Adapting within constraints

This morning, a dear friend shared a post that, despite its religious underpinnings (always suspicious in my world), provoked not only a sense of ‘yes, this fits,’ but also a strong urge to start hammering at the keyboard — something that hasn’t frequently found its way into my flow of late…

As we ponder a loosening of restrictions during what’s still Minnesota’s pre-peak stage of this global pandemic, I think there’s a nugget (likely several) to be gleaned from choosing conscious adaptation, both in the present moment and in the however-longer arcs of our lives…

While it might be easier to fall back into whatever’s comfortable (be it a familiar, if damaging, relationship, routine, or pre-quarantine tactic for compelling the release of serotonin or dopamine…), we’ll glean better outcomes from conscientious choice than assuming the auto-pilot position, with its comfortable, familiar lull.

Life is short. It’s also inherently uncertain. Perhaps auto-pilot isn’t the answer.

What happens if, having been jarred away from the only ‘normal’ we’ve ever known, we decide we like some aspects of this new existence better? Maybe we *like* seeing the Himalayan skyline, the sunny skies, the wilds returning a bit to our prior civility (whether that be fauna in the streets or the freedom to skip shaving routines)?

What if we prefer some aspects of new social constructs? Maybe if we like the time and cash freed up by fewer showers, commutes, and beauty treatments? What if these shifts help us get closer to the lives we *actually* want instead of the lives we’ve been conditioned to pursue?

Perhaps we’d prefer to continue to cook more, to create more, to muse more, to breathe more… perhaps we *enjoy* worrying less about the judgments of others, if it means we can turn our morning shaving time into thoughtfully brewed coffee, which, in turn, saves 22 days per month waiting in the barista line and as many polymer-coated pieces of pre-destined paper trash. What if slow is what we’ve needed most?

What if we were to also thoughtfully synthesize information before making short-term choices that lure us back into behaviors that can not, will not, be normal in our new reality? What if choosing restraint (to remain at home a little bit longer, to do without certain previously-accustomed options, to just say ‘no’ to market-driven dopamine) actually feels *better?*

What if, within the context of lifted restrictions, we give ourselves the chance to experience *that,* instead of rushing back into what we’ve been conditioned to experience as normal?

That article says this: “Restraint is fundamentally opposed to the ways that our culture is organized, and opposed to capitalism which is built on a model of continual growth and relies on the cycles of extract, possess, consume, repeat. Restraint is iconoclastic, going against the fabric of our culture. It is subversive. It makes space for something in us that is deeply reverential and deeply wild and never needs to buy anything.”

At Junket, we’ve approached the practice of reuse as a creative constraint for both product design and systems development. Sure, it’s environmentally virtuous. Sure, the materials can be cheaper (usually, though not always…opportunity and time costs add up quickly).

But mostly? Choosing not to invest in new stuff is helpful in limiting our product ideas and process options to those that are fundamentally healthy in a science- and reality-based economy. Our current economy is not that. Our future economy – one that takes a reality-based account of human and environmental constraints – must be. While we may not have been quite so awake to this prior to 2020, we’re either painfully clear now (as financial and racial inequities pop under the intense magnification of a public health crisis), or we’re still caught up in some combination of denial + magical thinking.

In this limitless world of unprecedented access to anything & everything, being without limits is to be unmoored, untethered. It’s helpful – sane and grounding – to have constraints, even when they’re self imposed (perhaps, crucially, precisely, because they’re self imposed…).

Yes, there are cheaper, faster, easier parts and products. I choose not to access them because the parameters I’ve set for the brand nurture creativity and impart a depth of integrity to products unattainable via 21st century supply chains (even in their pre-pandemic efficiency). Integrity of and between medium + message = desired outcomes.

On that note: choosing to voluntarily constrain our own choices is also a wise strategy in this time of novel coronavirus. Even now, as restrictions ease, I choose to constrain my behaviors based on what is and is not understood by epidemiologists and research scientists.

Without jumping off into a whole-nother stream of consciousness about attachment to outcomes or the psychological pain of intensified regret, I’ll simply note that until we have clear testing, tracing, and treatment protocols (and a better understanding of a highly contagious disease that kills many – but also leaves some who survive with what appear to be long-term, multi-organ health impacts and any/all related financial fallout), it just feels good, safe, wise, and kind to stay home whenever possible for the sake of all involved. That said, I’m grateful to have options/possibilities I will almost certainly choose not to pursue.

We all have choices. Many of them are messy, difficult, highly contextual (and have only become more so during this calendar year).

On the other hand, many of these same decisions become profoundly easier to make and support once we’ve established thoughtful limits, values-based parameters, and easily-articulated boundaries.

Restraint makes space for something in us that is deeply reverential and deeply wild…’


  1. Jolene Redvale on October 3, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    I appreciate reading your perspective. I’ve been delving in the reuse and secondhand economy for some time. I’ve always been a restrained consumer ( the phrase just now inspired by your words but fits me nicely) – small house, reduced and careful spending, old automobiles, home cooking and d.i.y. experimenting, low impact choices, etc. I’ve been struggling with a decision to travel to an important family function ( family not being a top priority in my life). The way you’ve described how we might adapt to a slower world, lifestyle, choice, etc. has helped me come to terms with the necessary decision I will make. Thank you.

  2. Julie on October 11, 2020 at 9:27 pm


    I’ve been sitting with your message for the better part of this week. I hadn’t taken the time – until tonight – to re-read the post to which you had responded. I am so glad you were able to find useful perspective for a difficult decision. ‘Family’ is such a strongly socialized ‘should value’ (most often among those demanding to be prioritized, of course) that it takes courage to acknowledge that family may not be of utmost importance, and to withstand the overt, covert, or internal pressure to comport with the power systems and expectations involved within so many families of origin… Peace to you, and may you rest easy in whatever decision you made!

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