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Learning in the Gray

Jennifer Mulholland
May 31, 2022

I awake early at 5:15am yearning to go back to sleep. I am aware of thinking, lots of thinking that seems too escalate as my brain begins to wake up. I have thinking about my body – how I feel heavy, not as fit as I once was, and getting older. A torn meniscus that I just learned about may be contributing to my state. I know it's limiting thinking and it's a habit. Thinking creates feeling and I am tired of this feeling.  I am ready to stop this cycle.

I turn to my guides and ask for help and support. I do this without much thought and swiftly drift back to sleep.
I awake an hour and half later to my phone ringing. It's my son, Riley calling me to come downstairs to his room.
"Mom, my back is really hurting. Can you massage it?" "Of course, " I respond. I get into bed with him and put hand pressure on his back where it hurts. He is tight and sore from all of his lacrosse.
As I massage his tired muscles, I relish in the moment. I feel nostalgic and don't want the time to pass. Him being home and wanting me to come down and care for him melts my heart. I feel the passing of time and I am suddenly caught up in  wonder and awe.
How did we get here so fast?
In two weeks he will be finishing his junior year in high school and headed into his senior year. He's grown so much and overcome more than most. I marvel at his healing journey and the human he has become. I don't want him to leave and can feel myself holding on and yet wanting him to fly. Aware of the time, I ask him if he wants anything for breakfast and nudge him to get up and ready for school.
I go straight upstairs and jump in bed with my daughter, Hadley. We snuggle too as she slowly wakes up. I can't believe how grown up she's become – eleven years old going on eighteen. She's 5'7"and a 130 pounds  – not your typical eleven-year-old. Her maturity and emotional intelligence is inspiring to witness – so much older than her age. Hard at times to fit in and yet a natural leader always ready and willing to speak up or go first. Yet, her tenderness as a young child comes out in so many ways.
We had a great conversation last night about a school incident that occurred the day before. We talked about "living in the gray" – the place in between the black and white – the right or wrong, the either or. In this space is growth, maturity, nuance, experimentation, and learning.
We processed the incident and talked about how life is about learning this navigation – listening to our inner knowing, speaking our truth, and shining our light. It's also about listening to other's perspectives, finding common ground, and closing the distance when there is tension or disconnection. I did my best to talk to her as an adult and not dumb things down – but simplify my language so she could really hear what I was attempting to express. It was helpful and I felt so much closer to her as a result.
Not surprising, I would be called to practice what I shared the very next day, myself. That is the beauty of coaching – you are always called to practice what you preach.
I got to do just that on a team call, when during a marketing discussion, Jeff and I were not hearing one another. Our exchange became more confrontative rather than collaborative and we could both sense it – and so could our team. After years of practicing our dance, we knew enough to step away, create space, and let things be.
Fortunately, we didn't need much time, nor did we have it! In less than an hour we were scheduled to be guests on a podcast and we both needed and wanted to turn it around. Separately, we checked our intentions and changed our focus from "being right" to "being curious." We both apologized and spoke our observations and needs with a lot less attachment. It worked. The feeling of tension subsided, we laughed, and we were ready to rock on. 
If you interested in continual learning, living in the gray is can be one your greatest teachers. It's the space of nuance, of listening, of adapting, of combining. It's deep work that is needed to create the better world we seek. 
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