that?

    Thank you for this reminder.

    PS. And I am a firm believer that the creation, and the consumption, of soup is Gods miracle to healing the soul! 😄🙃

    1. Thanks, Lynn, for your comments! So glad you’re here with another IC perspective!

Comments are closed.

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach