AND Say It Again

June 4th, 2017

It’s been just over eight years of writing this blog every week. I usually sit down and wait to see what appears. I am laughing because I originally wrote an entry for this week, read it to my friend who gives the thumbs up or down to publish what I write each week, and she told me I had written the same essential message two weeks ago.

So I stepped back to see what wanted expression this week. AND then I realized that rather than writing a new AND, I was being reminded to do something that I have done at least once each year for the past eight years. AND that is, to pause to reprint my first entry from 2009 which explains why this blog is called, “And.” So here it is:

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 attribute, 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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