Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Permanently Gray

I wish that I was more of a black and white person. It would be great to be one of those people who know--just know---that their actions and choices are correct.

I talked to a mother yesterday who potty trained her first child at eighteen months. She was matter-of-fact about it and got the job done. I, meanwhile, consulted numerous books and discussed the topic at length. Everybody, and I mean everybody, knew the status of Owen's excrement.  And still, I hoped I was doing it right.

I just got off the phone with my sister-in-law, and she has strong opinions about schooling, the role of technology, and discipline. She just seems so sure that she's doing the right thing.

I envy her.

I never feel confident that I am doing the right thing. When I'm disciplining my kids, I wonder if I am too lenient or unrealistic in my expectations. I wonder if I could have been more proactive or more thoughtful or less rushed or less distracted.

I never, ever, think, "I'm doing this the right way, and everybody else should parent like me." I always wonder if there is a better way.

How comforting it would be to see less gray! To believe in a political system or a faith system as right or as wrong, for me or not for me. It would be nice to take a side once in awhile. 

I don't. I have my political leanings for sure, but I understand where the other side is coming from much of the time. I have my faith, but I understand why others do not share my beliefs.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm so gray that I dillute any meaning at all.

But then, I also recognize that doubt is like yeast. Without doubts, without questions, nothing happens. I need to let my conflicting feelings rise up in order to become something real, something I can sink my teeth into.

But, the process is hard. I'm pounded down and put under the fire. It would be a lot easier to be a simple little quick bread---stagnant, easily digestible, and predictable.

How does it feel to be a Nancy Pelosi or a Sarah Palin--so sure, so confident in a worldview?

How does it feel to know that you are parenting your children better than anybody else possibly could?

I would like to know. I imagine it's very comforting.

Yet, I never will. You can't return black and white to pure forms. I'm permanently gray, and in perpetual doubt. 

Thanks for the thoughtful comments on yesterday's post. I have the best readers in the world.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Nancy! I'm so glad you're gray too. I feel you sister. In fact, I'm sitting here in the gray wondering, what ifing, anxiously waiting right now.

There's that verse in Revelations 3 about being luke warm. My sister-in-law lives by that. She's hot, or cold and raw and honest and sure every minute of the day... except she's not. It's only after years of knowing her that I see that. She's sure about one idea until she's not and then she's sure about next. I've seen her learn lessons and form opinions in the most painful ways. Her learning curve is no shorter than mine, just sharper.

So, I know that sometimes it seems that it would be easier and safer to just make up our minds. To be strong in knowing we're right, but the truth is that if we were, we'd just have to be more humble and clean up more messes when we find out that we aren't.

It's not easy being gray (ha! there is a perpetual muppets soundtrack in my head), but I think it's OK.

Mel said...

Well, Nancy, I see everything as gray or grey too! I feel like I can never have enough information or foresight to make the best decision, and I could be wrong, but I believe the more sure a person is in themselves sometimes, the more narrowminded or blind to the truth they can become. I don't think I'd want to be either nancy or sarah, they seem inflexible and unwilling to compromise or debate. A bit dangerous too. I think they're too busy looking good and being sure of themselves to do much research or introspection or looking around with open eyes.
I could be wrong.

But I think the more a person thinks, the more unsure they usually become. Doubtful when forced to choose or decide, because everything is complicated when you look closely.

And the thing about kids, is we don't even know what decisions will shape them, what they'll remember, or what random forces outside our control will shape them despite our best efforts. That's been the hardest truth for me to grasp about parenting. It's not so much science as art. Which leaves lots of wishing, hoping and trying. Good luck!

Clearly, I have no answers for you, just more questions. And I feel your gray.

Marla said...

I am a black and white person. As black and white as they come, I fear. It is not as much fun as you might assume. I would give anything to see things the way you do, from both sides so easily. It would make for a much kinder, more peaceful place in my brain, I am sure.

Nancy, this is a beautifully written post, from the heart. You are exactly the person you were meant to be and I appreciate that in you.

Melani said...

well lets see, I think I was a gray person too, when I was younger and a parent for the first time. I never knew if I was doing anything right, let alone if I was even a good parent. I was young, I was barly 20 when I had my first over the years I have gotten more black and white in some things, parenting is one. I know I am a good parent even though my children have made mistakes they will have to live with their entire life. We are human and we are broken humans at that. So, that being said, I feel more secure in my decisions pertaining to them, MOST OF THE TIME. There are times when I am not sure at all of anything I do or say or whatever! So, I flip flop and I am sure this does not help you! Sorry!

Coby said...

At first glance I thought you meant you wanted to be bi-racial, but then I read on... ;-)

I'm often the same way, and it really irritates me (me, I mean). But the more I make a decision and stick with it - even if it doesn't turn out "perfectly" - the more confident I become in being able to be black and white. (Ha! The potential for a joke here is so great!).

One thing I'm really trying to make a conscious effort to do is take it back to Biblical principles: what does the Bible say about XYZ, and do my decisions line up with that? That has made all the difference in the world for me, personally.

I think I'm often comfortable being gray, because then I feel like I'm pleasing everyone instead of offending. Hm. I may have to explore that a little more.

Paul said...

"There must be a thousand things you would die for, I can hardly think of two." - Indigo Girls -

"I am - and always will remain - the technicolor monochrome." -Moi-

There are very few things about which we ought to be 100% confident and assured. There are a great many things which we can only make the best decisions we can based on information and experience available. Life is working out the latter uncertainties in light of the former certainties.

Busted Kate said...

I think the world is meant to be known in shades of gray! Anyone who says otherwise isn't being honest... or is so subborn that they are going to miss out on some great ideas/concepts/adventures.

Great post :-)

clearness said...

It's all an act. I know that for me it is anyway. I had one person say something to the effect of 'you have your hands so full dealing with all your sons problems and keeping your house as clean as a museum and your kids are so well behaved' She went on and on..........anyway, I remember thinking, "Is that how people really see me...because on the inside everything is falling apart...and when things aren't completely falling apart, they are just hanging on by a string"

Just do your best to walk the walk and know that in the end, everything will be okay. If things aren't okay, it isn't yet the end.

Traci said...


I swim in gray. Bathe in gray. Eat, drink, breathe gray. Does that make you feel better? I hope so. You are not alone. I think, though, that it means we are very thoughtful and appreciative of the many paths that life takes. (Somedays, however, I wish I was a little more confident in my self and my choices).

Kiera said...

im similar to you, but i totally embrace it. i think it means you are a loving, caring person who wants the best but doesnt know which ONE is the bst. you have open arms and open eyes and people can trust you and know you wony judge. brcause if you are like me youll ask, "who am i to judge?"

embrace it sista

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

You and I are alike in so many ways, Nancy. It's kinda scary. ;-)

Tracie said...

Yep. I am a gray gal. btw, my dad's middle name is Grey. For realz.

SamiJoe said...

Gray/grey is not bad.
Gray/grey is necessary.

Gray/grey helps see the black and the white more clearly.

We are all kinder because of you. Do not doubt yourself.

For what it's worth, i am gonna have to think about what i am? I'd like to say i'm black or white or gray...but i just don't know. Thx for provoking the thought.

Robin said...

To question is to live..I love questioning..its my nourishment..yes there are some things I feel sure about..and that is the fact that I will question and be very confident in knowing that I will never run out of questions....its about evolving, using our intellect and never just taking things at face value or the words of another's point of view..putting the facts together as you see them and forming your own conclusion..Although Ive been told many times growing up.."you ask too many questions" Im adult, I think..and I tell my kids always question things for yourself..the answer lies within you..!

Carolee / Home4ever said...

Are you a Libra?

I am, and I can see both sides of a situation, and am never quite sure I have all the info I need to make a confident decision.

And yet, for some reason, I do what I do, confiedent or not.

Anonymous said...

I tend to live in the permanent grey, too. I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing. Being able to see the other side makes it easier for me to get along with others and solve issues in my life.

Frau said...

I am a middle of the road alway gray way of thinking. I think everyone parents different just cause it worked for me doesn't mean it will work for you. Kids are different, adults are different. If you are raising your children to know right from wrong and be good people, treat others yada yada yada! You are doing a great job don't let anyone tell you different.

blueviolet said...

It's funny because I am black and white, all or nothing. I wish I had more gray.

Eternal Lizdom said...

The ones that seem to have it so together are often the ones that are seeking the most and hiding a lot.

It's the ones who can talk openly about struggles that are managing them and surviving them.

Bekah said...

Nancy, I always enjoy your posts, but you are ON FIRE this week. Such poignant, honest writing. I appreciate you putting it all out there.

BTW- NO ONE can parent YOUR children as well as YOU. I work with families of young children for a living. This is true of every family I meet.

Bethany said...

But the gray is what makes you real and amazing and growing everyday. Gray is good.
You are wonderful.

Ms. Moon said...

It's because you THINK!

Cat said...

I'm with Ms. Moon- you're in the gray because you think. If you're so sure of what you think that you never question it, how sure can you really be?

only a movie said...

A person without questions or doubt may as well be dead.

It wouldn't be fun AT ALL to have all the answers. Then you have to spend all your free time being mad at, and convincing everyone else on the planet that your answers are right. I'd just hate that.

xo great post.

michelle said...

I find the older I get, the grayer I get.

And I'm not talking about the short hairs.

I think the gray allows for tolerance and compassion and space to say "I screwed up"

And believe me, kids LOVE to hear their mothers say that!

And then they learn tolerance and compassion and fallibility too.

When did I become my Mom said...

Most people don't know the beginning of this famous quote:
“Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum.
(I doubt, therefore I think; I think therefore I am)”
- Rene Descartes

Not so bad to be a thinker is it?

A long time ago many people we absolutely sure the world was flat, or that the sun revolved around the earth. I could give you a few more contemporary examples but they're all controversial.

You're doing absolutely fine Nancy. ;-)

AudreyO said...

You do know that black and white isn't all it's cracked up to be? I tend to sometimes forget that there is more than one right way. Sure, I have tons of self confidence but I also have hurt the feelings of others when I've failed to really stop, listen and understand they have an equally great way of doing it.

I think it's like the straight, curly hair...we each think the other would be really cool. I'd love to question my words and actions a bit more sometimes.

Excellent post!!!

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

I'm all gray too. I'm like you. I envy the people who feel such confidence that they have found the right path. But for me, everything is always changing, merging, blending. Which is funny since I am attempting to write a parenting guidebook. But I guess that is the whole point of my perspective in the book. That there is no right answer when it comes to parenting (for me, anyway). Just a lot of different viewpoints and ways of approaching the same topic. Anyway, great post!! You always get me thinking. That's one of the things I love most about you!!