Living in the Gray: Introduction


For years people have been telling me I should write a book. I’ve never been exactly clear on what they think I should write about. But usually the comment comes after I’ve shared a particular point of view about something, and they seem to find my perspective – I don’t know, original maybe? At least thought provoking.

So the idea of writing a book has been in the back of my head for awhile now, I have just never been able to figure out what the format would be. I’m not imaginative enough to write fiction, so I’m left with something autobiographical, or a series of essays. Or a series of essays that are autobiographical?

When I started travel blogging in the Spring of 2013, I got lots more “you should write a book” comments. Blogging our trips has been very rewarding on a number of levels. I find myself paying closer attention to what we’re doing, seeing and noticing things and remembering details that I probably wouldn’t otherwise. That others enjoy and participate in the entries makes it a richer, more meaningful experience for sure, but I also have to work a little at not letting the reactions (or lack thereof) of others get in the way and stay true to what I want to write about.

What blogging has done though is make me realize that it might be the way to go for now, to get some of these essays I’ve been thinking about out of my head. Since I’m – once again – at this place in my life where change is happening in a major way,  I figured it was the perfect time to kick it up a notch higher and finally do this writing thing I’ve been thinking about for years.

So a blog it is. Although I couldn’t decide on approach, I long ago decided on the title for the book I would someday write. Rather than wait for that, I’m going to use it now: Living in the Gray.

I used to be a pretty black-and-white, all-or-nothing person but over time that stopped working for me. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life. I’ve shifted from blocked and hiding to fairly self-aware and pretty transparent. I’ve shifted from being a chameleon to a commitment towards authenticity. I’ve transitioned from being rigidly religious to being fluidly spiritual. I’ve shifted from being mostly Republican to something that doesn’t have a label or a party. I can’t always tell in hindsight if the shifts in thinking lead to changes in how I live, or the other way around, but simultaneously my exterior life has changed. A lot. My arenas of employment, money, relationships, and housing have seen some wild rides. Those who have known me for a long time know I’m entering a period that is sort of Makeover #4.

When I think about things I might have said that brought on people’s “you should write a book” comment, it’s usually a perspective I have that comes from one of the above shifts or experiences. “Living in the gray” became a strategy for me, to consciously get beyond black and white, search for multiple shades of gray and determine the one that works best for me, that makes the most sense given the variables at play. I’ve done a ton of studying and practiced lots of things in my own life to see what does work for me, so often the perspective I’m sharing is my own experience, not just my opinion, and folks have found that valuable. Hence, “you should write a book.”

I’m a control freak by nature. I’ve had to give much of that up over the years to keep my sanity since I’d been known to try to control things I couldn’t. “Living in the Gray” provides some of that control I crave. By digging deeper and discovering more options than might have been obviously present, I understand things better, can make better choices, and (feel like I) have more control. (I know that, in the end, control is an illusion. But that’s another blog entry…)

I learned a trick a long time ago that has served me well: you really can’t make a true choice until you’ve got at least 3 options to choose from. Having only one option isn‘t an option, it’s a trap. Having just two options creates a dilemma. Three options provide the minimum clarity you need to make a clear choice, and more than three gives you even more clarity. Gray doesn’t begin until you have at least three. So if three or more options aren’t apparent, I seek until I find.

Often these situations are life’s challenges. But sometimes they’re views on current events, things we ponder to try to make sense of the world. Living “gray” is not about middle-of-the road or centrist thinking; it’s about nuance. Sometimes you end up on the right, sometimes the left, sometimes somewhere in between but not necessarily the middle. It isn’t ideological, it’s case-by-case. My voter registration is checked “unaffiliated” for a reason.

We live in a world where so much information is thrown at us from so many directions, so fast, we often don’t take the time to explore the details and figure out what’s really happening, what’s really important. We go with the 160 character soundbite and move on to the next. But some stories – I’d argue the most important stories – can’t be told in soundbites. Especially soundbites that come from “fair and balanced” major media outlets that are anything but. And all sides are guilty of that, it wasn’t a shot at Fox. The Hobby Lobby decision is a great example, something I may expand on in an upcoming entry. It was a very complicated case that people on both sides lost their minds over because they didn’t dig deep enough into the facts. Into the nuance. Into the Gray.

The decision to blog vs. attempting to write a book is in and of itself a manifestation of Living in the Gray. Myself and many of my friends were jolted by the unexpected passing of an amazing guy on December 26, 2014, while he was fulfilling a dream learning to dive in Mexico. It was a vivid reminder of that cold reality: you never know when your time is up.  I’d actually had the realization that blogging might be the way to go after that 2nd Europe trip in May, 2014. I’d even made some notes and started writing a bit. But I never got it off the ground.

At Shon’s memorial service last week I made a promise – to him and myself – that I would make his death mean something in my life.  It’s beyond time to get off my ass. Be more. Do more. Live. I didn’t know what that would look like in that moment but it came to me the other day. Often something is better than nothing, as opposed to all-or-nothing. Blog vs. Book vs. Nothing. Gray = minimum of 3 choices = Clarity.

So I dedicate this opening salvo to Shon in memory of his unconditional love and friendship, and the great example he lived of not waiting. Do it now.

I’m not going to commit to a routine but will shoot for a couple of entries a month just for the discipline. I’ve got a lot going on right now – a new job starting in a week, a potential move coming up if this current escrow goes through, and taking the last course in my HR masters program – which will make time tight but also provide lots of material 🙂 So we’ll see.

My topics will sometimes be reflective, such as the first one I have planned and mostly ready to go, “Evolving Choices.” Or about a particular experience or period of my life. But some will be related to current events, such as Hobby Lobby, as a way to demonstrate how, for me, “living in the gray” helps make sense of a very complex world.

So come along or don’t, and I’ll try not to care too much either way 🙂 But your feedback and participation is welcome if you do; my experience with the travel blog tells me your contributions will make it a richer experience for all of us.

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