Continuum: What Do We Say When Things Are Okay?
Often I forget that life exists on a continuum.
Black and white—that’s the world I inhabit.
There, things are clear-cut, simple, easy to understand.
I am either good or bad. I am acting crazy or sane. I am productive or unproductive.
But that isn’t life, is it? Things aren’t so cut-and-dry.
Life is a continuum. We are continuums in miniature.
Let’s take a single moment: right now. Sit back, close your eyes, think about your life, and allow your mind to let the thoughts come in naturally, without targeting anything specific…
How many various and/or competing thoughts come rushing in? If you’re like me, a lot.
For many of us, the background hum of our brain functions like that—a billion thoughts at once—TV fuzz on a faulty channel. Not so cut and dry, right?
(Maybe you’re a one-thought-at-a-timer. Maybe you’re zen. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones. Go light a candle. Kudos.)
When you’re interested in someone romantically, thoughts are all over the place, right? We go to bed thinking “Yes, I like them,” when really we’re just simplifying things in order keep ourselves sane.
Or what about a day when you eat healthy during every meal, but you have a cookie before bed? Does that mean the day was a wash? You did a “bad” thing, now none of the good counts?
It begins early with parents and school.
We get heaps of praise for saying a new word or behaving well at the dinner party. Because we get an A+ on the test or run the race fastest.
In the same way, condemnation.
“You have to clean your room!” “You need to get your grades up.” “You’re not trying hard enough.”
We grow, we get jobs, and this continues. You’re acknowledged for achievement or lack thereof, but not so much for chugging along nicely under the radar.
We don’t hear things like:
“Hey, I just wanted to point out you’re going about things in a completely prosaic and acceptable manner. That is all.”
Instead, we receive feedback on the good or bad. I’m not pointing this out to condemn it or even say it should change—it’s culture. It is what it is.
There comes a time, though, as we leave the worlds of external judgment (in my case, striking out on my own to be a writer), that we have to develop our own feedback systems and replace the pattern of good vs. bad with something more reasonable and realistic.
As my own boss, I get caught up in constant self-judgment, holding myself to a standard higher than the most demanding boss.
When my book’s progress is simply moving along and there’s no other writing news to report, I immediately want to plunge myself into a world of “not-good-enoughs” where a lack of gold stars sends me to minor panic and berating self-talk.
Even in relationships, if things seem normal and healthy I begin to wonder…what’s wrong? What horror awaits an almost certainly-doomed happiness?
(Sidenote: Have you ever asked for an update on your friend’s relationship with their significant other and they say, “Yeah, things are great!”? Isn’t that boring?)
What do we talk about when things are okay?
What do we think about and tell ourselves when there’s nothing to worry about?
When everything’s okay—just okay—are we okay to say so?
I’m not advocating underachievement here. Not advocating anything, really. Just trying to write and remind myself (and maybe remind you if you’re still reading) that life isn’t one thing or the other.
Life is a continuum, a guitar string plucked, vibrating every which way.
I’m trying to be okay with that.
I’d love to hear your thoughts…leave a comment below!
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