Yesterday morning I sat in my office face to face with a sobbing student. All I could do is let her tears flow. I don’t know why she was brought to tears except that she told me that she’s facing “some difficulties”. She heaved, she cried, she sat in silence. I did my best to remain silent and allowed her to simply be. At the end of our interaction, I told her to try to live life on the “ands” and not the “buts”.
This morning, I find myself having to give myself the same talk. I’m constantly repeating, “live on the ands Julia. Live on the ands”. My original post for today focused on the government shut down and what it might mean for Black women. However I feel compelled to write this one instead. So bear with me as I’m writing from instinct and yes, a place of pain.
I’ve been teaching for more years than I sometimes like to count. I’ve had lots of experiences—the good and the bad. My recent experiences have left some very deep wounds. I won’t rehash my experiences. Instead, I want to focus on how to live at the ands of life--my approach of living with these experiences.
This morning, like my student, I sobbed. I sobbed not only as a result of my experiences but also for my students and colleagues who experience marginalization—those I know and those I don’t know. I simply sat there as the sun slowly made its appearance, in the stillness of my home, and cried. Then I had a chat with myself and asked how can I live on the ands today?
What does it mean to live on the ands?
Living on the ands allows me to recognize my current situation without it being a limited force in my life. For a while I lived life on the buts. The narrative that would play in my head would go something like “But I don’t feel like exercising because I am too tired.” This is one example of how the narratives of the buts influence my life. Instead, I’ve learned to tell myself, I am tired as heck today AND I will try to walk for 10 minutes. Somehow, I never stop after 10 minutes. Living life on the ands opens up possibilities by honoring how I feel at the moment while not allowing that moment to shape my future.
Practicing living life on the ands
I admit that changing my response to life has not been easy. It had become habitual to live life on the buts. Part of living life on the ands requires that I replace the narratives/self talk that I was simply use to and had accepted, until my relatively recent experiences. I came to the realization that I could not thrive if I continued to live life on the ands.
So I found new strategies, many of which I learned through my practice of yoga. I had been practicing yoga for a few years. However, I haven’t actually practiced yoga until recently.
This is how I learned to live life on the ands. I learned to forgive myself, to accept my feelings without judgment, and to honor my experiences without judgment. But more importantly, I learned the power of the “now”. Now is simply now, it does not mean that the now will be the future.
You need not practice yoga to be able to live life on the ands. Instead, you simply have to be conscious and present with your experiences. Allow your thoughts, AND remember that you don’t have to become your thoughts. This is how we live life on the ands.
Today, my wish for you is that you too live your day on the ands.
This is the second post of my 31-day blogging challenge. This is the also the second post under the general theme of “Coexsisting, Resisting and Thriving in Academe” which is the tentative title of a project I’m currently undertaking. You can tweet me at Dr_JZ using hastag #31dbc to share your thoughts and let me know how you lived your day on the ands.