There is a French colloquialism that goes “trop de la pain sur la planche” or “too much bread on the board.” It is meant to describe being too busy, having too much to do. Before the 19th Century, the same phrase was used to describe being comfortable with one’s resources; having enough to get by.
It is interesting to me that something that meant “having enough” came into new use with industrialization as a phrase to describe overwork. Capitalism in action.
My friend, a teacher of the French language, told the story of a student who misheard “trop de la pain sur la planche” as “trop des lapins sur la plage” – easy enough to do. “Trop des lapins sur la plage” means “too many rabbits on the beach.”
Being my father’s daughter, the apple not falling too far from the tree and all that, I’ve incorporated the misspeak into my own personal lexicon, often yelling from my office “Too many rabbits on the beach!” when faced with a deadline and feeling overtaxed.
Curiously enough, no one has asked me about this idiosyncrasy… I imagine they just chalk it down to Janine being Janine, shrug silently and go about their daily business. I suspect I get a lot of that. I suspect my dad did as well. Tant pis.
Often, in community or coaching groups, we are encouraged to explore the ‘both/and’ of where we are in our bodies, mind, spirits.
Both/and is a kinder gentler approach to the either/or of the industrialized Western world, and is described in detail as a “Coaching Power Tool”created by Kimberley Parrott here.
Instead of feeling either satisfied or needy, for example, both/and allows for both being present at the same time.
Both/and recognizes that we can carry disparate feelings in our bodies simultaneously, that it’s natural, and healthy to observe and honour. Both/ands are integral to the state of being human.
It has never been a concept that felt uncomfortable for me; both/and more often than not seems the best descriptor for my state of being.
Born on the cusp of practical Capricorn and dreamer Aquarius: both/and
Born to a maternal family of boisterous extroverts and a paternal family of quiet introverts: both/and
Born female into a patriarchal society: both/and
Finding the space in the coaching and healing community to describe my both/ands feels natural.
This is the Bertolo family cottage (or camp as they’re called in Northern Ontario), on Nils Bay on the North Shore of Lake Superior. As you can see, the shoreline is rocky; the edges of the stones worn down to smooth by the wind and the waves over centuries – an abundant eternal source of skipping stones and beach glass treasures.
The camp was named the Cedar Shore; you can see the cedars protected from lake erosion by a gabion wall in right side of this photo. Left of this view, out of range of the camera, the cedars meet the pebbled shore and go on for quite a distance.
One hot August day, when the lake was uncharacteristically still as glass, not a cloud in the sky – Ami McKay described such a sky as “fool’s blue” in her masterpiece novel The Birth House:
“it’s the kind of sky that begs to you sit and look at it all day. Once it’s got you, you’ll soon forget whatever chores need to be done, and before you know it, the day’s gone…”
On this particular hot sunny day, I opted to float out on a giant inner tube, on the calm mirror of water into the middle of the bay, dangling my feet in the cold lake, dipping in occasionally for a swim, and climbing back onto the inner tube to sun, like a turtle, until I was too warm to stay still and dipped back into the lake to cool off. Alone and not a sound except the occasional chirping of cicadas in the hot summer air. It was sublime.
And then, a soft sound. A gentle clicking, then silence, then clicking again, silence again, clicking again.
Click, click, click.
I scanned the beach to figure out where the sound was coming from and saw… rabbits!
Five or six of them, playing tag with each other at the base of the cedars, chasing each other in and out of the trees, skidding on the stones and sending them tumbling over each other in the game.
Click, click, click.
It was truly magical.
The scene would have been invisible from any other perspective. It was if they were doing bunny ballet solely to entertain me; and themselves. They were obviously having great fun skidding in and out of the cedars from shade to sun and back again.
Both/ands are not static; they change from day to day, from moment to moment, from human to human. For me, there is always both/and when I think about rabbits on the beach. It is an image of busy overwork and, at the same time, it is an image of sublime peace and delight.
I’m curious to know: do you have both/ands to share? Let me know in the comments or leave a message on my Facebook page.
Either way, I hope you are able to recognize and honour your both/ands today.