Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Myth of Continuous Forward Progress

I struggle with the concept of continuous forward progress.  All our lives we make progress.  You go from third grade to fourth grade, you go from being an Assistant Account Executive to being an Account Executive.  We are constantly moving forward.  It is great, except of course, when it is not.  What about when you take a step backwards? Or worse yet, when you take one step forward and two steps back?  Are you failing? Is it still progress?

This concept has been a point of contention for me on so many different occasions.  When my mom died I was a mess.  Like an unholy super sized hot mess.  I would think things were getting better than they would suddenly get worse.  I was lost.  When my dad was sick in the hospital he would seem to be getting better one day and then the next he would be really ill again.  I was so perplexed.  This was the first time I identified the myth.  I was grilling his doctor and he looked me in the eye and said, "healing doesn't happen as continuous forward progress..."  What in the world?  Why on earth not? How can you possibly measure success?  Most importantly, how do you know when you are out of the woods?

So here I am many years later and while I know that there really is no such thing as continuous forward progress, I still long for it.  I want to have a good day followed by a better day, followed by a fantastic day and then I will not have any more bad days.  Yep, that is the fairy tale I want.  The crummy thing is, I know it is a fairy tale but when it doesn't happen I struggle.

This week I felt like we had turned a corner.  The kids made friends.  I went to a PTA Meet and Greet where I met people and greeted people-winning.  My sister-in-law and niece came to visit, score, our first visitors!  You see, building blocks to my house of happiness.  Then today it crumbled.  We all cried, we were tired, we said things we didn't mean.  Sad feelings were magnified...by a thousand.  And for some reason it feels like my blocks never even existed in the first place.   Why is that?

It's funny, I was also thinking about contentedness this week - or more precisely my lack thereof and I am realizing these concepts are linked for me.  I have a hard time holding on to my happy.  This is why forward progress is so important to me.  When someone says it isn't about the destination, it is about the journey.  I nod my head and smile but I secretly think - CRAZY TALK.  I know this about myself and I recognize it as a flaw.  I am just not really sure what to do about it.

I think that is part of what this blogging journey is about.  I want to work on holding on to my happy.  I want to recognize that even when you take two steps forward and one step back you are still not at the starting point.  I have to remember that continuous forward progress is a myth but movement is movement and it means I am doing it.  I am meeting a challenge and doing the best I can and that six months from now, the days I went backwards won't be that memorable.  Instead of fleeting happiness I want to cultivate lasting joy.  Now to figure out how...

4 comments:

Lisa M said...

Definitely a relatable sensation!! I have often been completely bamboozled by "what - I've dealt with that. I'm done. I'm further. I'm beyond. What do you mean I have not arrived? What do you mean I'm circling back down and around old and familiar pits?"

But then I looked at the old and familiar pits. I looked at my backward steps. And they were different. I wasn't back where I was. I wasn't backwards at all. I was where I was and *I* was different. The pit still sucked. The space I was in was still hard. But the feeling of suckiness lasted less than it had in the past. The cleaning up the messes took less time. The clearing after the storm happened more quickly.

Bad days are not all bad. And all bad days are not equal. (((Hugs))). We long for the day when we know no more are forthcoming - but that is when we have already dined with Jesus face to face around a huge banquet table. When we can learn things and grow and even just be - in our own skin and around others in their skin - without the upward effort of managing around the tainted reality within which we currently move and breathe and live.

Julie B said...

First...you are doing a great job. Second...that doctor was right. Progress is not always continuous forward progress. I've learned that a few ways but since autism entered our lives we see it every day. But with each bad day we know the next good day will be that much better and more rewarding that the previous good day. Stay strong grasshopper! x Julie

Emily DiBiase said...

❤ This was a really good one, and spoke to me on so many levels. Thank you for being really good at this 😉

Lindsey Ackland said...

Love you.