I am a scrutinizer, an inspector, a lover of all things perfectly classified. I try to define the nature of every friendship, every emotion, every aspect of & in my life.
In doing this, I can more simply weed out the things (people, mindsets, interests) that do not have a purpose in my life, the things that cannot be categorized.
In doing this, I have more control.
I see this happening more prominently in the way I categorize my relationships (romantic or platonic), though it does manage to seep its way into other areas of my life.
When I first met Jonathan, for instance, I was over the moon by our courtship… & all too serious about maintaining a sense of steadfastness: Were we dating now? Are we committed exclusively to each other? Will he eventually be my husband? What is the status of our relationship? What can I do to keep it going full speed ahead?
In those moments, I did my damnedest to put every part of our relationship into a little pretty box, perfectly labeled, beautifully sealed, & then securely stored away for safe keeping.
Having Jonathan in his respective box, & knowing that that box had its respective label (BOYFRIEND / HUSBAND MATERIAL), I slept better at night.
I’ve been doing it this way ever since, mass classifying anything that finds its way into my world, much like one does with items in the grocery store (this is instant oatmeal & it belongs in the cereal aisle; this is canned lima beans & it belongs in the canned foods aisle).
There has never been a grey area for me. It is either black or white, & if it is neither it simply doesn’t belong in my life. I do not like surprises; mystery terrifies me. I want to have all the facts & lay them out before me like a stamp collection, taking inventory, stashing away the duplicates, laminating the ones that serve a deep purpose in my life.
Looking back, I realize that many of the relationships I had that ended too soon were products of my bad habit of categorizing things in such a way that they became violently pried open. These friendships weren’t nourished with care by the customary slowness of getting to know someone. They were stifled by my unwillingness to let things form naturally; they were suffocated by my need to define.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I began to want to destroy this compartmentalizing side of me, after having a conversation with my sister about the inner work we are doing in our lives. I can’t quite remember how this discussion went — or what was ultimately said — but one sentence my sister spoke out will always stay with me.
She said: “I want to learn to enjoy the grey areas of life.”
This confession, said with a kind of nonchalance that I admire about her, took me aback. Learning enjoy the grey areas of life? What does that even mean?
It’s actually quite simple.
Loving in the grey area means being able to sit comfortably in the delightful “in between stage” that is a mix of the black & the white, the yes & the no, the right & the wrong, the certain & the unpredictable.
(Loving the grey area also means being able to refer to it amorously as “delightful.”)
It’s luxuriating in ambiguity. It’s practicing having a tolerance for mystery.
By living in a state of greyness, we realize it’s all perfectly natural; many things in life simply cannot be defined, nor should they be. To define those things is to diminish them, to squander their naturalness, to put too much pressure on it becoming something when it already is.
So today I challenge you to appreciate the grey area; live blissfully in it. Resist the urge to tightly define avenues in your life. Have the courage to relinquish control & enjoy the beauty of the moment, the experience that is without definition. Become aware of your tendency to classify, clarify, categorize. Make peace with not knowing. Let things be as they are. Define them either when they’re better formed or not at all.
There is fertility in chaos. There is beauty in the unknown.
Q: What’s a grey area in your life you want to embrace in this moment?