Turning my ‘buts’ into ‘ands’
I am wary of the power of the little word ‘but’.
It easily slips into my sentences and, if I’m not careful, into my spirit.
Listen to these statements and notice what that single syllable does:
I had a good retreat that gave me a fresh sense of my path, but now I am back at work and facing reality.
It’s sunny now, but it’s going to be cold and rainy later.
I am looking forward to seeing my friends, but the journey back is going to take ages.
What does the ‘but’ do? With its addition the second part of the sentence begins to overwhelm the first. ‘Reality’ threatens to suffocate the insights of a helpful retreat. The presence of warm sunshine is put in the shadows by the coming cold and rain. The day with friends carries with it the burden of the long trip back.
The ‘but’ in these sentences is the gloomy companion that sucks out the joy and hope of the present moment. It is not that what follows the ‘buts’ is not as true as what precedes them. Instead the ‘but’ distorts what is real by invoking anxiety and negativity. ‘But’ takes us out of the gift of the moment, by summoning the ghosts of the past and anticipating the burdens of the future.
Instead of ‘but’ I am attempting to remember to say ‘and’:
I had a good retreat that gave me a fresh sense of my path, and now I am back at work and facing reality.
It’s sunny now, and t it’s going to be cold and rainy later.
I am looking forward to seeing my friends, and the journey back is going to take ages.
‘And’ accepts the truth of both halves of the sentence without one invalidating the other. I can hold both things together. I do not have to cast aside the insights of my retreat because I now face the challenges of my work. I can enjoy the sun, and – who knows – I might find unexpected joy amidst the cold and rain that will come later. I can relish being with my friends and leave the journey back to where the journey back belongs – in future time that is not this time.
‘And’ allows me to hold what seems in opposition together. I can be fearful and choose to trust. I can laugh and I can cry. I can more easily accept and live all things in their moment.
I make effort, and give attention, to not falling into the way of my fearful ‘buts’; and I do not always succeed.
And in my attempts to turn from ‘buts’ to ‘ands’ I believe I am responding to God who dwells amidst paradox and mystery and labours for us so persistently and creatively.
And here – again – the ‘but’ rises, pointing to my inconsistency and the inconveniences that so easily daunt me.
And I turn again...and...