What we do repeatedly

 

“You are what you repeatedly do.”

I was a couple of years into my yoga practice the first time I heard one of my teachers say that now familiar phrase. Likely it wasn’t the first time somebody said it, just the first time I was open to receive it.

Over the next couple of years I thought a lot about the things I repeatedly do and how they’d shaped the person I’d become. Judgment, skepticism, criticism. Saying no way more often than saying yes. Believing the worst of people, or situations, and seeking evidence to confirm that belief.

I felt sad and lonely. I worried that the impression I had left on people I didn’t know well was intimidating, sassy and abrasive. I worried the legacy I was leaving in the world was a reflection, and expression, of those adjectives.

I set out to change who I was by changing how I acted. The things I changed were simple, and easy and small. My focus for an entire year was just to be nice. To everyone. No matter what.

I know it had an impact because the people I knew before and the people I knew after would describe me differently. I used to imagine two such people meeting each other in real life and determining the katie little each of them remembered, and shared about, couldn’t possibly be the same person.

We are, what we repeatedly do.

I’ve been thinking this week about who WE are, and what we do repeatedly. I’ve never been patriotic or particularly connected to my identity as a U.S citizen. I’m realizing, more and more, that’s largely because my race and class and sexuality and ability privileges allow me to live that way.

We are, what we do repeatedly.

If we legislate to enhance power and wealth for the already powerful and wealthy at the expense of the vulnerable and marginalized we can not claim to be a culture of equality, or freedom or possibility. If we continue to allow young black men to be slaughtered, with impunity, we cannot claim to be one nation, with justice for all. If we limit access to medical care for pregnant women, we cannot claim to be a country that protects and cares for kids. If we keep turning away from mass gun violence, as if it’s the unfortunate and rare casualty of a single bad actor making a single bad decision, we cannot claim to value the safety of our citizens.

We cannot claim anything that we don’t repeatedly do.

In my own life, I’m examining how I’m complicit with all of the ways we’re collectively failing to live up to our claims. How I speak and who I share space with and how, and where I spend my time and money. All of the ways I avoid confronting the things that make me angry, and frustrated. An avoidance that’s a luxury for me, but not for people, and communities, most impacted by those things.

It’s not enough to read and write and feel engaged. I, you, we, have to do something, many things, repeatedly.

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