what the commutative property of addition has to do with us

2018-1110 OBT_Blog Post_Photo_Addition.jpg

“How can both of those things be true? How can they both exist at the same time? I don’t understand how it’s possible.” This is what I said to my husband, standing up making big gestures with my arms while he sat at his laptop and said, “Yeah. I know.”

“My teacher broke math today. How can the commutative property for addition be true and not true at the same time?” This is what my theater student said in our Good Day/Bad Day circle, his legs crossed and his face open with exasperation.

“Mama! I do want to do it, but at the same time I don’t want to do it. What am I going to do?” This is what my daughter says when she is scared and excited at the same time.

. . .

This is an excerpt from my week:

I snoozed my alarm so I didn’t get to do yoga, and we were running behind all morning. The clean clothes were in a huge pile, and I had to dig through it and put everything in the dryer to get the wrinkles out. We had to park far away and hurry to get into school in time for morning greeting, and when we got there, kiddo had to use the bathroom but there was no toilet paper in there, all of which made it a long process. I was working on a huge event for this weekend, and my phone reminded me of a once-a-year doctor appointment I had forgotten, so I had to cancel a phone meeting and run out the door to make it on time. I got news of a success, which was almost completely ignored by the people who had asked me—at the last minute—to help with it. My daughter screamed her head off at me when she couldn’t get her crocheting to work. I fell asleep after eating chocolate without brushing my teeth.

This is an excerpt from the same part of my week:

I lay in the bed longer than usual with my daughter snuggled up next to me. She was warm, and she had her small arm thrown over me. I found the clothes I wanted wear in the clean basket, and they were nice and toasty when I put them on after the dryer got the wrinkles out. We got to school just in time, and then kiddo had to go to the bathroom. She cracked me up saying funny things while I searched around to find some toilet paper. My phone reminded me just in time about a doctor appointment I had forgotten, and I actually made it there with 2 minutes to spare. I found out my funding application to help kids take part in a really awesome learning experience was funded, and I was so happy I cried a little bit. Later, my daughter was so proud of herself when she figured out a new crocheting technique, that she crocheted and chatted with me the whole time I made supper. I stole a moment by myself later while my husband did flossing and tooth-brushing with her, and I stood in the kitchen and had three sips of red wine and a square of chocolate. It was glorious. My daughter and I read from our current favorite series, and I dropped off to sleep snuggling up with her.

. . .

Yes, that could be some power-of-positive-thinking-look-at-the-bright-side kind of business up there, but that’s not really what I’m thinking about around all this. I’m thinking about the fact that BOTH of those descriptions are true. At the same time.

I’m interested in how we hold two seemingly disparate truths simultaneously, knowing that there may not be a resolution or a fix or a way to make it make sense. And we still move forward. I’m interested in how I would simultaneously give my left arm to go back to a time when my dad was alive but also wouldn’t want to go back to before my daughter was born for anything in the world. I’m interested in how my friend can feel terribly broken and sad about ending the work he’s doing now, and also hugely excited about the work he’ll do next. I’m interested in how we can be leading something extraordinary, and also be making a million mortifying mistakes and missteps along the way.

It seems to me that big transitions and big holidays are prime moments for this kind of juxtaposition.

If your panic button is on alert with Thanksgiving in two weeks and Christmas coming right after that—at the very same time that you lovelovelove the holidays—you are not alone.

It can be both.