Change your environment, dare you to.
This is the last post in the environment kaupapa (theme/topic) and it must be a special one because it's also the first kaupapa to be woven together by five strands of thought. Check us out now, building a broader understanding of what environment is, how it affects us and vice versa, what we can do to change it, our connection to it and that's what these posts are here for, to evoke a thought or feeling, to challenge beliefs and perceptions about the way things are, to start or add to the conversation. So to wrap it up I thought we'd deliver the final blow, the knockout punch: the reality of adapting to a new environment. It's harder than you think, but it is so worth it.
Changing thought patterns, processes, behaviours and habits is a tough gig, let's not be naive about that. Some changes are simplistic and can be executed without much stress or consequence, while others - the ones that challenge and threaten what we 'know' or believe to be 'the way' or gospel and what we've incorporated into our identity - are usually met with resistance, denial, and all the usual suspects from Defence Against the Im-stuck-in-my-ways-leave-me-alone studies. Our environment has a lot to do with that. For example; plant vegetables in a favourable environment, they will flourish; plant them in unfavourable conditions, what's gonna happen? Yeah it's pretty obvious, but for some reason I feel like it needs to be said... take that analogy and apply it to humans. Raise humans in a favourable environment (loving, safe*, challenging, supportive, creative, encouraging, connected - to community, culture, family - etc.), they will flourish; raise humans in an unfavourable environment (abusive, neglected, unsafe, inhibiting, disconnected etc.) and what the results will be? There are resiliency factors that come into play and the exceptions, of course and I hate to generalise but the likelihood of good outcomes from a favourable environment and not so good outcomes from an unfavourable environment are very high.
Our environment, the surroundings or conditions we operate in, shape us into who we are, so; change our environment, we either rise to the occasion, have a tough time on struggle street trying to resist or we can't hack it and retreat to familiar grounds. Ha, it's easier said than done, it's almost like someone saying 'cheer up' when you're in a bad/sad mood. “Woweee that never crossed my mind! Thanks for the helpful advice,” as we imaginatively (or literally) wave the middle finger salute to them and roll our eyes, dick. Ha but at least we know, what needs to be or what can be done - where and how do we start?
I subscribe to a few quote pages on Facebook because they produce quality content and I love a good quote to get me going.. but now and then I see amateur, small minded rubbish like “don't swim across the ocean for someone who wouldn't do the same for you” = “don't put in effort for someone who doesn't make the effort for you” and it really ticks me off. You know I'm all about knowing and appreciating your worth, knowing what you deserve and exercising that etc. - but take a moment to consider that the people who might not be treating you as you deserve (like a god or goddess) may not know how to..˘ What if the other person's environment has conditioned them to believe swimming is bad and will get them hurt, or even kill them? What if they were taught not to go near the ocean? What if they don't know how to swim? What if they've had bad experiences in the past and there were taniwha (monsters) in the waters? Unlike you, the swimming champ, confident, fearless and almighty??
I have some experience in this space, as I had to swim across the oceans (literally.. well, I flew) to shower one of my special humans with nothing but love while I received little or “less than I deserved” in return.. I knew love and had a love for everyone and everythingº, but from what I could tell - lover boy didn't. And boy was he missing out! (which consequently also meant I was missing out.. not ideal). So I made the swim (effort) to show this guy what love could look, taste, smell, feel and be like. Before we continue, I'll quickly define what love is to me and for the sake of the post. “Love” as in the word, the feeling, the passion, the actions, the romance, the intent and the connection. From the advice my mum and brother give me about life choices - they love me and want to see me do well, so they share their concerns; love. The way my nan holds my hand and massages it while my ears deafen as we watch tv full blast because she lost her hearing aids; love. The look my dad gave me when I crashed his car/told him I was moving to Australia; love. Watching my brothers' debut acting roles (Planet of the Apes) to show my support; love. The connection between my friends and I that would get us checked into the psych ward if anyone witnessed us in action; love. The message from a friend or lover first thing in the morning or randomly throughout the day letting you know you're on their mind; love. The way the sun rises every morning, the birds sing, the way our bodies regenerate and does everything it can to heal us and keep us alive; LOVE.
I could go on but basically, to me it's more than just saying the words; it's the actions that show it and a combination of respect, appreciation, gratitude and caring as our main ingredients. Ka pai, very well, now take our situation from above and align it to the principle; if you're in a position to help or make a positive difference, do/be it. In this instance, his environment never demanded it from him so how would he know love? Or perhaps he did know love but due to previous experiences (environment), he tucked it away never to be seen again.. who knows? All I knew at the time was if I was gonna open his eyes, his mind and his heart up to love, the love that I knew and craved myself, I had to create an environment that encouraged love to thrive, to grow and to be nurtured. I had to love him unconditionally for exactly who he was (product of his environment), not who I expected him to be (expectations created by my own environment).
In our early days he'd dip his toes in to test the waters (making an effort), then gradually wade out til the water reached his knees then his waist, then a little further but ooh too far now, better head back to shallow waters where he was comfortable and where he knew he was safe - based on what he was familiar with, his past conditioning from his environment, it's natural.
“A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
- Pāpā Hone Shedd.
I had to convince my darling to head out into open waters, to unlearn what he had known as his truth. I had to show him that caring and making an effort was a good thing and not something to suppress or be stingy about. Fast forward to today where he is braving those waters willingly and has a thing or two to teach me about love. But oh boy it was tough because you know what? Caring is hard. Sorry let me rephrase that, caring about people is hard. It's easy to not care; the natural environment (personified as our tupuna/ancestors as mentioned in this post) is suffering today because people don't care. Our brothers and sisters are dying in wars they have no business being part of because people care more about oil, power and money than about humanity or being human themselves. We live in an environment that makes a profit from desensitising us to being human; from caring, loving, showing affection and giving a damn about something other than our own interests.
Caring is expensive (emotionally, mentally) and hard. In the short term; it takes constant work and effort, it's taking someone or something else into consideration as well as ourselves, it's a process of good days and could be better days, it's investing and not knowing when or even if the returns will come.. but in the long run, ooooh. It's a relationship you couldn't imagine living without because it challenges you to be your best self, it's a deep and solid connection, it's serving your purpose, it's a sense of fulfilment, it's being human. So being the products of our environment; if we allow ourselves and others to grow in a favourable environment (loving, safe*, challenging, supportive, creative, encouraging, connected - to community, culture, family - etc.) what's the point in considering the alternative to that??
I'll end it with words from the man himself,
“Change was hard, change eventually turned into the greatest thing EVER. Period.”
- My darling.
Aku mihi maioha,
*Spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically safe. More the state of mind of feeling safe, eg. I believe I'm safe in whatever I do because I believe wholeheartedly I am doing exactly what I am meant to do. Not to be confused with rules and regs that get in the way of living.
˘Learn the difference between this and being taken for a ride/advantage of.
ºA basic appreciation and respect for all things that I get to share the moment/life with. We're alive, experiencing life together. This is the default state I operate from.