Let’s face it: growth is hard.
An event that takes us out of our comfort zone is a potential catalyst for growth, and holy shiza have we ever been knocked out of that comfort zone! The pandemic we’ve lived with, and the social inequities it has highlighted, have pulled the rug right out from under our contented feet.
As we expand in mind and vision, floating away from our secure position, we encounter a core human emotion programmed to keep us limited: fear.
Our entire framework is designed to accommodate all of our expansion needs. But sometimes, when we’re challenged to face personal and collective growth or asked to step up to a new normal, we feel hesitant. We become frightened by the new set of challenges and possibilities ahead, causing us to retreat. We begin to experience growth fatigue—we just want to fall back into our comfortable lifestyle.
There’s no denying it: life as we’ve known it has changed. We are expected to leave the familiar behind—structures we’ve spent years erecting and acclimatizing to—and walk into the unknown with our eyes wide open.
Stepping out into the unknown is a test of character, bankrolled by trust.
Trust requires sacrifice—total surrender of defense systems built to protect us from getting hurt.
Trust requires courage—potentially putting our fate in the hands of another.
Do you remember when you were a kid, playing outside with your friends? There was this game that seemed thrilling at the time. I didn’t know it then, but now I understand it to be a game of trust.
One friend turned her back on the other; the second friend stood behind and said, “Okay, I’m ready to catch you.” The first girl would fall back into the arms of the other, completely trusting that her friend quite literally “had her back.”
This fall-back game meant we could set aside our homework, our house chores, our need to be responsible for a younger sibling, any daunting dysfunction in our home. We didn’t have to worry about a thing. We could simply “fall back” into trusted arms. This game took courage. It took trust. But the reward was that for those few moments, we could feel securely held.
Not long ago, I watched my young pup create her version of the fall-back game. During her short life, she has been boldly meeting many expectations of a puppy growing into an adult dog.
This little pup started out in a tiny crate where she slept at night and took her naps during the day. It provided her with safety and security. She has since outgrown her puppy crate and graduated to her “big girl” crate. Though the big crate is always available to her, she sometimes puts herself into the tiny crate for a little time out. It’s a place where she can feel contained. A familiar space where she feels completely secure.
During this past year, we’ve lived through a social tsunami. We’ve experienced radical change, the kind that wakes us up and demands that we do better. We may not have wanted to, but we, too, have outgrown our “tiny crates.”
Growth is hard, and sometimes we find ourselves needing to just fall back—to feel held and contained. We may be doing courageous things, challenging ourselves to move beyond previous boundaries. But we may also be feeling fragmented, like we’re falling apart, losing parts of ourselves that once comforted us. We may find ourselves wanting to fall back into our comfort zone—put ourselves back into our tiny crate. And that’s okay.
Or maybe it’s not.
If we all fall back to where we were a year and a half ago, doesn’t that mean we’ve learned nothing from the horrific times we’ve lived through?
We’ve seen things we can’t “un-see,” heard things we can’t “un-hear,” and experienced things that have rocked our world. We simply can’t slip back into that comfortable place we inhabited before we were awakened.
What if 2020 could be known as the year we finally woke up and realized how vital it is that we each take responsibility for growing beyond where we were? What if we all moved through our fears and played our part in creating change?
What if we found new ways to show up in our relationships?
Better ways to care for our planet?
Found a stronger voice for calling out racial injustice?
Stood stronger against bullies?
Called out homophobia?
Did a better job of working on behalf of social equality?
Lobbied for leveling the financial playing field?
Worked hard to dismantle patriarchy and supremacy in all its expressions?
Letting go of the old ways is scary. Stepping away from what is comfortable takes courage. In order to grow and begin to accept what is new, it’s natural that we lose some control and experience some fear. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Isn’t it time we let go of the institutions that no longer serve us? The thought patterns and actions that impede real growth?
We are being asked to take that uncharted course we haven’t yet gained control and mastery of. But isn’t it worth it if we can create a better world?
We think it is.