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two sides of a coin

two sides of a coin, blog post by Andrea Hurley

by Andrea
August 25, 2015

So much of life can be viewed through the metaphor of “two sides of a coin.” Almost everything, in fact, can be seen in this way. There’s the bright side and the dark side. The ups and the downs. The struggles and the victories. And yet mysteriously, the net sum of our lives is not neutral. These two sides don’t inherently balance each other out or flatten the plane of our existence. Most of us would probably agree that at the end of the day, year, or lifetime, there is some net gain or some positive momentum generated, even if only incremental. We would probably agree that our hard won victories were worth the struggle. There is a reason we continue to make sacrifices for what we believe in and for what we love—that reason seemingly built into the very fiber of human existence.

This is what I find when I look under the surface of these two sides of a coin in my own life—at least eventually. While the struggle usually proves to be worth it in the end, it’s not always obvious in the moment. Time most often plays a role in revealing this deeper trajectory. When experiencing the dark side of the coin, I have to be willing to hang in there, suspend judgments, and keep an open and curious mind. 

If you read my last post, the places we love, you will know that I was anticipating bringing my mother, now 97 years of age, to our family cottage on Lake George. Since that essay, our time has come and gone. Every summer when I am with my mother at the lake, a treasure trove of stories come out of this time together. This year was no different, and I’ll probably be mining my experience of these 2 weeks for months to come. There were some big dramatic moments (yes, another trip to the ER) as well as plenty of smaller and more subtle moments that riveted my attention. More of all of this to unfold in future posts…

But for now... as I take a broad sweep and look over everything, from the preparation and anticipation, to the arrival, to the adjustment, to the settling in, and finally to the return home, I have been asking myself if it was worth it. Did I do the right thing? Was it worth the effort and personal sacrifice? Was it worth the heartbreak of leaving after 2 weeks? I could not anticipate how difficult it would be when we were packing up, especially as my mother was just settling in and rediscovering her independence in a home she loves. I couldn't anticipate that moment when I had to tell her that we were leaving, and the puzzled look of disappointment in her eyes, or how deeply that moment would lodge into my heart and ripple into a whole week of sadness and questioning. I could not anticipate the challenges of the darker sides of the coin. 

So yes, there are the ups and the downs of all of our life experiences. These ups and downs give us a lot to reflect on, think about, and evaluate. From a certain point of view, it is the ups and downs that activate our own autonomous thinking. Without them, we would probably be pretty boring people. But we're not. We're thinkers and reflectors, and we measure the outcomes down to the tiniest detail. Why? Because we're always trying to do better, and we don't want to repeat our mistakes. We are built to learn. We are built to care. It's just who we are. 

And so as I think and reflect and evaluate about these 2 weeks on Lake George with my elderly mother and ask myself if it was worth it, the answer by now is pretty clear. Yes, it was worth it. 

The dark side of the coin has given me lots to question and think about, but the bright side of the coin is immeasurable. That bright side is cast deep into the heart, and shines there. It can't be rationally explained, and yet, its presence is indisputably true, like a well of pure goodness, forever unfolding. 

two sides of a coin by Andrea Hurley 

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