I have come a long way. A long way since childhood, a long way since high school, a long way since my divorce, a long way since opening my own business, a long way since the start of this pandemic. I have grown and changed, sometimes unconsciously due to circumstance, sometimes intentionally through deliberate effort. As a child, just existing in the world is a constant learning opportunity. As an adult, the opportunities for circumstantial learning have definitely not decreased, but a higher proportion of my personal growth is now on purpose.
I devote energy and effort to personal reflection and development because it's fulfilling and it feels good, but that's not the only reason. Humans are not set-it-and-forget-it situations. Even when we make a change, if maintenance isn't built into our new system, then inevitably there is some amount of backslide. Not because humans are terrible at sticking with things, simply because whatever is most practiced is most likely.
I spent the first 3 decades of my life putting other people's emotional needs before mine. Even though intellectually I understand that is not a healthy way to engage with other humans, that knowledge alone won't help me because it doesn't erase my well-practiced tendency. If I don't practice doing something different, then my default will continue to be what it always has been.
Sometimes even when we do perform regular maintenance or check-ins, we hit that backslide anyway. That's what it feels like every time something traumatic from my past appears unexpectedly. Like this week, when I got hit by a ton of emotional bricks. I couldn't stop the flood of unpleasant emotions, or the compounding cascade of old narratives from playing in my minds ear, but I could call time-out and step away to process through it before it erupted all over the loving person who accidentally set-off my internal shitstorm.
The only good thing I can say about the experience of being triggered is that every time it happens with something I've been doing maintenance on, I can see the trigger for what it is more and more clearly. Just like my friend who posted about their recent recovery from a backslide into substance abuse after a long stint of sobriety. Even though the realization they had been consumed by their addiction felt just as devastating, the time they spent under the spell of this new substance was shorter than the last. Progress.
And that's just how it is. We learn some things, we make some headway, but we don't exist in a vacuum so sometimes we are affected by circumstance and take a few steps back before we can continue forward on our journey. Especially when the world is stressful, scary, or uncertain (which it almost always is). So I make time to practice whatever new way of speaking, thinking, feeling, or being I'd like to accomplish out in the wild.
The same thing is true for broader society. We make some progress, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the NFL's Rooney Rule, requiring clubs to interview at least one minority candidate for each head coach and general manager vacancy. Then we don't follow-up with enough practice to support a lasting change. So we end up with Brian Flores' lawsuit calling out the NFL's backslide into racist hiring practices. Or the criminalization of black men in the 1970's and the current prison industrial complex.
I don't want to keep losing progress on anti-racist efforts. I don't want to keep losing progress on women's rights. I don't want to keep losing progress on queer, trans, gay or rights for any other LQBTQIA+ identifying humans. And I especially don't want our democracy to devolve into complete fascism. The question is: how do we stop the backslide.
And the answer is: we have to practice something different. Every moment of every hour of every. single. day. Racism, sexism, transphobia, and political fear-mongering are so entrenched in our societal systems and personal perceptions that if we disconnect from active civil participation and coast on auto-pilot then we're running on our default, which is racist, sexist, anti-trans, and fear-based.
So do your personal work, learn about all your intrinsic biases, heal your trauma. Start seeing your internal world more clearly, so you can see what's happening around you with greater clarity. Then you can show up for yourself and everybody else and do what we need to do to make this world a better place. Most importantly: keep practicing. None of us can change the course of humanity alone. We all have to throw our intentional efforts toward building a future that includes and values everyone everywhere. And we can't get there by accident.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.