Fifty Shades of Grey

Last night I had a discussion with someone dear to me who, without judgment or criticism[i], asked me why everything to me is either black or white.  Why, they inquired, am I so thrown by the grey in life? It was a fair question:  In my world you are in or out – never somewhere in between.  You (or, as the case may be, I) are elated or despondent, grossly fat or irritatingly thin, wildly interesting or painfully dull, smart as a whip or dumb as a stump.  That is, indeed, the way my mind seems to work.  It is not a good way to be…particularly when you have a child who is terrifically gender fluid.  And you are hitting (okay, well into) middle age.  And you are trying to navigate the world in a new iteration.  Nope, not good at all.

Historically, in an attempt to avoid setting myself up for failure, I have not set (let alone announced) New Year’s resolutions.  Why, you ask?  Well, in my black and white mind the only two possible outcomes are raging success or devastating failure. The thought of partial success (or, for that matter,  failure) doesn’t work for me.  I need more control than that.  (Yeah, right, like any of us have any control over anything.) (I actually believe this has something to do with being an Aries.  No, seriously, I do.[ii]) This year, however, I kinda, sorta have a resolution.  I want to learn to not only manage, but, gasp, thrive in the grey area.  There, I said it.  Damn.


Years ago, my sister in law, in preparation for her first marathon, went out of her way to tell everyone who would listen that she was in training.  I recall her telling me that she did that to keep herself accountable, in check and focused.  Her thinking was that if she announced her intentions to the world it would be way harder to bag the whole thing. [iii]  I can pretty much assure you that I will never train for a marathon, but, truth be told,  my establishing comfort with “the grey” will feel, emotionally, anyway, like more of a triathlon.  That said, I am (bravely) putting it out there so that anyone who is on the receiving end of one of my hysterical “it is grey and I cannot take it” episodes will gently, kindly and with love, talk me off the ledge and remind me that everything is not, indeed, black or white.

Back when Jess’s transition began, one of the gender specialists that I met with told me (and would tell me many times over) that I had to learn to live with the ambiguity.  My admission that maybe I didn’t want to was met with a courtesy chuckle and an implied kick in the ass.  No choice here.  This is not black and white now, will not be black and white tomorrow and may, in fact, never ever be black or white.  It is, in all likelihood, going to be grey for, well, ever.  And not the same shade of grey, either.  Sometimes there will be blue undertones, sometimes green.  It will shift from charcoal to heather to silver to slate to platinum to ash to aluminum and back to charcoal with fierce regularity within one day.  Or, as my luck would have it, in the span of an hour.  And I have to learn to live with it.

To be clear, I am managing it, admittedly some days better than others.  I don’t necessarily like the abundance of grey, but I am managing.  My resolution, however, is to embrace it, love it, appreciate it, look forward to it, wish it was greyer, in fact!  Wait.  Let’s not get crazy here…I just want to thrive – if even just a hint of grey better than I am now.  That is reasonable, right?  I can do that, right?  No black and white here!  No, sirree…in fact, I shun true black and true white.  Bring on the grey, baby.  Bring it on.

[i] You know who you are.  Thanks for the lack of judgment or criticism.  It was a good career move…I do not do well with either. ❤

[ii] This can be directly related to my having gotten an iPhone and going a little app happy.  I now get push notices every morning with my daily horoscope.  Like I needed another opinion chiming in at 6 a.m.

[iii] It worked.  She did, indeed, run a marathon.

6 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. Julie. Been following your posts for a long time now. Had a queation if I may ask. Have you begun hrt intervention with Jess yet? She’s getting older and those changes are around the corner. Thanks and keep up the excellent writing. Very insightful!


      • I agree with Sheryl’s remark. We don’t need to know those details. They are private. I think a lot of your followers are probably wondering as well. Again, your posts have encouraged me by making me think in a different way that I haven’t before about my own challenges. Keep up the great work!

  2. Hi Julie – You have embraced the grey on so many occasions that you could not possibly count them. Every time you hug you’re gorgeous daughter, you are hugging grey. I agree with Alix that the time is near for at least blockers but I am also sure you will be doing the right thing for Jess. And we don’t need to know.

  3. I call it the world of color as too many people use “grey” to justify poor behavior but that is my personal issue, there are way more colors and hues in life than can ever be accomplished with dingy grey. Good for you, the pain of living in a black and white thought process can be debilitating.

  4. Hi Julie,
    I can’t figure out how to email you, so leaving this comment. I just came across this TED talk that I think is wonderful. It made me think of you. It is about vulnerability:

    I thought you might identify with the way Brené talks about her year of therapy. Maybe you have already seen this. I thought what she said about joy and embracing it was really wonderful.
    Sorry I haven’t commented recently, I do enjoy your writing very much though and want to send you and yours all my best and warmest wishes.

    All those shades of grey: they sure make life interesting, complex and wonderful! Good luck.

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