Easy offers up a sigh of relief when something doesn’t meet our expectations in a positive way. On occasion, it’s welcomed with opened arms. However, if easy is the expectation, that begs the question, “what does easy do for me?” Not much, as easy doesn’t help you grow.
Look to nature for examples of this axiom. Take two patches of dirt. In one, you sprinkle grass seed, and then leave it unattended with the expectation that nature will simply do its thing. In the other, you till the soil, plant the seeds, add fertilizer and water it each day, being mindful not to under water or over water. You still have the expectation that nature will do its thing, but this expectation is supported by fact that you put the effort to help influence the results. In two week’s time, what are the results?
The results may seem obvious, however, what’s commonly overlooked is the simple lesson that in order for anything to grow to its fullest potential, it had to literally go through shit to get there. Effort is the fertilizer of life.
Furthermore, if during that two-week period there are unexpected non-stop torrential rains, there’s a good chance that both plots will be ruined. But, that’s beyond your control, as nature always is. You can still rest assured that your efforts, although wasted in this case, were still the right approach to getting the results you desired. When life shits on you, it’s easy to seek sympathy. But, easy doesn’t. So instead, when life shits on you, consider for a moment what it’s fertilizing?
If you’ve never juggled before, giving it a go for the first time whilst using chainsaws bodes ill. In cases like this, doing something just once is enough to give you the empirical evidence to know better. In life, more often that not, doing something more than once is what affords us the perspective to test and retest hypotheses that follow experiences. We are able to make comparisons that help inform future situations that in some way mirror the things we’ve done before.
But what if you’re stuck with once? With only one experience and nothing else to compare it to from your own life. Where do you go from there? It’s typical to look to the experience of others in order to draw comparisons. However, it’s impossible to accurately assess how you would actually experience the situation. The reason is because it’s not just one variable that informs experience. It’s all your unique prior experiences that shape how you experience something new. We can benefit from emotional intelligence and empathetic understanding, but we are often still at the mercy of our own feelings…even when we know better. We know that feeling bad about an outcome, won’t at all change the outcome. We know that we are in control of our choices, even when we feel stuck. Not even in an actual prison can someone be imprisoned if we are controlled by our reason choice. This is a stoic view. This view holds truth. We can accept this truth and yet still struggle to get past our own emotional walls. Walls of our own construction. Walls that are fortified with barbed wire from painful experiences past that we fool ourselves into believing are built for own protection, to protect us from external harm, when, like prisons, they are designed to keep us in.
Once. Once provides us with enough rope to scale any wall of our own design. Once provides us with enough rope to pull ourselves up from the lowest depths, because it’s impossible to fall any deeper into anything than what we already know.
How do you know if the feeling love is redefined over time, or if you come to accept the reality of what love is? Is true love getting over the ideas and expectations you’ve had of love, and still loving what’s left? What is it to know that you are still in love versus the idea of being in love?
Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you’re numb to feeling joy, or if joy is something that is simply a rarity to feel during adulthood, as the innocence of youth gets increasingly out of focus in our rear view mirrors. As Brené Brown suggests, we cannot selectively numb emotions. That was said in regards to medicating, or using destructive behaviors as a numbing agent. Is suppression what we call depression when we selectively prevent certain feelings from surfacing, opposed to feeling deflated by the allowance of their surfacing and feeling too weak to deal with them?
These existential questions arise reactionary. They are tough questions because they are rooted in shame, doubt and/or guilt. However, they are important questions to challenge yourself with. For if you can answer them with positive certainty, you may discover or perhaps uncover a truth about being in love. If you can answer only with uncertainty, or find yourself down the path of philosophy in only asking questions opposed to the scientific path to seeking answers: You are not in love – You are in convenience. Being in convenience is the ultimate inconvenience.
We’ve all been told not the judge books by their covers. We know this, but we often don’t live this. We get tempted by clever marketing, we get fooled by silver tongues, we ignore internal hideousness because of our physical attraction to external beauty, we convince ourselves that the substance of something is to equal to or greater than the quality of the packaging.
Our senses betray us daily. They are barriers to seeing beyond the surface of an experience to justify the beliefs we hold based on experiences we’ve had. However, it’s far easier to live this way. It’s easier to accept a first impression and fill the gaps with assumptions based on past experiences. Deep down, we know this is an avoidance tactic. We know this prevents us from making deeper connections. Yet, we also know that connection is a basic human need.
We spend our lives trying to please and impress others, believing that this is a form of connection. “These ‘others’ either like me because of what I do for them, or are envious of me because I have what they don’t.” If we live by this idea, we may end up taking up a lot of surface area, however, we’re as deep as a puddle. Who wants to be a puddle? There’s no future for puddles. Shallow and always at high risk: High risk of having our supposed value evaporate, high risk of sitting stagnant, high risk of someone/something splashing about and displacing us. The risk is high because there’s no depth.
Wells have it right. Live to be a well. Depth is a source for wellness.
Euphobia is the fear of good news. There really is a word for everything! I remember learning the word defenestration in college – the act of throwing someone or something out of a window – and thinking, “At what point in history were so many people or things being tossed out of windows that it was decided this action required its own word?!” But I digress. Euphobia may seem like a ridiculous notion, however, it’s probably one of the more rational of our irrational thoughts. How often does our shame prevent us from enjoying the good things in life that come our way? Why is it often so hard to simply embrace a streak of positive events without also quietly (or not so quietly) acknowledging how we’re waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under us? Is that a desire for balance or simply self-sabotage? Is it possible to bask in the present goodness of life without it coming across as entitlement, as though it’s deserved due to our mere awesomeness? This is a struggle for most – to remain so present that we become the embodiment of confidence and humility converged. To actively practice the art of appreciation and gratitude for all we have, without feeling as though it will come at the expense of a future tragedy, is the heart of the constant state of getting there.
Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same goes for the actions of life and our emotional reactions to these situations. Our initial reactions are likely the ones with which we’re most comfortable or familiar. Why? Because they are the easiest reactions, and after enough experiences, they are also predictable. What if, we took a pause in these scenarios to consider what the equal and opposite reaction would be? Even if that equal and opposite reaction doesn’t seem to be the appropriate response given the circumstance, perhaps it succeeds in creating a little bit of space between you and the emotion being felt so intensely. Perhaps neither extreme, the intensity of your initial reaction and the consideration of its equal and opposite, would be a rational response. Perhaps somewhere in the grey, where the vast majority of our rational emotional real estate resides, is the appropriate response. How many interactions on a given day could benefit from this small consideration? If only we pause to steal a breath.
The past imperfect tense can be summed up by the phrase: “I used to….” It’s typically said of things we can still do, but for some reason it feels like an impossibility at the present moment or in the foreseeable future. I used to be an athlete – I used to love to paint – I used to play an instrument – I used to love going to museums – I used to be in shape. Whatever your “used to” is, if you really wanted it, you would find time for it, but we are brilliant at making excuses aren’t we? If we spent as much time being proactive and productive as we do rationalizing why we cannot do something, the world would likely be better off. We have one go at this thing called life, and yet we choose to let time go by as if it’s an endless resource. Consider how much time we waste. If you’re honest with yourself, how much time do you spend on average each day choosing not to be productive? Even if it’s not spent in one cluster of time but rather spread out into minutes at a time, how much would it add up to? For sake of argument, let’s say it’s two hours (30 minutes on social media, one hour on Netflix, and 30 minutes down a YouTube rabbit hole). That’s 14 hours per week, which is 60.6 hours per month, which is 728 hours per year. That’s two hours shy of an entire month! According to MIT’s technology review, Americans spend 24 hours a week online. And that’s just online! That doesn’t include the multitude of procrastination strategies we employ. Crunch those numbers and online time alone is not far shy of two months wasted each year. Tack on whatever other time we waste, and the average person is wasting about 25% of every year not doing anything constructive. So for every 4 years you’ve been alive, you’ve essentially wasted 1 full year. That’s a scary consideration!
At 40, to think I’ve literally wasted 25% of my life being idle is sobering. It’s also motivating. There’s a three-pronged fork in the road: one where you lean into complacency, one where you start fighting like hell to make the most of every day, and one living some hybrid of the two. Balance is often seen as a good thing, but in this scenario, it doesn’t seem so appealing. There’s a difference between taking time to recharge versus abusing escapism. Coping mechanisms are typically seen as being either positive or negative. I tend to lean more towards the thinking that coping mechanisms are inherently positive. You either have positive/healthy coping mechanisms,or, in the absence of such coping mechanisms, you resort to destructive behaviors.
Take a good look in the mirror and what you really see is yourself only in relation to everything that’s behind you. Our pasts are all imperfect. That’s one of the few absolute truths in life. The only perfection is striving to be better than you were yesterday. It’s knowingly unattainable and yet it’s the birthplace of motivation. The future perfect tense is composed of “will” and “have” followed by the past participle of a verb. For example, “by this time next year, I will have wasted another two months of my life.” That doesn’t sound like a sentiment that anyone would voluntarily rally behind. The present is the only time for change.