Contradictions Paradoxes


“The many contradictions in our lives - such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts - can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us. They make us feel that we are never fully present. Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed.
But there is another response. These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy. Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.”

Henri Nouwen

Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving 2016


I talk with so many working mothers about the contradictions of thinking about their family while they are at work and thinking about work when they are home. I as well struggled with this for years. I realized and comforted myself and others by saying that the amount of time is not as important as the quality of time spent with my family. If I spent quality time with my children I could justify being away from them at other times. This could be a heresy. A heresy has just enough truth to make it sound good, but mostly it is a false belief. I honestly don’t know the answer and perhaps my children can tell you more. I do know that I learned gifts from my children that helped me in my work such as patience, seeing beauty where I might have missed it, listening to people I would not ordinarily listen to, making decisions with circular feminine power, knowing how a meal together can bring better understanding of where people are, how humor and play can change a situation, not taking myself so seriously. From my work, I learned about the value of decision making with others. All of my best diagnoses were made when I brought my expertise to a child’s illness with the expertise of another physician from another specialty.  I think because of our work, we exposed our children to people and places outside of the home that gave them a broader world view. Our best parenting advice came from a friend from our church, Phyllis Raney, at a workshop where she told us that our job as parents was to provide and expose our children to the broadest possible smorgasbord of interests. What they chose, however, was up to them.  I think the larger world view of people and places was this smorgasbord that our work allowed us to offer our children. Perhaps our children learned from us a work ethic and an appreciation of education.

Living in two worlds also taught me much about paradox and living in the tension of a paradox. For me, it was impossible to separate the two worlds completely, and I finally accepted that the tension was part of it. This allowed me to accept the paradox of other issues and accept and live with their tension, such being a spiritual and a human being, connecting to a spiritual and the natural world. I do talk to others who were better at separating all these worlds and not living in the tension, so I know my approach is not the only way.