AND Remember the Intention

July 17th, 2016

This blog has been issued weekly for over seven years. As I reflected on the number of entries and changes in my life during that time, I decided that now would be a good time to reissue the first entry describing the purpose and intention for this blog.

Every so often, I find that if I step back and ask why I am doing something, what I want to get from the energy invested, or what good I might serve by investing energy, it becomes easier for me to let go of what no longer serves and also reenergize myself to invest in what I still value.

For the benefit of newcomers and those of you who have been reading this blog for years, I offer the first edition for your reflection on its usefulness in your life today.

And… Entry 1

Welcome to “And.” As a sociolinguist, I am intrigued by how we use language consciously and unconsciously to create the kinds of lives we live today. This space for thoughts and reflections is entitled “And” as a reminder that nothing said or written is ever the complete picture. Whatever you tell yourself about your day or the value of something you say or do, it is never the entire picture. Why does this matter?

For one thing, we tend to be particularly hard on ourselves—the presentation wasn’t as good as it could have been if I had prepped more, I was short with the kids, my pants won’t zip—all common noise in our heads—particularly the heads of women. This inner critic runs a 24 hour monologue if you let it. If, however, you stop in the moment you evaluate something, someone else, or yourself, and ask what else is true, you have the opportunity in the moment to create a more complete statement and perspective. The picture, as it becomes more complete, is also more accurate.

“And” is a fabulous little word that can remind you to ask yourself, “What else is true?” You build your capacity to see the lightness and humor in a situation. You detach from your evaluation and remember that you are not what you do or did. Take the example above. Let’s say the presentation could have been better if you had prepped. What else is true? Did you trip over the podium? Do you care? Was it good enough? Did you have any fun? Looking for what else is true can remind you to be a little kinder and more honest with yourself about the bigger picture of who you want to be in this life. Detach from the labels and notice what else is going on.

An exercise that you might find particularly helpful is to listen for every time you use the word “but” in a sentence. Try replacing virtually every “but” with “and” and watch where looking for what is not working can be put into perspective by seeing everything that is working.

We are more than a set of labels. To see and celebrate the best in ourselves and others, we need to become a bit more conscious of the language we use in talking to ourselves and with others. “He is handsome but lazy” carries a judgment and implicit disapproval. “He is both handsome and lazy” merely states an observation and leaves open the possibility of having more fun with each of attributes, rather than accepting or internalizing other people’s judgments.

So, in the interest of fostering more lightness and openness in how we see ourselves and others, I’m supporting the conscious choice of “and” and will offer insights and perspectives that I hope you find helpful. And…

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