by Krista E. Hughes

Stress and ease. Anxiety and joy. Boredom and fulfillment. Disappointment and good fortune. Affliction and health. All of these mark the comings and goings of my daily life:

“If she does not stop wailing,” I think of my 17-year-old cat, “I am going to go mad.”
“When she dies, I will be lost.”

“I love it when my students finally make the connections I’ve been trying to trace for them.”
“I dread grading that stack of exams.”

“How luscious the feeling after a walk, after an hour on my mat!”
“I just don’t feel like getting up.”

“I’m lonely.”
“I have nothing else to give. Solitude, please.”

“The world is a beautiful place.”
“I despair for this world.”

The Western legacy of thought, with its dependence on dualisms, conditions us to believe that such apparent opposites cannot be simultaneously true. But deep down we know they are. Life is filled with ambiguities that do not cancel each other out. Life teaches us this over and over again. We can love our child mightily and wish someone else would take them for a day so that we can have some peace.

The process-relational worldview acknowledges the reality of opposites arising in our lives, even celebrating how those might be held in tension with one another to give rise to vibrancy and beauty. This has been a real gift to me. For it illuminates the whole picture. It honors the seeming paradoxes. Sometimes it serves to lift guilt over honest feelings.

In a world of beauty and despair, of opportunities and demands, of care and fatigue, what practices might we cultivate to help us hold such contrasts in tension with one another? How can this process perspective help us hold such tensions with both confidence and ease?