I believe in the grayness of life.
As I child I found it odd when my family or friends would complain or act disappointed over gray skies and rainy days. These were my favorite days. Something about the harsh, bright sunny days seemed unsettling to me. I loved seeing gray clouds roll in, I loved watching the large, dark thunderclouds, heavy with rain, unleash their load on the earth. I marveled at the lightning and thunder. A peaceful, gray, overcast winter sky provided the utmost in satisfaction. My love of gray skies has extended into adulthood. When I see the gathering black clouds, I make my children sit on our back patio with me and experience the wind, the smell, the sounds, and the sights of a spring storm approaching. I do not want my children to fear these events, I want them to feel the same wonderment I felt as a child.
As I’ve grown older and become part of a family, I’ve found myself with a wife and two children who love the sunny days the most, and this has taught me an appreciation for bright, sun-drenched days that are somehow not as harsh as they used to seem. Seeing the joy and excitement my children feel on these days has changed me.
In my adolescence, as I began exploring my own personal faith and values, I saw most choices as black and white. I was quick to judge, quick to dismiss, and certain I was right. I thought choosing the right path, picking the moral high-ground, was an obvious choice. In college my beliefs and personal convictions became even more rigid.
In medical school, as I began to interact with patients and families in crisis, I began realizing that many challenges, the storms of life, are rarely ever black or white issues. While many colleagues are quick to dismiss a patient with an addiction, I have found that most of these patients sincerely wish to become well, to overcome their illness, but are incapable of beating it on their own. I have also learned that rarely are medical diagnoses black and white; they are almost never “by the book”. Cancers, lupus, multiple sclerosis and infectious diseases present in such varied ways that being 100% certain of a diagnosis is an uncommon event. Even something as simple as an ear infection comes in many shades of severity. These areas of medicine, of life, are riddled with grayness, with no obvious or easy answers, no black or white.
Much like my childhood, I now find peace in the grayness of things. I find sadness in the ease with which so many make quick and hasty judgments. With my family, my faith, my profession, my friendships and my personal values, I see a spectrum of colors and possibilities, a continuum, along which we all find ourselves at various points over our lifetime. I find peace and comfort, but no sadness, in the grayness of life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.