Two Truths

I‘m always amazed how I could have managed to make it to the age I am and still sometimes get knocked upside the head by an insight that seems like it should have been so obvious, but immediately shifts my worldview.

We are one of the millions of American families who don’t live near their nuclear family. My husband’s family all lives in Pittsburgh, and mine, for the past 15 years, has toggled between Montana and Arizona. My husband Tim, our son Jeremy and I have traipsed around the country following jobs and passions and have landed in Austin where we’ve been the past three years and hope to stay for at least the next three. After that, goodness knows where life will land us.

I feel sad being away from my family. Jeremy is the only grandchild and I want desperately for him to know the people who have made me who I am and take up so much space in my heart. When my father recently passed, my son said, “I’m sorry I don’t feel more sad, mom, I just never really knew Papa very well.” My heart broke into a million pieces.

Having inherited the controller-gene from my father, I can’t help but want to fix it. We’ll move my mom and brother here! We’ll all be together! Family dinners! We’ll play cards! Walks in the Greenbelt together! Quality time! It makes so much sense! Sadly, I can control many things, but I cannot control the hearts of others.

My mom and I sat on the couch, in the dark, at 4:30 am during my last visit, neither of us able to sleep, rehashing the same raw argument for the millionth time. My dad had just passed and we were both lost. My ache to be with them and knowing I had to go was overwhelming. “Kimberly, this is my home. What if we had followed you to Seattle? To Dallas? To New York? Why should we expect Austin to be any different? You don’t stay in one place. We can’t turn our lives upside down to make a move that may or may not last. I love where I am. I have my friends here. We need home.”

I don’t know what it was about that morning, but I think, for the first time, I heard her in a way I hadn’t before.

“I know mom, but I’m sad…” When she started to interject, it was like the fog cleared and I got clarity for the first time. “It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to want you there. At the same time, I understand. I want you to feel home. I get it. I can hold those two truths at the same time. It can be true that I’m sad and it can be true that I understand.”

Up until that moment, I had looked at life as an either-or. My way or theirs. Right or wrong. Good or bad. I would fight for what I wanted or compromise, but never fully appreciated the other person’s experience because I was so focused on my own. But life is not black and white. Most things aren’t that simple.

Someone can behave in a way that I don’t agree with and still be a “good person.” Someone can want something different and not be “wrong.” There is a duplicity to life. Two very different things can be true and neither of them wrong.

“I’m sad too, you know,” my mom whispered. I want to be with you. I want to know Jeremy and for him to know me.”

“I know,” I whispered back in the dark. On the couch. In our grief. For the first time, I really did.

Maybe that’s part of growing up. That we learn to see and appreciate the complexity of life, rather than yearn for the easy answer. Maybe that’s part of what love really is. To truly step into someone else’s experience without our own agendas and judgments.

Since that moment on the couch I see “two truths” everywhere I look. As someone who has taught influence for well over a decade, it’s been quite jarring to realize that I don’t think I ever fully “got” it. It makes me curious about all of the other mysteries in life that I think I understand but lie in wait to be fully understood.

©A Thoughtful Company, LLC


Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

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  1. I love you Kimberly! It’s so freeing and interesting when we come to an understanding that we can hold space for different feelings or two different ideas at the same time. I think many of us are experiencing this right now. We feel the joy of haveing the time to be more creative, to have beautiful Zoom calls with new and old friends and yet still have such a deep and profound sense of sorrow and compassion for the suffering of and in this world.

    While reading this, I thought about my own mom. We had broken up for a bit before the quarantine and now we are back together. This time of slowing down has brought such a sweetness to our relationship and so very grateful for this. She lives in CA and I hope I can see her soon.

    I am also very grateful this time has brought me and you together!

    • I’m so glad that you and your mom have found your way back to one another. And that WE found our way into each other’s lives! As I was reading your comment I kept singing your name to the tune of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” – “Sweet Shelley Brown (bum, bum bum…)” And now it’s stuck in my head and will likely be there all day! I think you need to do a collage about that!

  2. The dichotomous thought is yes reassuring, at least in the short term, but in the long term it has several disadvantages, among which above all that of limiting our ability to read and understand the world, which is not always and only or black or white, and which above all it does not continue to be always or always black and white, everywhere and in the same way, at various ages, with the various experiences that life has in store for us.
    Unfortunately, we are almost always convinced of this after direct experience or when someone points it out to us. Sons tend to move away from home, but when they become parents in turn, they understand many things about their parents.
    It would be wonderful if family members always lived together and, above all, grandparents and grandchildren. But life does not always offer these conditions and, fortunately, today technology allows us to feel closer, “see each other” to understand, as far as possible, the state of health.
    But an elderly person cannot be eradicated from what are called “his things”, his habits, his friendships, ultimately his life. The elderly are precisely those who more than others, both for biographical reasons and for established habits, base their existence on the past, on habits, and have little desire to change them. Going to live in a new place does not seem to be among the great desires of old age.

  3. Kimberly, thank you for sharing both your story and your insight will all of us. It gives the reader a safe place to recognize and be empathetic about truths. Our biases and tendencies only allow us to see things in degrees, like wearing sunglasses. The simple beauty of your story and how it can relate to all of us, takes those sunglasses off and sends the true light in. One more step to bringing us all together.

  4. What a powerful story of the both/and and more of life and the many alternate realities people live all at the same time. Thank you so much for sharing this as this opens a doorway to the multi-dimensional nature of life, the multi-faceted, complex beings that we are as humans. No one person is one thing or has one talent or one skill or one feeling-We contain a whole assortment of thoughts, emotions, yearnings, and things we deeply value or are committed to.

    Know that I experience what you are describing with your mom in a different way-My son lives in CA. I live in NC. My daughter lives in Ohio. I want to see them in the same place at the same time ever so much. The three of us haven’t been all together since Sept. 2018. It’s a both/and situation. We all love one another And we (right now) love where we are living. I chose to relocate to NC knowing I would miss seeing my daughter. At some juncture in the future we may all end up in CA. I don’t know. I live the both/and Plus every single day.

    Thank you, again, for this meaningful, loving, and sad story. I think it’s why I call it grieflove-all one word.
    My heart goes out to you, Kimberly, as you love and miss your mom and experience the grieflove for your dad. And yearn for your son to know your mom as well as the peace you found in understanding your mom’s perspective. What’s beautiful is that love remains like a warm blanket surrounding all of this.

    • Oh Laura, I can’t think of a better word for it than grieflove. When I read that, I welled up with tears with the recognition of that truth. Thank you friend!

  5. Kimberly — This is such a powerful story and message. As I read it, I felt a release, a letting go. We can hold the space for two different perspectives at the same time. And I felt an uplifting of my spirit: “It makes me curious about all of the other mysteries in life that I think I understand but lie in wait to be fully understood.” What a great way to look at life. Thank you for working that out with your mom at 4:30am.

    • Thank you so much, my thoughtful friend. I have to admit, I continue to work it out with myself as the internal struggle is real. That’s one of the reasons writing about it proved to be so important for me, as it gives me a touchstone to remember.

    • I’m so grateful, Len. Your comments are so very thoughtful and I appreciate you taking the time to not only read this piece, but the heart you bring when you share your thoughts.

  6. Kimberly, you have just touched upon something that has been pinballing around in my brain for some time: two truths can be both be true at the same time. This country is drunk on “either this, or THAT…” Listen to how questions get asked… people want us to believe that if we want to look at getting our economy started, that we really don’t care about people dying of COVID-19, or if we want to overcome COVID-19, we have to stay locked down indefinitely. There are those who think that when we approach an intersection that the light is either red or green, that we MUST stop or go… Those lovely things called “gray areas…” which may or may not surprise you – are my specialty. I am Mr. “On the One Hand This, or on the other hand That.” Because you accepted you mom’s version of what is best, at the same time reaffirming your version doesn’t make either one of you wrong, or a communist. It’s even better than agreeing to disagree, which in many cases is just a truce to have the argument another time. What you and your mom are expressing is respect. Kimberly, we all have blind spots. Mine are like eclipses, because you can hide a planet behind some of the things that I am obtuse about. You just have had an epiphany, and it’s finding out that no one need be wrong when it turns out that you are both right. I am so tickled that both of you have found peace with a very important truth.

    I tried to explore this with this post, not sure that I succeeded:

    • For some reason my reply showed up in an entirely different place, Tom. So weird. Anyhoo! Just wanted to make sure you knew I replied to you, so copying it here!
      I need to remember to reach out to you when I need a different perspective on things, Tom. I tend to jump to decision about things too quickly and your gift is something I need in my life. Hugs to you!