constellational thinker. critical scholar. transformative educator.

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This Isn't Working: Resisting "Just Push Through It"

How do we create a sense of community that makes it easier for us to reach out to one another to let each other know that we are struggling in the most intimate parts of our lives? That we can share our vulnerability and hurts more freely with one another?
— Omid Safi

Tonight, I am trying to fall apart in public. The way in which I, Alex C. Lange, am trying to be and exist in the world isn't working. At least, it isn't working in a way that is sustainable for me and what I need and what I want.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a class having a rich, passionate, and thoughtful back-and-forth with one of my faculty members about a subject that was deeply meaningful for both of us: social group solidarity and whether it was more actualized than not in our current sociocultural moment and historically. We have a stellar relationship which made it possible for both of us to have a generous conversation with good questions and fierce calls and challenge to one another. Even in light of our strong relationship, I could feel something was not right in this conversation. Something was off and it was off with me. The way in which I was responding felt a little more visceral to me than normal, something I was both conscious and unconscious to in the immediate reflection I was having in my head as all this was going on. We were way past break time so we broke, deciding to bring the conversation back up after break. 

I stepped outside the classroom, found the nearest bench, and deeply thought with myself: What's going on? Why am I losing my cool? Why does my body feel so hot and yet so cold simultaneously? By the time break ended, I did not have an answer but I knew what I needed to do: I needed to recede. I needed to go inside, to allow silence to be my state in the rest of the class because I needed to know what was happening internally before I let anything else manifest externally. 

After class, I talked with my faculty member; she knew something wasn't right. She sat with me and I was on the verge of tears. I knew what was wrong and named it. I've not been filling the tank back up; I just didn't have the reserves I normally have to do what I normally would do when I was feeling ungrounded. I've been so knowing- and doing-oriented that I have not slowed down to take the time to be being-oriented.  I had been feeling lonely, not in an amorous sort of way but more so in a community sort of way. And the hardest part of all of it was that I felt I couldn't change my ways until Winter Break. I said "there's too much to do and too much to be done that I cannot take the time now to change how I am existing. I have to push through it for now..."

There it was. My old friend. 

After being pushed that Winter Break may be too long for me to wait, I brushed it off. I continued to say in my head that I can do it. I can make it. And then the date became Oct. 19th, the day after major assignments are due as well as some papers I am working on with others. And as I was riding the bus home today, I just felt this weight continue to be on my chest, on my heart, and on my head - I cannot wait. 

I continue to invest in "pushing through" because I have this (il)logical voice in my head that says "if we make it to X date, we'll be fine and we can reassess." And the thing about it is, I never reassess. I never make the actual changes I need to make. I allow myself to get confident that I've pushed through hard things before, I can do harder things now and continue to test my boundaries of non-sustainable life practices. That's not gonna work anymore. I don't have the reserves nor the time to rely on energy that I am not making and carving out for myself. I cannot wait until October 19th. 

What do I mean by that? I mean my energy, my ability to be the Alex I like being has not felt possible this last month or two. Some of that is natural. I am living in a new place, engaging in a new daily routine of being a doctoral student (who tends to be more ambitious than not), still working to establish a community where I feel comfortable to name so much of what is happening with me, inside and out. And more so than any move before, I have given myself time and grace on these things. I've talked about them openly with advisors, mentors, and friends, new and old alike. But these things haven't been the source for why I feel I cannot commit to a daily practice of being Alex C. Lange.

My way of engaging in the world is not working. I feel an hourly tug to be consumed by social media feeds on Facebook and Twitter to make sense of what is happening locally, nationally, and globally in a time where everything feels fragile and breakable. I feel a sense of disconnection from so many in my previous life because change requires intentional thought and evaluation of ways of being in new forms of relationship when you cannot be in someone's physical proximity in the same ways you were before. I feel a sense of anxiety looking at e-mails and podcasts that are waiting for my attention and yet I feel guilty taking time on anything that isn't due in the next day or two.

In a time where I think the outer world and my inner world feel so much more fragile to me than they did before, what I am doing isn't working. In a time where I feel that each new notification or e-mail will bring with it news that will be (re)devastaing for me, my kin, or my neighbor, what I am doing isn't working. In a time where I am more focused on the outcomes my body and mind can produce and have lost focus on the ways in which I want to exist in the world and the meaningful ways I want to be with others, what I am doing isn't working. In a time where I felt taking time to writing for me to process was riddled with thoughts of all the other things I could be doing, what I am doing isn't working. 

And what spurred this post tonight was thinking through how others are also feeling this way. The effects may be different. Our social and physical locations may be varied. And yet I think there is a strong sense that our attention is like a fly, we may rest somewhere for a minute, scanning the area and taking it in and yet both small and large movements, whether they are aimed to smash us or not, cause us to jump from one landing to the next, feeling no sense of anchor to anything. 

So I am committed to make small changes each day and build up to bigger changes. Deadlines are not going away but I can work with people to name what I need and see what they can offer. I am committed to allowing larger shifts to happen over time. rather than going for this "balls to the wall change" approach that never seems to work because it is too drastic, too fast, and too outcomes-oriented. Notifications can be muted, apps can be taken off phones, And I am deeply committed to seeking new ways to be with and alongside others. Because figuring this out by myself is not working and has not worked. So if you want to figure this out with me, to commit to a process rather than an outcome, to commit to being together over coming up with lists and recommendations, let's talk. 

Alex Lange