I own what I have lost

Listening to a conversation the other day I heard someone use the phrase “my ex”. They were referring of course to someone they were once married to.

The concept of applying a possessive label, a word used to describe belonging alongside something you describe as being previous, being lost, being ‘ex’, struck me as odd.

I no longer have this, it is ‘ex’, but it belongs to me, it is mine.

I no longer have a spouse and so the replacement label for that loss is what I will own instead. It’s as if we wear the label of having lost it with pride.

Yoonjin “Zoonzin” Lee, who took the photo on this post, gives a voice to small found objects with his blog – What small objects think when you forget them on the street. What a fab idea.

contrary to contradiction…


The well bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.

Oscar Wilde

I don’t claim to be wise, but it amuses me when I contradict myself.

For example, I sometimes catch myself behaving in a way which flies in the face of what I’ve just said. Or saying something that contradicts what I’m doing.

For example, the other day, to allow a group of people to explore learning, we folded our arms, then unfolded them, to fold them again the other way. We were exploring the process of learning and I asked them to reflect and then share their process of learning. I explained there was no judgement. I then asked them to repeat the folding but said, ‘Now fold your arms the wrong way.’ I noticed my use of ‘wrong’ and smiled inside.

We are funny aren’t we?

We are multiple. More than one. Made up of parts. Light and shade. Simple complexity. Surface depth.

Our monochrome contradictions

Foreign policy is a balancing act. Lines are never clear. Neatly drawn. It’s a grey world rather than a monochrome extreme one.

Reading recently about the struggles in the Middle East highlights this clearly. Alliances between unlikely bedfellows; either battling against IS, resisting Iran’s regional dominance, seeking to create new states, or to destroy existing ones. Lines drawn between old enemies, new enemies, enemies for a reason, enemies for a season, enemies for a lifetime. Nation states trying to balance their contradictions. Not able to totally support one cause, because of complex overlapping interests in other causes.

It reminds me of our own human struggles. Our internal contradictions of self. That sense that a part of us wants something whilst another part wants something else, something contrary. That experience of being a certain way at times, then being a very different way, in a different place or time.

We have contradictions.

We are muted monochrome shade, rarely black, rarely white.

In my coaching work I sometimes encourage clients to explore their contradictions. The edges of themselves. I, for example, would describe myself as an “extrovert loner”. Sometimes gregarious, social, with a view to express. Sometimes seeking to be alone, silent. I need both parts. My ‘foreign policy’ needs to play both hands.

Naming these seemingly opposite, contrary, elements of self allows us to honour them, respect them, work with them all. I encourage an “I am… ” construct. I often find the choice of sequence my clients make is revealing. Usually the first part of the contradiction describes how they are, the second, who they are. Here are some examples…

I am an open secret
I am a tidy mess
I am hopelessly hopeful
I am an enthusiastic couch potato
I am an away from futurist
I am a responsible rebel
I am a leading follower
I am an unplanned achiever
I am an independent team player
I am deliberately informal
I am a selfish altruist

Foreign policy is laced with politics and self interest. But perhaps so are our parts?  Just like the politicians we are trying to balance multiple interests. Just like the politicians we don’t reveal our full hand, even to ourselves. Just like the politicians, that ‘mishonesty’ can bite us.

The question is, do we need to go to war? Does that serve us?

Be curious about your contradictions. Explore what each part seeks and offers you. Recognise their intent for you. Embrace them all.