Parallel Lives

Amos passed a Hispanic family, the father driving and smoking, the mother looking out the window with a wistful expression on her face. Amos, couldn’t swallow, so dearly did he wish to be one of them…Why does this happen to us? Because we have abandoned an infinite number and variety of pure possibilities, and perhaps they live alongside the choice we did make, immortalized in the cosmic memory. Perhaps there are unknown lives walking alongside ours, those paths we didn’t take, and we reach for them, we ache for them, and don’t know why. We have, none of us, lived our lives as we ought to have and maybe that’s a good working definition of sin.  God doesn’t care, the angels don’t care, no one is mad at us for our failures. But what agony, to know our better selves, the life we might have lived is there, just out of reach! ~ Amos Townsend – The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel

It’s not often that I quote a fictional character, but this quote has stuck with me since the first time I read it. It’s as if Haven Kimmel was speaking directly to me when Amos said these lines.

My whole life I’ve wondered these kinds of things – what if I were there instead of here, what if I were born to them instead of these people, what if I chose x, y, or z and what if – I don’t.

I’ve always wondered why we make the choices we do, why we choose red, instead of blue? Choice. What’s behind the choices I’m making?

Some might say it’s destiny/fate/insert some god’s name here behind the choices we make.

Some say that our entire lives are lived in an effort to become more whole, more of our own true selves and if we don’t choose to move forward in life, the universe will catapult us in that direction anyway. How could that be? Some say that our psyche drives us toward the things that will heal us or help us find our piece/peace in the world.

What is not brought to consciousnesscomes to us as fate ~ Carl Jung

What if there are unknown lives living alongside us and we could capture them if we make a different choice?

What if?

What if  – is the question that for me leads to anxiety. Too much information. Overload. 

Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck on a loop, in a cycle, where I keep making the same choices over and over.  Why? I take it as a sign that I haven’t learned an important lesson that I’m supposed to learn.

Sometimes I can’t get to the real question because I keep asking – what if?

What if all you had to do was make one choice differently?  What would it be, would I even think about it or choose without thought, to see if destiny/fate/failure/lesson-learning was true? What would you do?

Resistance Training for the Mind

The greater the tension, the greater is the potential. Great energy springs from a correspondingly great tension of opposites ~ Carl Jung

When you want to get your body in shape, you run, you do resistance and strength training and you get better, faster, smaller, firmer, more fit. Feel the burn, it’s good for you.

What I call resistance training for the mind is what Carl Jung calls Holding the TENSION of the Opposites.

When I first started trying to figure out who I am and what I want to do in this life, someone suggested I hold the tension of the opposites.

I didn’t quite get the meaning, until I got the meaning.

If you are constantly doing, seeing, going, deciding, choosing  without pausing –
you likely aren’t doing much of anything.

If you aren’t aware of what your unconscious (shadow) is doing – you may be sabotaging yourself when you jump to a decision without spending some time with yourself before you jump. Sometimes, you may not have that luxury – burning building, jump out window – but many other times we do have the luxury and we don’t pause, we decide based on our patterns – our history. If we become aware of what is underneath our decision (shadow) we can see things through a clear lens – what our choices are and why we are making them – this sometimes leads to creating a new pattern for yourself, which is more meaningful.

If you choose too soon, you may make a decision out of desperation and not out of consciousness.

A few weeks ago, I had two potential career opportunities on the table, both beckoning and calling me, for different reasons. I had to decide which one to take and soon. Pausing and thinking was maddening, make the choice already! I pulled out my manifesto and my values to think about what’s important to me for the future.  Holding the tension of the opposites, this and that, the yes and the no – I got to a point just sitting, not doing, not thinking – my legs began tingle, tears fell for no reason, and soon the reason became clear – all my life, most times unconsciously – I’ve made choices that drop me into chaos and craziness – because it’s what feels comfortable.

That’s not right for me anymore and not the choice I want to consciously make.

It was instant and clear what was inline with my values and what wasn’t – and saying no to what isn’t inline with my values is clearly what I want to do. But – why was I resisting it?  Because change is hard and what feels comfortable is easy.

I paused some more and reminded myself that re-imagining and reinventing myself takes something different happening, choosing a new pattern.

If you keep ending up in the same place, with the same issues, with the same thoughts, holding the tension of the opposites when you make your next decision, might be a way to move past those things and choose something in a new way.

This is resistance training for the brain. Feel the burn.

I still find it challenging, but the more I do it, the better I get at it and the better choices I make.

Where can you hold the tension of the opposites and resistance train your mind?



One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious ~ Carl Jung

The shadow – according to Jung – is the repressed part of the unconscious.  The shadow is everything you don’t want to admit about yourself, or to be, but are usually quite clear when you see it in someone else.

You know that guy at work that makes you so mad when he does that one thing – if you aren’t trying to bring the dark parts of you into the light – you might be seeing in him – the repressed part of yourself – that you find annoying – the shadow.

It’s easy to project our shadow onto everyone other than ourselves. We all do it and it’s a normal thing. So what’s the big deal?

If we take the time to recognize the shadow in ourselves, we find that we can move forward in life and the parts we like about ourselves get better too.  We become less fearful of being found out, of our shadow taking over.

I was afraid of becoming THE FAT GIRL and when I looked in the mirror and was starting to see THAT FAT GIRL, I knew the shadow part of me, that is afraid, was taking over and making me bigger than I needed to be. It’s how I was coping with some things I didn’t want to change, but were making me miserable.  I decided to get to know that fat girl and ask her to exercise with me.  Instead of beating her up, I invited her in.

While running on a sunny day I noticed that my shadow, which I seldom see in rainy Portland, was large – I didn’t recognize myself. It became a metaphor for me – an indicator for change.  As I began to deal with my shadow and uncover and admit my dark and scary places, by exercising, by asking myself the question – what do you really want?, by working on my “issues”.  I saw my shadow shrink.

When I invited my shadow in, it stopped holding me back. Instead of being in the shadow, I could step into the sun. When I was in doubt that I was on the right path – I took a look at my shadow. Big or small?

If you are willing to accept yourself with all of the dark and scary things as well as the good things, you can speak from a new place – without fear of the dark parts of you being discovered and uncovered by someone else. It’s kind of like not keeping secrets from yourself anymore.  Recognizing who you are and being okay with it.

Ignoring your shadow doesn’t make life easier, it forces us to be critical of other people.

Who looks outside, dreams… who looks inside, awakes. ~ Carl Jung

When I bump up against someone who rubs me the wrong way, I’ve started to ask this question and begin an inner dialogue with myself, what part of me do I see in them?  

Why do I hate that guy so much?
Oh, well I think he’s a fraud and not living up to what he’s been asked.
BAM – there it is, it’s something I’m afraid for myself.  Afraid to be a fraud?
I proclaim to be authentic, but what if I’m not?  The opposite of authentic to me is disingenuous, which also means – FRAUD.
So, how can I accept that at times I might be a fraud or afraid of being a fraud.


Be ME. Truly me. That is not fraud, don’t fake it. Be ME. Ask yourself what you really want, have a dialogue with the part of you that you don’t like, INVITE HER IN.

Celebrate who you are in all your goodness and all your terribleness, we’re all broken bits. We can all change, but we shouldn’t be so critical of the bad parts of ourselves, we can’t always be good.

The more you honor your shadow, the better you are going to feel. I got your number shadow, I’m going to get to know you.

How is your shadow holding you back? What are you afraid of?