A theme in the Magpie comments over the past many years: women moving from an “either/or” mindset to a “both/and” one. That is:
I can be frustrated by my circumstances and grateful for them.
I am enough right now and I can continue to grow.
I can be fatigued as a mom and ecstatic to be a mom.
I can be cerebral and interested in lighter-weight pastimes.
I can exercise self-discipline and self-compassion.
In short, a woman contains multitudes. She is many things at once, and often those “things” appear or feel ill-at-ease with one another. She is irreducible, a pairing of improbably high numerator and denominator.
I have two recent, skittering thoughts on this front:
First, many of the Magpie comments along these lines have encouraged an “abundance” mindset that has been personally generative for me. I recently chatted with a mother expecting her second child who shared fears that she would not be able to love her second the way she loved her first. I understood the anxiety acutely. However, both in my lived experience as a mother to two and in the received wisdom from Magpies in the comments section, I knew she had nothing to fear: there is no love economy. There is only more, and more, and more. I have been reflecting on this conversation, and on the concept of an “abundance mindset” since, applicable as it is to so many areas of interest and effort in my life: parenting, creativity, friendships, curiosity. It can be difficult to square the mindset with the push and pull of a very busy life, where there are real and constant negotiations with the limited hours each day presents. In fact, recently, I have been toying with a provocative question in a splashy article on teens and depression in The Atlantic: “What are teens displacing with the time spent on their phones?” The article has a lot of meat on the bone that merits its own separate conversation, and I recognize I am cherry-picking here for my own purposes, but I fixated on the notion of displacement. I have found myself asking: “What am I displacing by choosing to do X right now?” The very question flies in the face of an abundance mindset — and yet: I live by clock and calendar. The constraints are real. On further examination, though, perhaps the question is not so discordant with an abundance mindset: it asks me to think generatively about all the options in front of me and then to prioritize instead of acting by habit, or happenstance, or convenience. It is about surfacing and evaluating a breadth of opportunities rather than prematurely foreclosing on them.
Second, my devotional had an interesting essay in which the author, Cleere Reeves, writes: “Life is marked with immense and joy and intense suffering, and the presence of one does not diminish the existence of the other. Rather, it is the experience of both that helps us realize the difference. The depths of grief reveal the heights of joy. The paralysis of fear highlights the momentum of courage. The strength required for battle makes us yearn for the restful posture of peace.” I loved this line of thought, and especially the comment that “the presence of one does not diminish the existence of the other.” So well-put, and applicable also to the notion that I can feel and be many things at once.
Do you have any tactics, frameworks, or advice for accommodating “multiplicities” like these? How have you learned to hold different “states” simultaneously and lovingly?
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