“There’s always good and bad in everything,” I am constantly reminding my kids to try to get them away from black & white thinking and focusing instead on the nuances of life. Grandma has been visiting with us from the east coast since Thanksgiving and I asked my younger son the good and bad of her impending departure. “The good thing,” he explained, “is that I get keys.” She’s had an extra set of keys to the house and we promised him he could have them when she leaves. He’s been wanting keys to our house for years. “The bad thing is that she’s leaving and I’ll miss her,” he says.

I remember how hard life felt when I used to label things as either a hardlined good or bad, as if I could get to a place where pure “good” could exist―a life where everything was easy and could run smoothly on auto-pilot.

It’s the New Year and while I usually set intentions for the year, that hasn’t felt like the right thing for me to do yet so I thought it might be fun to take each month and focus on something different. So I looked up the symbolic and mythical origins of the months and discovered they were all named after different deities. January is named after Janus, a figure with two faces. This month symbolizes looking both backwards and forwards, of beginnings and endings, and transitions. So in reflecting on the past year, I thought about all the significant things in this nuanced, two-faced way to help me look towards next year.

I shared this collage on my Instagram account of the dual nature of all the significant things that happened in 2021. The first picture was taken in celebration of my 49th birthday and the last year of my 40s. While this decade was the most significant in my life thus far, a year when I finally let go of my false self to live as my true one, it was also the decade of perimenopause when hormone induced depression and anger frequently visited me so that I had to learn to embrace my shadows. This past year was also the year that my older son has been transitioning into teenage hood and I’ve had to let go of the immense joy I get from family camping/hiking trips in the summer that he’s made painfully clear he doesn’t want anymore.

When we face and accept the duality of life and also in ourselves, life gets so much easier to experience and move through. “You’re not bad,” I tell my kids when they do something wrong. “You just made a bad choice.” Eventually, I would like to get my kids to stop labeling things as good or bad altogether and recognize that some things make us comfortable while others don’t. This journey of living as my true self has been this lesson taught to me over and over again in so many different ways.

Life is complex. Humanity is complex. We are complex beings.

The more we learn to see things that way, the easier it is to recognize that sometimes there are no clear answers to the struggles we face and things just are. We don’t always have to have the answers. Things don’t necessarily have to be good or bad and the point of living is to experience it all.

This is from a personal journal writing shared in the newsletter and typically not shared on the blog. To read these, subscribe to the “I Matter” newsletter below.