Do you remember the exact age? Maybe it was the year you bought your home or the day you got married. It might have been the result of something traumatic like the loss of a family member or a joyful moment like the birth of a child. There is a finite amount of time in this world. Our attention is limited. We reach a certain point in our lives and additional effort either seems too hard or just not worth it.
It is not at all uncommon.
We no longer make the effort to see our closest friends. Our homes become retreats of comfort as opposed to spaces of community. We stop buying new clothes because our bodies change and we feel incapable or we simply can’t afford to. Many of us continue living this way (which we may or may not be comfortable with) until we die.
This is not to put anyone at fault. The point here is not to blame. Our lives inundate us with challenges and obligations. We have jobs that leave little time for anything else outside of sleeping and eating. We have bills that leave little money left over for self-care. We have loved ones that require our support and attention.
Evolution can feel impossible when maintaining feels hard enough.
But while it can be a function of time and resources, sometimes we stop trying as a form of protection. We think if we stop trying we won’t have to worry about making mistakes. It might not be what we want but it is what we are familiar and most comfortable with. When the task ahead is so overwhelming, we convince ourselves we never wanted it in the first place.
And so we stop trying.
This is why I think the shows “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” and the rebooted “Queer Eye” are so fascinating. Whether or not you have seen the shows or they resonate with you, they are shows that deal with issues fundamental to who we are as people. On the surface, they are organizing and makeover shows. And in the end, people organize and get made over. But each episode of both shows is a case study of people who stopped trying, who didn’t know how to restart, and whose loved ones asked for help for them.
Our self-concept is a sparkling mirror that grows dirty over time. Most of us do not learn this as part of our upbringing. We are not taught to clean that mirror so it reflects the person we actually want to be. It is not as simple as an aphorism. It is for this reason that those mirrors grow dirtier over time. We still see ourselves reflected back to us; each day a bit more obscured, a bit dimmer. Some of us never realize how we are changing because we never take the time to clean that mirror… because we never learn how. And so the dulled image we see reflected back to us, becomes the norm, the standard, something we are OK with. It affects the way we think, the way do or do not present ourselves, and ultimately how we are perceived by others. It is fundamental to the way we live our lives.
Marie Kondo does not preach that a clean home makes you a better partner or parent. Yes, her philosophy of getting rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy” is easy to mock, and many comedians have done so.
I think the reason it is so easy to make fun of is that it requires work. Her philosophy demands that you actively engage with the physical items in your life. That you fill your home with possessions of purpose and intention. Sorting through all of that takes time and work. This is not cleanliness approaching godliness, this is organization for the purpose of clarity. In how we see the physical space where we spent most of our time, and ultimately ourselves.
It is the same with Queer Eye. The people getting made over have stopped trying for myriad reasons. Personal trauma, loss, deep-seated insecurities, the inability to ask for help and ultimately… fear. Even as the Fab Five changes the hair, clothing, homes, food, and confidence of their subjects, they are all digging deeper. Why do you feel this way? How do you want to feel? What is stopping you?
It is easy to stop trying. To develop a shell. To make excuses. To push off growth and decision making until tomorrow, next week, or never. These shows are wonderful literal metaphors. We are always in the process of incubating our private beliefs. Those private beliefs become public manifestations. And those can be very hard to change.
We all need help, occasionally or often. Somebody to help us clean our own dirty mirror so that the person we see reflected is who want to be as opposed to who we settled for.
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