My Paradox of Self

I love the concept of a paradox.  A thought that seems thorough and rational but leads to an illogical conclusion.  How can a statement, picture or theory be true and untrue at the same time?  It’s all about perspective.  As a young adult, I had little perspective.  Everything in the world was black or white, true or false, evil or good.  A time when my world was simple.  We all know life is not simple, as we navigate ethical decisions that may have no right or wrong answers.  When I love animals is it okay to use them in scientific research?  Is it right to force Dad from his home into a long-term care facility?  Our world is not simple or monotonal.

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The first time I encountered these shades of grey in my personal life was surrounding my partner’s medical treatment.  Allison was a strong woman with a clear picture of what she was doing and how it was going to happen.   As a professional working in biomedical research I found it challenging to reconcile her choices when her vision conflicted with that of medical professionals.  In retrospect I wish I could have checked my ego and truly listened, trying to understand her perspective.  I got there eventually but not without years of silent frustration, some anger and even resentment.  I’m not proud of those choices but they were mine.  At the time, I was not a good communicator being unable to describe my emotions, especially around conflict.  In time, we worked through all of these things and I felt I truly understood and supported her medical treatment decisions for the years leading up to her death.  Looking back at the achromatic greys of our relationship it seemed like I knew her forever but that forever was but a fleeting moment.

So where is that world now?  It’s funny because my perspective seems even more diverse than ever.  What I mean is I carry Allison’s perspective with me.  Before, our very different perspectives would complement each other. Whereas now, I know how she would react and I channel her perspective every day when I’m parenting our daughter.  People say that two become one when you’re married but definitely I am still more than one after her death.  Gone yet still alive…another paradox.

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Many aspects of my life didn’t fit the one plus something person I now am.  For nearly a year I had continued to live while prioritizing characteristics and honoring decisions that seemed from a lifetime ago.  I began to think about what is important in life and how my daughter and I might need to change.  I write that simple statement in one sentence but it truly was months of pondering, questioning and looking deep within myself.  My realization – we can go anywhere and do anything.  So many things rushed through my head!  We can relocate for a new job?  Wait – I can quit my job and travel, volunteer internationally or possibly return to school?  What a liberating feeling but at the same time paralyzing with utter terror.

So what have I done?  First of all I’ve talked extensively with my daughter exploring how she feels about the world of possibilities.  My investment in communication has paid off and she is onboard for almost any adventure.  We plan exciting vacations together having recently returned from Brazil and our eyes are set on Thailand and Italy.  I’m still enjoying my fulfilling job with fantastic and dynamic coworkers.  I’ve written several grants exploring a return to graduate school and I am always eying international volunteer postings.  It’s fair to say we haven’t nailed down our future plans!  I’m not sure what adventurous paths we will walk down but I have no doubt there will be a paradox or two along the way.

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Michael Brunt

PhD | Science curious | Single dad | Animal lover | Motorcycle enthusiast | Traveller

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