I am an only child, but I have siblings. I am a strong, capable, independent woman, but I am currently fully dependent on my male partner. I have a group of friends and family who I love so deeply I still see them around every corner, nearly seven years after I left them for a new destination. I cried so hard at the airport that day that I lost my breath and ran out of tears. But I still got on the plane. I call Utah home, but London is equally as comforting for different reasons, and although my physical home is currently in Oman, I spend most of my days looking forward to my next home, a place I have never lived and have only been to once.
My life is complicated. Life is complicated.
And yet I have developed a habit of seeing the world in black and white, good and bad, true or false. Fully accepting life’s inherent complexity and uncertainty takes a level of bravery and stamina I haven’t taken the time to thoroughly develop. Sitting calmly amidst paradoxes and dichotomies takes a level of academic confidence I lack. Kneading out the grains of truth from a sticky ball of life takes skill and dexterity, and for whatever reason I have been utterly unwilling to get my hands messy.
Instead, I often twist and turn a complicated reality, contorting it until it fits into a binary mold. Then I operate under those conditions and throw a small fit when this doesn’t lead to that but leads to the other instead. I want to know it all and I want to know that I know it all. Not so that I can boast of my intelligence or capability, but so that I don’t have to experience perplexity or confusion about what will happen in my future or the role my past played in getting me there. I want life to be packaged up neatly with a big fluffy bow and I want it to have a hand-calligraphed card on it saying:
I want life to be simple. I want it to be easily understood through the stark contrasts of black and white, high and low, yes and no.
But do I, really? Would I truly enjoy living in a world so lacking in nuance and subtlety. Swimming around a fish bowl every day is binary. Swim or stay still. Eat or don’t eat. Live or die. Fine for a fish, perhaps, but it comes up lacking for this complicated human.
I revel in the depth and complexity of the people I love, slowly learning more about them over time, wrapping myself in more and more levels of their love in return. I delight in the scientific discoveries that constantly make our world a more fascinating place to be, all because of its seemingly endless complexity. I even seek out the discordant trill of uncertainty, the vibration that tells me I am at the edge of my comfort zone and things could get much more interesting from here on out.
You see, I do appreciate complexity and uncertainty, so long as they stay where they belong: in the realm of intellectual pursuits and high adventure. They are not regularly invited into the boring, mundane considerations of my day-to-day existence. There I am uninterested in accepting any messiness or confusion.
But if day-to-day life isn’t complicated, I don’t know what is. And I don’t know what “life” consists of except the chain of ordinary days strung between intermittent moments of purposeful adventure. It is in this realm of the absolutely ordinary where I am working to accept that nothing can be broken down into two simple possibilities and that, instead of seeing reality as a stark contrast of black and white, I need to appreciate, and even relish, its beautiful and infinite shades of grey.