Thursday, May 20, 2010

Caution and Contrast

Note: This post is expanded from a comment I left recently on Reina's blog. She's awesome, by the way.

I'm a very cautious person. Probably too cautious. I told a friend of mine that recently, and he immediately agreed. I take a long time to make decisions. I'm a researcher and a questioner. I know how to make decisions and reach conclusions, and I can make them quickly. But when it comes to personal decisions, I take a long time. I usually gain more from the process of deliberation than the moment of decision. One of the important things I've learned from this approach is that, despite our attempts to paint with large brushstrokes, life is most often more nuanced, filled with important subtleties and a richness that can be lost if we focus too much on the things that are most obvious. That said, taking too long has left me stuck at times--halted "between two opinions" as it has been said.

As Mormons, we're raised to see everything in stark contrast--good/evil, virtue/vice, light/darkness, health/sickness, pleasure/pain--and that the truest way to knowledge is to understand things this way. But life isn't that clear cut. I don't buy into that way of thinking anymore. For some, it might make decision-making an easier process. But it doesn't work for me.

The process of letting go of the dichotomy mindset can be rough. And I'm not sure we're ever done sorting through things. But that's okay. Life doesn't always have to be messy. But if it's too neat and tidy it can be pretty boring and unsatisfying. Kinda like the saying: "A clean desk is the sign of a disturbed mind." (My desk is messy, in case you were guessing).

I think of my life as a big library. I keep collecting books and grouping them on shelves. Most of the books belong to clear categories. But a few aren't so clear. For a while I'll be content with leaving one on the shelf and then, for whatever reason, conscious or mysterious, I'll pull it down to re-read and reassess it. I might move it to a different shelf because the meaning or application of the book for me has changed. There are times when I have a few books on the floor that I'm sorting through. The library is pretty well-organized, but it changes and grows.

I kept my feelings about the church on the shelf for a long time. Reconsidering the church's role in my life has involved a lot of shifting of the "books" related to the church. The same goes for honestly dealing with my sexuality. During the past few years, I've done a lot of reorganizing, compiling and re-evaluation.

When any of us are going through times of change, things can get messy and we might make some mistakes. But, in our own time and in our own way, if we're honest with ourselves (even if that involves struggle and frustration) we find our way, make new discoveries, gain new insights and enjoy the journey--both for ourselves and with our fellow travelers.

1 comment:

  1. I think that for me one of the best things about moving beyond the strictures of the church has been the ability to give myself permission to make mistakes. You'd think that as believers in the Atonement, we'd be pretty comfortable with the mistake-making process, but we're not. Instead, we emphasize the perfection part, much to our detriment, I believe. So I'm with you - let's embrace the messy and learn what we and life are all about.