Just. A strange word, just.
It can be used to minimize or simplify. It’s just a cold or just say no. In both of these examples, there appears to be an undervaluing of experience or complexity. It may be just a cold, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t feel terrible and is enduring something that, while unlikely to be fatal or leave one with a long term disability, can well and thoroughly impact one’s life. Just a cold, but if you’re an astronaut, you are scrubbed from launch. Likewise, if you’re on your dream trip to Australia, prepared to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, the voyage you’ve saved for years to experience, you’re not going diving soon. Just a cold and a profound and crushing disappointment.
And then there’s “just say no to drugs”, Nancy Reagan’s phrase that hideously simplified the very complex issue of drug addiction and usage. The implication is that if one just says no, everything will be A-OK. Even more damaging is the insinuation that if one is using drugs, its a moral failing, a weakness that one didn’t do such a simple thing as saying no. Despite all the trauma and pain that goes with addiction, despair and huge barriers to treatment and well as some other way to live one’s life. It can be done, but it is never so simple as just say no. And of course, most of us well understand how ineffective saying no can be to an abuser.
And then there’s what I experience as the more positive side of just. The adjective form of the word: Based on what is morally right or fair.
On a day of emotional struggle like today, I tend to get stuck in the minimizing form, which generally leaves me feeling worse, belittled, unseen. And that’s only from my inner critic or the voice that would like me to just get/be over it. Perhaps what will help is to move towards the other just, toward the morally right or fair. I also find a trap here for me–I’ve spent a lot of my life in the helping/serving realm. Not a bad thing, and yet I’m also recognizing that it has been a bit skewed towards others needs. So perhaps not doing any fixing at all for a bit.
And then there’s the MacArthur foundation (the genius grants). Looking at their website, I find this statement, which I also recognize from many PBS programs: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.
I think I’ll borrow this concept. It’s a helpful reminder in these challenging times.