No matter how hard you try to split yourself into many roles, activities, and relationships, there is only one of you.
If there is something that we have all experience in times of COVID, is that our lives aren’t as compartmentalized as we thought. When your health, family, job, and all activities in between collide, then there’s nowhere to run to.
The truth is that even though you can be a very complex human being, your are only ONE human being. With limited time, energy, ideas, information, space, and resources.
You are your habits and values.
You cannot be a Christian on Sundays, and something else when you vote, or face violence. It’s useless to be a buddhist in the mornings, and go online and spew hate and act from your ego. Life loses sense if you are Sikh, Jewish or Muslim on religious holidays, but then turn on your values as you choose how to run your business or take care of your community. And if you can, if you have become accustomed to make the split, you may find that your identity and mental health are struggling. And it’s honestly no one’s fault but yours.
Our schizophrenic habits of splitting ourselves in to many different people, in order to “fit in”, are ruining our lives. Our minds and souls need us to be coherent. Not to mention our communities, relationships, and planet! Why is that? We stop connecting with our truth. We lose our natural ability to make choices that are aligned with our values. And losing that ability, makes it harder to know what is “right” and “wrong”.
On the contrary, if we stand in our truth, and if we are honest with our values and intuition, things are simple. We don’t even need to rationalize everything we do, because we are used to acting from a deeper place of knowledge. That inner knowledge may help us discern all the noise and misinformation around us. When we live our truth as a habit, we feel more like ourselves.
What does that look like?
I care for the environment.
Therefore, I’m mindful of my waste, I care for natural resources, I protect plants and animals.
Staying healthy is important to me.
Then, I watch what I eat. I exercise, sleep well, and become mindful of how my emotions affect me.
You are your relationships.
We tend to oversimplify or compartmentalize even our relationships. When you are with your partner or spouse, you may be a woman, wife or lover. But it just so happens, that it doesn’t mean that you have stopped being a friend, daughter, or employee in that precise moment. This has become crucial as we try to split our daily activities while trying to be mothers, teachers, daughters, and just human. Just because our roles and relationships are complex, it doesn’t mean that we get extra hours in a day to make them thrive.
Our relationships have duties and activities. They are more than just titles that exist. They are actions that require time and energy. Somehow, modern living made us believe that we could parent, while we worked. Or that we could keep our relationships alive, while not being actively present. It doesn’t mean that we cannot fulfill more than one role. A father can be a great professional, and citizen at the same time. A mother can be a great boss, cook, and friend. But we need to make the time for all those things to happen. And choosing one over the other, means something. We are not just what we “do”, even more, we are defined by who we do it with.
It’s worth it to make an effort, and create schedules, chores, and structures that acknowledge that one person cannot be in two different places at the same time. Not because they are not “capable” or “willing”, but because there is only one of them. And it’s not just women who have to make the split.
You are your activities.
When we talk about our activities, we tend to think about our productive activities. We say we are “teachers” or “coaches”. We may be “entrepreneurs” or “professionals”. That is just what we do “for a living”. But we are so much more than that! Even if there is only one of you. You are an artist, a spiritual person or believer, a runner or a kickboxer, a gamer, a music-lover. Then there are your daily activities. You are the one who keeps the house in order. Your spouse could be the one responsible of the cooking, and gardening.
There are many activities in your daily life, that also make you who you are. But not only that, they also take time. Time has become the very limited asset that controls what you are capable of doing. There are 24 hours in a day, and you need to spread them out in activities that will help you keep relationships, and match your habits and values.
You are a complex human being.
That has become clear by now, all the things that make you YOU are not simple. But as a society, it is true as well. We are living complex times where people are trying to make us believe things are easier than they are. Instead of thinking of ourselves as complex human beings, many have turned us into labels trying to simplify our human experience. That’s just false, simplistic, and unfair. No one is just one hashtag. Every human being is a race, nationality, gender, age, generation, etc. Along with a set of skills, occupation, choices, values, trauma, history, relationships, activities, habits, and values.
Now, if you understand the complexity of what makes you YOU, then you understand there are no simple solutions to your problems. There is no magical policy, decision, or person who can change your reality. When things get hard, many of us would like to think that magical solution exists.
But it is precisely in hard times that we need to see our complexity. Not everything is bad or ruined at the same time. And if it is, then you can start going over all of the things that make your reality what it is, and work on them. Starting with the things you can control, and then trying to influence and change the ones that you can’t.
Making it easier for each one of us to show up fully.
Each one of us is just an individual person. It seems obvious, but we have not been acting accordingly. Systems and structures are held together as if we were just engaged and connected to them exclusively.
Organizations have schedules, policies, and structures that seem to forget that each one of us is part of a family, community, and also a professional–or a student. Government policies, are being put in place forgetting that individuals have different stories, struggles, wants, needs, and values. Even health policies are being developed as if every body acted and reacted in the same way. Yes, it’s practical. And it does take more time and resources to go beyond the simple answers. But if life in times of COVID has shown us anything, it is that we NEED to make the time to go beyond simple answers. Our problems are complicated, we can’t expect answers to be simple and easy to implement.
Tough choices may be coming soon for all of us. But we do need to remember, as we try to find what’s best for all of us, that one person is many things. You are a daughter, mother, friend, coworker, citizen, client, owner, believer, revolutionary, and everything in between. You are complex, with all of these things inside of you, but there is only one of YOU.
Recommended clip: “The Revolutionary Power of Diverse Thought” TED talk by Elif Shafak.
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Why and how matter the most. It’s not what you do!