At Least the Thorns Grow Roses

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”

— Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden

There is no doubt that this past year has been a hard one. Were more divided than ever and growing increasingly exhausted by the repetition of disagreements and offenses. We all just want to be heard. We want to be a little happier. We want it all to be a little easier already, and somehow, in our warped minds, we’ve decided instead to go on making the world more horrible and then to give up on it, and each other. We’ve grown collectively cynical. We’ve resigned ourselves to a permanent state of outrage and hopelessness about everything.

It should change, but it won’t. We could change it, but we won’t. We want to be better, but we can’t. It’s too late. I’m too tired. I hate you, and that and I don’t care to deal with it. It’s not my problem. It’s not my place. Nothing is going to change anyway. That’s just the way the world works. Life sucks, and then you die, and I’m just here to make a buck, make a name, and leave.

That’s how I feel sometimes. That’s how a lot of people I know feel too. Every day they wake up, go to jobs they hate, eat food that doesn’t make them feel good, and fill up on coffee to get through. Then they go home to spouses they forgot how to love, watch shows they don’t even like, avoid the news because it makes them angry even though they have no idea why. They go to bed too late even though they have to wake up too early the next day and do it all over again.

They get sad, they get lonely, and no one cares. They want things, need things, and no one cares. They want to do more, and no one will let them. The last time they were happy, truly happy, was grade school and even then, now that they think about it, that wasn’t such a great time either.

Nothing good has happened to them since, and now they can’t imagine anything good happening ever again. There are no miracles, and the bad guys always win. Dreams don’t come true and happily ever after is a lie. So what’s the point?

I don’t have an answer for that friends. I wish I did because I am struggling just as much as you. I have so much doubt and fear, and there are days when I envy those who were never conceived. They never have to deal with being a person, and they never have to deal with disappointment or death. But, most days, I don’t feel that way. Most days, I can see that even though life is hard and painful, its beautiful too.

Most days I’m happy to be here, to breath, to laugh, to eat good food, and to be among other people. Most days I can remember that I am loved and that things are just as good as they are bad. I can see I am lucky, to have a job I hate and a home that needs so much work, and friends who get busy but still care about me. I can see I am lucky to be in love and to have a chance to grow old with someone, even if it means a life of little frustrations, misunderstandings, and mistakes. Life has books, and sunshine, and puppies, and the smell of honeysuckle, and the taste of barbecue ribs and creme brûlée. Life has science, and history, and good people fighting every day to make it better.

We can all join that fight by learning to love life again. When you love life, when you can see all the good there is in it, you can see that it’s worth making better for everyone. You have to see the roses!

That doesn’t mean you should ignore the thorns. This world is certainly going to shit. You have certainly fucked up and failed. The universe is wholly indifferent to your needs or pleas. There will be no breaks, and what you have you have only out of pure chance and hard, dirty work. It will go on like this, people burning down their one home in the universe and burning bridges with the ones they ought to love, and you will be no exception.

But as embarrassing, confusing, and terrifying as a human life is, it’s the most beautiful thing there is. All of it. Look outside right now, the sun, the trees, the people walking here and there, it’s all beautiful. You are lucky to get a chance to see it at all. You are lucky to be so angry and afraid. You are lucky to be here, to love to laugh, to run, and to shout how much you love, hate, or damn it all to hell.

It could be worse, there could be nothing but pain. It could be a hell of a lot better too if we tried. If we looked around and found less reason to be angry and hateful. Imagine if we all found less time to complain and more time to change. Let’s try it. This week just acknowledging that yes, a whole lot of all of this life is shit, but a whole lot of it is good, and right, and rich, and gorgeous, and fucking amazing to be a part of too.

The thorns hurt. People hurt, life hurts, we even hurt ourselves, oh, but the roses! The roses in all their colors and sweet smells. The feeling you get of seeing one, and the face of the lover you give one to are all well worth a few scrapes and scratches if you ask me.

Life isn’t fair. Not one of us was promised a rose garden, and we certainly shouldn’t take for granted that we were given one despite everything. It’s no one’s fault but ours that we never tended it and it’s no one’s fault but ours that what we’re left with if more pain than pretty. But we can fix it. We can care for what we have and do the hard work of growing more.

“The rose’s rarest essence lives in the thorns.”

— Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Advertisements

Claim Your Freedom and Make Your Mistakes Your Own

“You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too.”

— Anaïs Nin

Bad faith is a concept in existential philosophy that describes the tendency of humans, when faced with the pressures of society to act and believe in a certain way, to give up, or more accurately, to easily and conveniently forget, that they are in fact free beings who are under no innate obligation to give their time or choices up to anyone or any institution for any reason.

We grow up being told we have to follow certain rules and walk certain paths, we are supposed to want certain things and get there by doing certain kinds of work for a certain outrageous amount of hours and years of our lives. We are supposed to date certain people and dress and certain way and live from birth to death doing all the things everyone else is doing, without question, without variation.

We naturally want to be part of communities and communities work best when everyone is on the same page. We do best together when all of us are committed to contributing and moving us all forward one small life at a time.

We are also, just as naturally, very curious, adventurous, and searching for a slice of this earth and something in our lives that we can call our own. We want to mean something in our communities, and we want our contributions to be on our own terms.

We are full of contradictions, and contradictions are uncomfortable. It helps to look to those around us and follow the conventional wisdom, at the same time when others look to us, we encourage them to do the thing we know deep down we don’t want to do.

We tell them the lie we tell ourselves. Live your life this way and this way only, because there is no other kind of life you can live.

We create blind spots in our vision in all the places our paths fork. We let chance, and worse, other people, choose our direction because choosing is hard and scary, and uncertainty never lives comfortably in the human mind. We are never taught to live by making choices. We are never taught that living with purpose, a purpose we choose rather than one we are born into is possible for us. We are not taught how to cope with regret or how to feel pride at how far we come or to feel joy in where we are. We are not taught to look at our dreams as anything more than that.

We are taught that life is set in stone by the age of 18, if not earlier. We are taught that there is only one way to success, that success is possible for everyone, and that success and fulfillment are the same things. We are taught we only have one chance and that our lack of success is down to personal failure and flaw.  We are taught never to think too hard about what we are taught but I’m telling you it was a lie and for you to perpetuate it makes you a liar too.

You have choices, and you can change your life if you want too. Of course, not all possible choices are available to us at all times, and certainly, there are no easy choices to make. Freedom carries with is certain consequences and all of which must be taken responsibility for. Still, every time you tell someone, or yourself, especially yourself, that you can’t do something, or that you had no choice at any time, you are living in bad faith.

You might be thinking that if so many options were available to us, if all our dreams could come true and we could live the way we always daydreamed we could, wouldn’t we all be doing that? Well, you would think so, but the truth is, being a human is hard, and sometimes it is easier to forget what it means to be so aware and conscious and free in favor of something a little less terrifying and painful.

As a species were caught between a rock and a hard place. We live lives full of deep emotion, potential, and accomplishment, and not only do we have to die, but all that struggle and regret means nothing when you consider the eons the universe will go on existing after you. So, we choose to make unimportant and easily accessible things the center of our lives so that that pain, that cruel cosmic joke, never has to enter our minds. It’s easier to be mindless than to know what is to come and what can never be relived.

But what a waste of what little we have don’t you think?

It hurts my heart thinking of how much of life is wasted while we do the work we think we have to do and live the lives we think we have no other choice but to live all the while daydreaming of the life we might have. I panic to think of all the unexamined years of my own life that slipped through my fingers like sand while I stupidly, stupidly, stupidly spent my time on nothing that matters anymore. I wish I had known that what hurts can sometimes be what is best. I wish someone had told me to take control of my own mind, to be aware of how I live, and to ask myself all the time why. I wish someone had told me that when you have no answer to that question, it’s time to make a change and that change can always be made.

The usefulness of being aware of such tendencies is to take responsibility for the choices you do make so that even when all else has been taken from you or kept out of your reach, you at least know that everything you did was because you chose to do it. At least you will know that no matter how small or painful your life was at the very least it was your own. What else can we hope for in a universe where thinking feeling being pop in and out of existence alone, helpless, and with no way of knowing how to live or what it’s all for?

Any regret we might feel on the day that death comes for us is a pithy price to pay for such freedom and richness of experience freedom. A wrong turn made here and there along will be of no consequence if we can take pride in all of them having been our own.

An authentic life, that is what we all should be living. I don’t mean a happy life or a life where all your desires are met. No life is free from suffering, or of heartbreak, or loss, or misunderstanding, or oppression, but if we have to hurt so much and if there have to be so many regrets and mistakes at least make them your own. At least let your life be free of lies, and hiding, and of giving your life over to people who don’t have to live it for you and won’t be the ones to lose it when it comes your time to part with it.

You can do things, you can improve things, and you can choose what kind of person you want to be. You choose your words, your beliefs, and values, the way you will look, and who you will count amongst your friends and loved ones. You choose how to spend your time, at this job or that, and you choose what leisure time means too. You choose your calling and your path and your passions. Society never says you have to do anything, it only tries to dissuade you from disrupting anyone around you and waking them up too.

Were all steered in the direction that benefits everyone else, but in that cohesion and calm, we lose the only thing we have in this world, our time on it. Even if you wanted to spend your whole life making nothing, creating nothing, learning nothing new at all, at least make sure you are the one who made the choice. Not advertising, not your mom, or your boss, or your spouse, and especially not everyone else around you just doing what has always been done and wanting you do do the same so they never have to think about all the time and freedom they let slip away too.

You have the right to be a free and thinking being, and you have the misfortune to be a being with an intermediate lifespan, don’t give up one minute of it to anyone who any wants to use it for the benefit of their bank account, or their comfort. Live your life the way you choose.

Fall in love too fast, feel too much, quit your job, make less money if it means you live your dream. Say yes. Say no! Embrace being different, living different, and thinking differently. Embrace choice and make as many as you can before someone makes them for you. Don’t be afraid. Make as many mistakes as you can on your way to getting it right, whatever that means for you!

You can’t change it all, and you can’t do any more than can be done in one lifetime, but you can at least be true to yourself. You have a right to do it, and more than that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s long past time we stop acting like it isn’t.

Go, claim your freedom and your truth, and never forget that in all of the creation you are among the most privileged to have either at all.

***

Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured image by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Let yourself be wrong.

Good morning and happy Monday dear readers. Welcome to the start of the work week and yet another chance to learn, create, and grow. Monday’s have a reputation for being notoriously difficult but I let’s try to change that. Let’s think of Mondays as reset buttons. A day to try again to get it right. I think we all need that.

My morning went better than I expected but not as well as I’d hoped. I worked hard to get a few things ready last night but still ended up running late. That’s the story of my life, though, always running late even when I try very hard not to be running late. I do acknowledge that I have made a lot of progress since the last time my boss had to talk to me about it. I haven’t been late since I just occasionally cut it a little too close.

“But I could be wrong.”

// Carl Sagan

This week I am going to do my best to work on my nasty habit of behaving like a know-it-all. I have a bit of an ego when it comes to the way I perceive my level of intelligence compared to those around me and I have a hard time accepting that I could be wrong. I have a tendency to always behave as if I m the smartest person in the room without ever considering that I might not be.

I am admitting all of this because I honestly do not mean to act this way. For a good portion of my life people have been telling me I was the smartest person in the room, add to that my hatred of information and belief that ignorance must be stamped out wherever it rears its ugly head means I tend to interject where I am not wanted, and I tend to say things in a particularly condescending tone.

“There is a way of being wrong which is also sometimes necessarily right.”

// Edward Abbey

I am learning to offer my opinions only when asked for, or if I really believe a person’s life will be improved greatly by hearing it. People don’t like it when you point out how wrong they are about something, especially when they weren’t talking to you or if it is only a minor thing. Conversations get derailed and the point it often lost over semantics and details. I can be frustrating. I know this because whenever it happens to me, I have a small internal meltdown to rival any two-year-old’s tantrum.

Often I may have mispronounced something or I am trying to make a point and when someone steps in to correct me I have to start all over, plus it is just plain embarrassing. I don’t feel better that someone told me those things I just feel angry and I want to stop talking altogether. I don’t want to be always making my friends and loved ones feel that way too.

I have to remember that I do not, in fact, know everything, and there are, in fact, people smarter than me. I also have to remember to be humble when I am wrong and not get angry but to just learn and grow.

It isn’t a bad thing to be wrong sometimes, it’s part of life and it’s part of gaining wisdom, which is greater than knowing facts and figures. Wisdom is what gets you through life.

Wisdom is what we get from each other.

“To make mistakes or be wrong is human. To admit those mistakes shows you have the ability to learn, and are growing wiser.”

// Donald L. Hicks, Look into the stillness

Thankful for Time

Hello and happy Monday to you all! I’m having a rough one thanks to freezing temperatures, all the snow we got over the weekend, and my inability to cope with returning to work after five days off. I really, really want to run back home and crawl back into my warm bed. But that is not an option and so I have to make the best of the day. I have to take advantage of the new start to make changes and move closer to my goals.

All month I have been working, week by week, on incorporating the principles of Thanksgiving into my life. I know the holiday is over but I couldn’t move on to the Christmas season without being thankful for one more thing. I had to acknowledge my gratitude for the passage of time.

Time is both a curse and a blessing for us humans. Time only moves forward so we get no do-overs. We can’t go back to make better choices, right our wrongs, or see the people we’ve lost once. Time hurts us all. It ticks on and on and moves us further toward the inevitable end. Time is harsh, uncaring, and it never stops or slows for any of us.

Worst of all, it slips by us unnoticed, and its gone before we learn to appreciate it.

Then again, time does heal all wounds, or at least makes them easier to bear. Time forces us to appreciate what we once had. Time teaches us lessons. Time makes us all wiser as we age and learn from those things we can’t undo. Time changes us and if we are aware of it we can change into someone we can love and be proud of.

“I may not be where I want to be but I’m thankful for not being where I used to be.”

Habeeb Akande

I think of where I came from and how far I’ve come from that and I am amazed with myself. Whenever I think something is impossible I remember how much I’ve already done and I realize I can do so much. I think of where I could’ve ended up and I make sure to be aware of what time I have and what I do with it.

I do not doubt that if I had made any other choices I would either be in jail, or dead.

There was a time when I was all messed up. I didn’t know which way to go and I carried a deep sadness with me wherever I went.  Time passed me by and I did nothing at all good with my life. I am paying for those poor choices now. I will never get a do over but I have learned to appreciate my time more.

I have learned that the time we have to enjoy life and make the most of it is fleeting. I never went to prom. I didn’t get to go to parties with my friends or join fun after school clubs. I didn’t get to go to college. I spent a lot of time drinking and drugging and hanging around people who I meant nothing to. I didn’t get to ease into adulthood and will forever feel like I have fallen behind my peers. I’m 30 years old now and I still feel like I’m catching up.

Time changed me and changed my environment. Time made everything better, but now I have less of it left. Time is not on my side so I have to maximize what I have. I have to do better every day. I have to be mindful of every moment and not let one more minute pass me by. Time is a vessel and I only want to fill it with things that feel good and get me where I want to be.

If you are aware of time and it’s movement you can see the beauty in it. You can appreciate the way life flows and moves. You can feel happier knowing that whatever your current circumstances are, time will change them. Things will get better, and then worse, but always better again. Time brings good and bad and it’s all beautiful. Time is precious.

Take time to love. Take time to learn. Take time to see, hear, taste, and touch all that you can. Take your time, make the most of your time, but do not take it for granted. You do not have as much as you think you do.

“Be grateful for who you are and what you will be.”

Lailah Gifty Akita

*************

Featured image: Leaves of Gold by Ashtyn Warner

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Cornel West

This weeks Writer’s Quote Wednesday is dedicated to Cornel West. West (born June 2, 1953), is an American philosopher, academic, activist, author, public intellectual, and prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.

Formerly at Harvard University, West is now a professor of Religion at Princeton. West says his intellectual contributions draw from such diverse traditions as the African-American Baptist Church, Marxism, pragmatism, transcendentalism, and Anton Chekhov.

He has written a lot of books, the most popular of which is probably Race Matters. I will be honest and admit I haven’t read his books but I have listened to his podcast with Travis Smiley called Smiley & WestSadly they are no longer making anymore episodes but I still go back and listen to the good ones from time to time.

And, in case you didn’t know, he made his film debut in “The Matrix” and has collaborated with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert to make a few spoken work albums.

West has been a major influence in my life ever since I saw him in the documentary Examined Life in 2008. Of course he had been working long before that but back then I didn’t know that I loved philosophy as much as I did. To this day when people ask me what I want to be when I grow up I say I want to do what Cornel West does. I want to get paid to write and talk about how I feel about the world.

“I have tried to be a man of letters in love with ideas in order to be a wiser and more loving person, hoping to leave the world just a little better than I found it.”

Cornel West, The Cornel West Reader

This quote embodies everything I want to do. I want to be a woman of letters, devoted to literary and scholarly pursuits. I am in love with ideas and I am working towards being a wiser and more loving person. My greatest hope is that I could have some small influence on this world, and leave it in better shape than I found it.

That is why I am here, and that is why I write.

A Manifesto for Self-Love

I will talk to myself like I would someone I love. I will remember that I am a human being, and as such I will make mistakes. I will remember that making mistakes does not mean I am a bad person or unworthy of love. I will remember to take time to recover from my mistakes and forgive myself.

I will not compare myself to others. I am unique and have many strengths. I will take pride in my accomplishments and character, they stand on their own without the need for comparison. I will stay positive and grateful for everything I have, everything I am, and everything I and have done. Failing to do so will only lead to bitterness and suffering and I love myself to much to do that to myself.

“The only person who can pull me down is myself, and I’m not going to let myself pull me down anymore.”

― C. JoyBell C.

I will love my mind. I will strive to always grow and learn. I am intelligent and that will not waste or take for granted. I will try new things and meet new people because that is the only way to grow and learn about the world around me. I will be my own cheerleader. I will encourage and push myself because I know I can be great.

I will accept myself for who I am. I will be authentic in everything I say and do. I will stay true to myself and remember that I am made up of many parts, all of which are to be loved and accepted. I will allow myself to feel my full range of emotion and never deny nor belittle any part of myself.

“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

― Charles Chaplin

I will love my body even when society tells me I should hate it. I will never engage in negative self-talk about my body just because it is “what women do”. I will remember that this is the only body I will ever own, and I will honor and respect it. I will remember that the images I see on TV and in magazines are not true representations of what women should or do look like. I will not push myself to look like the women I see on TV and in magazines. I will remember that trying do so is unrealistic and sets me up for shame and failure.

I will love my body enough to take care of it. I will strive to be healthy and only put good, natural things into my body so that it can function and heal itself. I will remember that my health directly affects my mood and energy levels throughout the day. I will remember that my body cannot go on forever and I must maintain it in order to live a long, happy, and healthy life.

“The human body is the best work of art.”

― Jess C. Scott

I will surround myself with people who love me too. I will surround myself with people who are positive and encouraging. I will voice my feelings and needs to those around me so that they have a chance to make things right when our relationship has suffered. I will also be open to listening to other people’s feelings and needs so that I make efforts to preserve the relationships that I value.

I will not allow toxic people into my life. I will not allow others to put me down or put negative thoughts into my head. I will remember the saying “misery loves company” and I will not engage with people who’s only goal is to bring me down.

“Protect your space and circle. Invest in people who you know will feed you just as much goodness as you do them.”

― Alexandra Elle

Above all else I will remember that self love is always a work in progress. I know I will make mistakes and fall back into old habits. I know self-love requires constant effort and vigilance. I know that the way I feel about myself directly affect my relationship, my work, and my mental and physical self. I know that the way to find true happiness is through acceptance and love for myself. I will be present and ever aware of my thoughts and actions. Every morning when I wake up, I will look myself in the mirror and I will tell myself I am beautiful and perfect, even in my imperfection. I will then conduct myself accordingly throughout the day.

Weekly Writing Challenge – Manifesto