As a general rule, I choose to live my life in that awkward grey space that sits between two extremes. Life, as I’ve experienced it, isn’t all white or all black. It’s rarely all good or all bad. Most of the time, my journey has been a mix of bleeding watercolours that have created an intricate abstract painting.
There are moments, of course, when the middle ground is invaded by the extremes, and it shrinks considerably. There are times of intense joy, relief, or overwhelming love and acceptance. There have been periods of severe pain, loss, and grief. In these moments, it feels like the extremes have taken over completely, and I’ll never get my life back in balance.
It’s not true, and feelings can be little liars or, at least, they can hide the realities of the world around me. If I look hard enough, I’ll find a small patch of ground in the middle of the fog. It might be smaller than it was and it’s standing room only. Sometimes there’s only enough space for a foot or a finger. But, it’s still there despite the encroaching extremes of emotions or life stressors.
Those stressors make it hard to hold my ground because everything is trying to pull me away. It would be easier to let go, follow the pack, and dive into the deep end. This is especially true in a world full of people living on the farthest ends of the spectrum. It’s a game of tug of war, and I’m standing on the rope.
How’s your balance? I can’t walk a straight line for eight paces. Stand on a rope, right in the middle, as two opposing forces yank me around? You know what my first mistake was? Trying to stand up. I should lay on my stomach and give the rope a bear hug until it stops bobbling. How do the cowboys, or girls, ride those bucking bulls? I should take some lessons from them because that’s a skill I never knew I needed.
I’m certainly not trying to be, or sound like, a martyr here. This is a lifestyle choice that I’ve willingly, purposefully, taken on. It’s a conscious decision to strive for balance. Strive is the keyword because I certainly don’t get it right all the time. I can go from zero to six thousand faster than a hummingbird, but I’m trying to slow it down.
The reason I aim to live in the centre was born out of a deep fear of the extremes. Emotional and physical severities cause destruction wherever they go. Extremism, in all of its forms and in all political ideologies, strips people of their humanity. It turns them into lower life forms that aren’t worthy of compassion, kindness, or basic decency. It’s the monster inside of us that lets us hurt and kill anyone who doesn’t belong to our group. It empowers the worst of our instincts, and it leaves too many lives in shattered.
At the risk of sounding like a snowflake, even one life destroyed by extreme views is one life too many. But the greater good is all that matters, isn’t it? Which is why we focus on the 97.3% of the population that survives and thrives? We are a peculiar species!
Oh, but there seems to be a problem with the grey.
There doesn’t seem to be room for those of us in the middle. The term centrist has become a curse word. It’s used to shame or demean. It’s a derogatory clap back aimed at someone who doesn’t join the cause du jour with fervour. It’s seen as a weakness or a copout because the world wants to oversimplify life. It wants to turn our existence into an either/or while ignoring all other possibilities.
I get it, complexities are scary, and the simplicities are more palatable. If there is a grey area where we can be both right and wrong? How do I know what the right thing is? I want to do the right thing, but it’s all muddled up. I can’t tell you what I believe. Not yet, anyway. I’m in the grey, which means I need to sort through the layers until I find a moment of clarity.
But clarity can be hard to find.
On the big things that involve social justice or balancing the greater good with the rights of individuals? It might be impossible to find perfect clarity, but somethings lean toward basic decency for the majority of us. They sit in the grey because achieving these goals isn’t easy or clear-cut. They are complex issues built on decades, centuries, of pain and bigotry.
At their core, there’s an obviousness that doesn’t obscure our vision. Things like decency, kindness, compassion, and equality shouldn’t be veiled. They can sit in the grey with room to stretch and grow because there is more work to be done.
For the record, equality is not an extreme idea. It should be an accepted part of the human experience. Every person has value. More than that, every life is precious and needed. It doesn’t matter what labels we place on our gender, identity, skin colour, ethnicity, religion or romantic inclinations. You are a gift, that should be treasured because your life is so valuable and wondrous.
It isn’t a concept that strays out of the grey. At least, I don’t think it does, but what seems obvious to me might be convoluted to some.
If I really want to live in the centre and find more balance, then I need to do some work closer to home. I’ve been so busy holding the line that I have slipped into an unhealthy mindset. At the root of that is a single word, and I need to abolish it from my vocabulary.
Well, it might still serve a purpose, so I should keep it around, but I need to keep it in check. For this moment, for this discussion, in this context, it needs to go sit in a corner and be quiet. For a little while, at least.
It’s a word I use way too much, and it comes up in many different contexts. I hear it when I look at the challenges we face as a community. It shows up in my personal life. In my struggles with mental health and in my relationships. When I’m looking back at the past or trying to see the future. This one word trips me up, and it brings me down.
It’s innocuous, really. It’s a simple little word without any teeth. It doesn’t have much bark, but its whispers are deadly. It lures me into a trap that I can’t escape. It sends me into a spiral, and when I hit rock bottom? Well, I have a week of sadness, loneliness, and exhaustion.
What’s the magic word? Always.
Life has Always been this way, so why change it now? I Always fail, so why should I try? This is how it has Always worked. Always has been, and it Always will be, so sit down and shut up. Always. Always. Always.
Used in the right — or wrong — way, it’s dismissive, and it silences voices reaching out for answers to complex questions. It’s used as an excuse to maintain the status quo when real change is needed. It’s a dream killer, but what if those dreams can lead to life-changing solutions? Always is a word that takes big ideas and turns them into something so small, they’re hardly worth the effort.
Again, I’m working closure to home on this concept because it’s one I’m struggling with. I get caught up in this cycle of wanting change, seeking it out, but then that damn word whispers in my ear. Everything I want, the things I’m trying to achieve, seem out of reach. The effort it takes to simply try is too much. It’s too hard. Who do I think I am?
I try so hard, but I Always come up short. It doesn’t matter how much work I put in; I Always miss the mark. My life isn’t where I want it, but it’s Always been this way, and it will Always be like this. Why even try if I’ll Always feel this way? Why use my voice when it Always falls on cold hearts?
I try to watch my language in these posts, but in this instance, I’ll make an exception. If you have word sensitives, then skip ahead. It’s okay, no judgement, I’m just giving you a heads up.
Always is a real mind fuck!
When I get caught up in the Always, it drags me down, and it puts out the little fire inside of me. It extinguishes the spark that keeps my dreams and hopes alive. It hides the flame that desires real change in myself, and the world. Despite the Always, I have a heartbeat and air in my lungs. I’m still alive, so I have dreams and hopes. I pray, and I keep trying to make my life worth living. Even if that life will Always be out of reach.
That word slipped in again! Did you see it? Sneaky bastard.
Instead of living in the grey, I slide into the dark, and I lose myself. I abandon the middle ground where I have room to stretch and grow. That place where I feel stronger, most at ease, becomes a rope that’s being yanked around by extreme forces. If I let the Always get into my head? I can’t stand my ground.
If you read my last few posts, it’s blatantly obvious that I’ve been struggling. My mind has been fractured and chaotic. In turn, so have the words I’ve put on the page. When it comes to this space, I strive for honesty and authenticity, so my mindset is reflected in these pages.
That mindset right now?
Chaos. A frantic grab at anything I can hold onto. An overwhelming sense of desperation. Maybe even a touch of madness? Call it what you will, but there are a lot of reasons for my recent mindset. One of those is this idea of the Always. I have been falling into the trap, and I’ve been losing hope.
It’s a horrible thing to happen to someone. Losing your hope, faith, and genuinely wondering if there’s still good out there. Losing that childlike wonder and belief that the sun will come up tomorrow. Forgetting that, despite all the challenges in the past, you’ve faced them down, and you had the courage to stand back up. Losing yourself to the Always and forgetting the Maybes is a devastating mistake.
It sounds a little wishy-washy, but when I’m stuck in that mindset, there’s one word that helps me turn it around. Maybe things can change. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe the future is brighter than I think. Maybe. Just, you know, Maybe.
Trying to counter one definitive with another is the equivalent of arguing with a brink wall in an echo chamber. I never believe it, and I just give myself a headache. If I slowly open myself up to a multitude of possibilities?
Okay, it takes time to believe in the Maybes, but if I keep at it, it sinks into my subconscious. I slowly start to look at these possibilities as viable options. When I focus on the Maybes, my grey area expands. I stretch out, let go of the bouncing rope, and let my feet land on solid ground. It gives me the chance to rekindle the flame that the Always tried to put out.
I’m working on abolishing the Always and I’m trying to focus my energy on the Maybes. The Maybes seem more hopeful than their counterpart. They certainly offer a lot more warmth for those of us living in the grey.