The Power of Intentionally Unlearning
Updated: May 3, 2020
The internet is awash with fast-moving-motion-memes right now.
You know the ones, the ones. They’re snapshots of snapshots of short-form thoughts from strangers we’ll never meet that keep shouting at us about how it’s time to hunker down, pull our socks up, develop new skills, hone our hustles, bake banana bread, & to finally learn to speak Italian fluently.
These calls to modern arms are righteous. They're saccharine sweet. They're the borrowed brain-children of Instagram gurus who want only to share with us their guides to better living. Dripping in positivity they shout out at us from square images soaked in perfectly pretty pastels that every moment we’re alive is a blessing.
This pandemic/crisis/hill to climb ahead of us is a blessing in disguise. A re-set of sorts.
A moment for awakening.
To see the silver-linings inherent in THE NOW we need only take off our Negative-Nelly hats & put on our Positive-Patty pants to see it.
We’re encouraged incessantly to get up, get dressed, & get our hustle on.
Team, getting dressed in clothes – actual human clothes – is overrated if you’re staying home.
That said, the internet Sherpas are telling us that we’ve got all the time in the world right now & instead of staring at the four walls that surround us, we should be more buoyant than ever.
We should be pretty.
We should have a perfect workspace set up.
We should be relishing in our newfound headspace.
Right? AM I RIGHT?
BASTA! (I think that’s what Italians shout when they want stuff to stop) Bleurgh. Barf. Nope.
I’m placing a long-distance toll call to 1-800-BULLSHIT on all of this right now & the internet can foot the bill.
Now isn’t a time of gentlemen farmers & lady artists living to reimagine a utopian version of humanity that might’ve been ready to happen (or not) all along. Team, we’re all fighting a global pandemic & trying to figure out how to maintain even the teeny-tiniest remnants of normalcy while we do right now.
We’re surviving. Just. That is, if we’re lucky.
What we're really doing a lot of right now is UNlearning. Fast.
How in the world are we meant to be thriving & coming out of lockdown with new degrees in microbiology whilst raising our kids, keeping the house clean, meditating morning & night all whilst learning to make gnocchi from scratch from the left-overs we have in the pantry.
FML. I can’t hack it. I can’t hack this.
The good news? Not many of us can or are willing to.
None of us have ever known times like this before.
Not even people who survived the 1918 Spanish Flu.
In our uber-connected world, we have information at our fingertips that reminds us daily, hourly, even by the second that we’re all treading water in a choppy & uncertain sea. We’re being taken along with a tide that is wholly unknown. And, we’re finding out that what we all knew for certain was never certain at all.
Over the past four weeks I’ve spent a lot of time riding the ups, the downs, & the loop-de-loops of this rollercoaster life that we’re living through in the midst of a global pandemic. If “finding oneself” was difficult in a pre Covid-19 world, good god we’re all in for one helluva hard lesson in what difficult truly means as we make our way forward together.
But, I’m okay with difficult. I’m okay with unlearning.
I’m okay with sitting on the floor in the garage weeping into a punching bag knowing that the feelings of sadness & grief that are weighing me down won’t be there forever.
Here’s why I am okay with all of this: what I’ve learning in the past four weeks has helped me to be so much more kind, empathetic, & self-aware than any other lessons I’ve ever learned before. In the past four weeks I’ve been able to see my personal narrative & the ways in which I interpret the world through a lens of cultural conditioning – a conditioning which has played a huge role in how I view the world & myself in it.
From a young child society tells us that we must be busy. Motion is good. Stillness is bad. Forward movement is growth. Idle hands... well, you know what they do. Picking apart what the world has told me success is & looks like has been a journey in itself. Money. Titles. Awards. Networks. Groups. Inside jokes. Followers. Living the true Cult of Busy lifestyle. Meh. Yuck. Gross.
As I’ve spent time enjoying the state of being “un-busy” & of not deriving my personal worth from titles, or jobs, or how many meaningless meetings I can fill a day with I’ve become more productive. Productive in a different sense, too. My output is vastly different now.
Excel spreadsheets, power point presentations, mini-novellas disguised as important emails – they’re out. Creative thought, creative executions, strategic planning & doing. All of these are new ways of measuring output for me. And wow, what a TRIP it has been to use my creative brain again without guilt. Without feeling like I’m cheating on “real thinking” by not having to spend my days washing all of my work & conversations in beige corporate jargon that feels disingenuous at best & wanky almost always.
So here’s another something I’ve unlearned recently – slowing down is not giving up.
Whew, there, I said it. I’m gonna say it again softer for the people up from & louder for those in the back because we all need to hear it said clearly: slowing down is not giving up.
I am someone who needs to move constantly. Whether in body, mind, or spirit – I am a being in motion. My nickname as a kid was “Wigglebutt” because I could never sit still. Even as an adult, the thought of stillness (especially the intentional kind) makes me nervous & twitchy. But I’m finding out that stillness for me happens when my body is moving & my mind can wander.
I am unlearning stillness. And, it’s so very empowering.
While practicing presence in quieter moments I actively listen to the little voice inside my head (mine inner-voice is a dialogue, not a story presented to me in images or colours). Quite often recently this voice has told me some not-so-pretty home truths. The voice has told me I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m simply not enough. Luckily, through my journey of unlearning I am able to step back & hear the voice in me for what it is – an echo of others.
My true inner monologue is a sweet-talker. She’s a big ‘ol flirt. She loves nothing more than to talk herself & others up to the point that everyone feels the limitless potential of their own being. She comes out to play when I am aware of the voice of learned behaviour, of societal conditioning, & of the opinions of others who have had similar conditioning embedded into their narratives of the world around & inside of them.
Right now I am loving my own spicy secret sauce of mindfulness. I’m showing up, stressing less, & creating more of what the universe leads me to create. I am consuming less. Well, consuming less media & negative news. When you put me in front of a bad of salt & vinegar chips I am consuming more. Ha! I am also embracing a more hippy-esque journey towards self-kindness & self-acceptance. As in, radical acceptance. Doing this feels weird, foreign, good, empowering, wobbly.
I feel like we’re all going to be wobbly for a while.
Right here, right now, in the time of pithy positivity I am instead choosing an optimistic path towards a lifetime ahead of unlearning. At work, at play, at home. Here’s to unpacking the heavy shit, re-packing the good shit, & realising that we’re not going anywhere for a while so maybe we don’t have to pack anything up at all. Maybe, just maybe, we’re able to just be.
Today’s mantra: Unlearn everything. All of it.