We Contain Multitudes


When it seems as though we find ourselves in a world of binaries – the rich and the poor, the Democrats and the Republicans, the educated and the illiterate, pro (insert any given issue) and against (the opposite of said issue) – it isn’t difficult to understand why divisive rhetoric fills our daily lives. It is possibly easier in a world full of conflicting information to label an individual and move on – adopting a set of rules, standards, and beliefs probably helps us compartmentalize information and people more efficiently and provides us the ability to say, “Done. I’ve got that one figured out. Next.” What IF though – what progress could we make though – if we assumed that each individual contains multitudes?

What if we thought of people as an ever evolving entity? When we see someone at the grocery store, a school meeting, or the dentist’s office for example, we are really only seeing a brief snapshot of who they are and we most likely make observations or judgments on the brief encounter. In my short thirty-three years on earth, my life snapshots have included poor and well to do, conservative minded and liberal minded, uncultured and well-mannered, from country to country club – does this mean I lack authenticity? A sense of self?

Weekends as a young girl for me were always the same — Hardee’s biscuits ‘n gravy on Saturday morning, the Springs Road Flea Market to grab a “surprise $1 bag,” Shell’s BBQ for lunch, Hickory Motor Speedway Saturday night, and then Antioch Baptist Church on Sunday morning with my grandparents. My parents divorced when I was three and I became the product of a single dad — a love of cars and a preference for “Rocky” movies remain in effect today. My favorite is Rocky IV. My hamster’s name was Rambo and my 7th grade theatre teacher taught me how to apply make-up. Forget “Girls Gone Wild,” my elementary school pictures would be reason enough for future employers to question my judgment. Don’t get me wrong, my poor grandparents, who became a glue for our family, tried with all their might to make my sister and myself look presentable. Alas, there were times when the “Picture Day!” announcement never quite made it their way.

And then it happened — I washed off the garage grease and headed to the country club. As it turns out, my mom had remarried and we now belonged to the club. I had never seen a pool chair so fancy. It was long, white, pristine, and had several sections including a place for your back, legs, and arms! It was a far cry from the stringy weaves of color I was used to using. I was around 12 or 13 when I joined the club through marriage and I could only think one thing, “How do you operate this fancy chair?” I sat down my towel, my Walkman, and gently lowered my back into the chair. BAM! My legs flipped up over my head and the chair swung over on top of me, pinning me to the concrete. I was afraid to move and whispered over to my sister, “helllp me…”  My mother continued applying her sunscreen and I eventually untangled from that deceitful Venus fly trap.

The years of oscillating back and forth from my dad’s garage to my mom’s country club hold many stories and lessons of enlightenment. Now with a family of my own, I reside in a country club and have those stringy, Walmart multi-colored weaved chairs on my back deck. A binary of rich and poor, “the haves” and “the have-nots,” is a complicated paradox where neither “have it all” figured out. Is it possible that we can find grace for one another in accepting that we all contain multitudes? That we are not fully explained in one snapshot?

What if by admitting that we contain multitudes, we actually are embracing our true selves? What if we openly admit that our opinions on topics change with our own personal experiences? What if we are ever evolving as thinkers, believers, feelers, doers, advocates, as individuals?

And, wait for it, what if that’s okay? 

I am a woman that contains multitudes –

I will challenge myself to practice the grace that sees and accepts your multitudes too.

Jennifer Boyle was born and raised in the foothills of North Carolina.  She now lives in Lexington, NC and is a lover of rhetoric, western style liver-mush, education, BBQ, and fully embracing her mountain mama self to two little boys and one spirited husband

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