Best Advice

“Both things can be true,” my mother often says. She gets a lot of mileage out of this observation, both in her personal life as the daughter in a complicated family and the mother of an often-baffled daughter, and in her professional life as a psychotherapist. As platitudes go, it’s a pretty uncompromising one: it doesn’t offer reassurance or optimism, and it certainly doesn’t offer any certainty. In saying that both things can be true, my mother is pointing out that truths, like feelings, don’t eclipse each other—they only complicate each other. Maybe someone hurt you even though he loves you, and maybe this is something you will do yourself someday. Maybe mourning a beloved parent’s long illness doesn’t mean never resenting it. Maybe abusive people are sometimes witty, and creative people addicted; maybe charming people are sometimes sociopaths, and deceptive people survivors; maybe people sometimes behave carelessly, even though they care. And maybe we don’t need to believe or remember or feel just one thing about any person or situation. Maybe, in fact, we shouldn’t.

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