you’ll never get today back but also, why would you want to?

You’ll never get today back. That is a terrifying thought, at least for most of us. The fact is, most of us don’t live absolutely fantastic lives. Most of our days are mundane. Plenty of people go to work as a means of making money, not because it’s their passion or dream. Furthermore, working a job to make money isn’t something to be ashamed of.

For most of history, what we did was determined by what our parents did. Farmers farmed to survive. Art was seen as a profession of skill, not necessarily vision or creativity. Unless you want to mark off the majority of the time before now as utterly miserable, we have to realize that jobs don’t have to be our whole reason for existing.

What matters far more is our social relationships. We have a deep desire to be loved, to be in connection with other human beings. People can get drawn into some desperately dark situations because they are so hungry for the bond with another human. It’s how gangs and cults come about– the violence becomes justified in the members’ mind because they feel a relationship with those around them. Religion, ideology, community, all of these massively important concepts of influence are centered around that desire.

But sometimes what makes our days mundane isn’t the job, but the loneliness. Not everyone has the connections they long for.

It’s hard to keep going when there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for going. Add that onto the ghastly features of temporality and our own mortality, and life suddenly doesn’t seem so hopeful. What do we have in our lives that is of worth? Is life fleeting so fast that we can’t fully grasp it until it’s too late?

In the end, no. If we are lonely, we try to find friends. If we are bored, we try to find excitement. If we have the fear of being numb to life, of being unable to grasp time in its entirety, that is a hidden moment of empowerment. If you didn’t fear it, you wouldn’t know how to fight to change it. Trying to ignore our fear doesn’t make us brave, it makes us try and avoid the situation altogether. Instead, what is better for us is to try and face our reality. Whatever we do, we do it knowing that we are alive. This is the moment, you are alive whether you decide to ignore your existential crisis or deal with it. Time will pass, either slowly or fast, but it will pass.

This passing, this ending is what gives us meaning. Some people die happy, some people die miserable, but we are the ones who decide how we live our lives. We can be in the most despondent circumstances, but our struggles do not command us to be one way or another; they may pressure us significantly, and will always shape us, but there are always a few things we can control, and those are ours. “Right now” is the most magical thing to ever be, and the bewitching nature of it is something we get to enjoy every moment we exist. Yes, this day will never come back, but why should you want it? It would be boring to live it over and over, and the only way to figure out how things turn out is to live the next day.

attention, talking, and time

Talking to people is important. That might seem like a no-brainer, but the number one way to make yourself miserable is to shut yourself off. The stresses from social anxiety, for example, may make talking to people seem absolutely impossible, but it doesn’t matter if it’s awkward. Humans are awkward, we misunderstand each other all the time.

All of the awkward conversations you’ve had are still conversations, and even if it seems like you’ll never get better, it’s the first necessary step. Even if a relationship doesn’t work out, the experience is important. If a happy memory is special, what is about it that makes it so important? Feelings are fleeting, and we need all of them. Happy memories are special partly because we like being happy. However, all the rest of our emotions can define a moment and also make it important. The sad moments, these also are integral to who we are.

As radical as it may seem, ordinary moments can also be special. If you consider how we experience time, you might realize that our attention drastically changes how we feel. “A watched pot never boils”, because by staring at something and waiting, it feels longer. “Time flies when you’re having fun” because when we don’t pay attention to it, we don’t mind how fast life is going. If we want to live a full life, that means paying attention. It means being mindful of how we live our lives and living it with purpose. Even the most nihilistic people can find a reason to live and have a beautiful life. If you feel the universe doesn’t give you a purpose, then you’re free to make one up. By being physically a part of this world, we are necessarily a part of it, so go be awkward and exist to the best of your ability.

 

 

risks and ladders

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t done what you want yet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wreck right now. It doesn’t matter, because it’s not the end. Every moment doesn’t feel like a new chance, but it is. Most of the time, the bars and limits we have are those we put on ourselves. If you want to do something more, you can achieve that.

It’s easy to think that couldn’t be the case. We think that if we want to go see a new movie in theaters, we have to go with friends. You don’t, you could go yourself. We think we can’t switch careers, because we wouldn’t even know where to start. Fine, you don’t know where to start, but knowing that means your first step is finding out what the steps are. We think that if we don’t stay or become a certain way, we’ll be alone forever. Surely, there is an importance to listening to what others have to say and heeding their advice, but at the end of the day, there is a line between listening to others and letting them rule your life.

Everything to this point matters in that it has built you up into who you are right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to play your hand out exactly like it’s expected. We are in a processing of growing, and its going to take a while to get to where we want to go. It’s terrifying to abruptly change, and there are many things that seem way beyond us– and that’s okay! Changing overnight is a difficult and natural thing. What is good is teaching yourself, step by step, to creep towards those goals of yours, pushing what’s comfortable for you. This moment is a chance. This moment too. If you don’t take it now, seriously ask yourself if you ever will.

people, peace, and painting

Life is like painting: it takes patience, practice, and just know that you’re going to mess up. Sometimes we sketch out our plans and outline them and everything, but the second we start to actually carry it out, we have doubts. We want to switch the painting around. And while we hate the idea of painting without that nice skeleton outline, we can make do with what we have.

Things won’t turn out exactly like you have them in your head. Even if all your dreams come true, the people populating them will be more different and varied that you can possibly account for. Being at peace seems like a joke in many ways. Life has conflicts! Life has people, and people are hard to deal with. However, without those people, life is miserable. The trick then, is learning how to be okay with people, how to be at peace with your relationships.

Communication sounds simple but it’s the hardest thing to do, because we don’t necessarily know the words or phrases to express exactly where we’re at. We have to trust every time we open our mouth that the person will be listening, and if they’re listening, that they will understand. It takes courage to say some things, and it’s okay if it’s difficult for you. Words are hard. However, pushing through our fear and expressing our feelings to those closest to us is the right thing to do. It keeps us honest and open. When we let other people idealize us, we do both people a disservice. You are human and you are flawed– so is everyone else. Aim for tact, but if worst comes to worst, just know that the most important thing is to get it out there. Tell people where you’re going, where you want to go, what you plan on eating, if you’re tired, if you want them to go away or stay; tell people because they won’t know otherwise. Life is like painting, it takes practice, and patience, but don’t be afraid to lay it all out.

spell out where you’re at

Traditional weddings are a lot of planning, stress, and drama. Whenever you have large numbers of people to organize, then you throw in personal bonds that may or may not be the most sturdy, and ideas of how perfect the day needs to be– it’s significantly stressful. However the most important part is the promises made.

That’s the meat of the event at the end of the day. People will leave the venue, the set up will be packed up, flowers will wilt, and family and friends will scatter back to their personal corners of the globe. The thing that lasts is the idea that, “I love you, and I am committed to you and this relationship”. In practice, maybe that idea isn’t meant or kept. But when we look at the ideal traditional wedding, the point is that this couple is being upfront about their feelings and intentions and promising to keep those intentions alive every day. No matter your romantic relationship status, we all can do with more honesty and love.

Promises and depth of connection don’t have to limited to romantic couples and special days. Each day, how we interact with those close to us is our way of speaking a promise to them. Maybe it’s, “School comes first, but I’ll help you after,” or “I like hanging out with you but I don’t trust you with my personal struggle” or any of a large number of things. We don’t have to be super close with a large number of people, it is difficult, exhausting, and has little benefit. What we can do, however, is look at those people who are close, or who we want to be close with. We can decide to actively be honest and loving to them because they are special to us. By reminding ourselves, we hold ourselves accountable to treating them like they deserve.

wait, I should shut up?

The best kind of people are those that know how to shut up and listen. They’re a rare breed. It’s so uncommon to find someone who listens well because we each want to tell our own stories.

Therefore, listening is vital to you, the listener. Shockingly enough, there’s always gaps in our knowledge, things we can learn about. Even the people we know, talking about things we’ve heard before– we can miss the details. We can also be reminded about what other peoples’ lives are like. No one’s life story is exactly the same, but learning about what other people are doing may help you learn how to deal with similar problems.

Listening is most important however, because it’s a core component of our relationships. You can tell when the other person isn’t listening, and that lack of respect isn’t easily forgotten. By paying attention and caring about what the other person says, we are watering the garden of our relationships. Most people are the sorts of plants that need to be watered every day. Shutting up and hearing what the other person has to say is a skill that helps make sure we don’t get too prideful– there are all of these other wonderful people we could appreciate!

There is a joy in listening, because we never know quite exactly what they’ll say; even the closest people to us can surprise us. We are living a life with so many unknowns, and the only way to grow and learn is by seeing what other people have seen.

you are a water bottle

For the next few posts, I’ll be starting a little theme: I’ll pick a physical item and explain how it represents something we should remember. That way, every time you see the item, hopefully it’ll make your day a bit better. Today, that item is a reusable water bottle.

You are a water bottle. Inside of you, instead of water, there is life. However, like an environmentally friendly reusable water bottle, we can be filled up, again and again. The problem is that we forget that. We assume that all we are is the strength we have inside of us at the time. While we do have strength inside of us, that’s not the entirety of our source.

Humans don’t exist in a vacuum. Just by being around people, we begin to develop relationships with them. In fact, they don’t even have to be people. Consider the fact that animals can’t talk to us, and yet for our pets, we still try to overcome those barriers by learning how what kind of noises they make and their behaviors. Even inanimate objects, if we hold onto them long enough or if they are from someone who held unto them long enough, become special to us. Whether you think of yourself as a relational person or not, we seek out and form relationships because it is our nature.

Knowing that makes it only all the more obvious that if we are not alone in our daily life, there’s no reason we should be alone in our struggles. While we may have to face individual obstacles by ourselves, we have support. Sometimes it just takes a while to find those who are willing to support you, and who you can support too.

So be a water bottle! Pour out into other people, and let them pour into you. Cherish your relationships, and try to be a person you’d want to be friends with. If you isolate yourself, you’re not only depriving yourself, but you’re depriving people out there the chance to get to know someone they’d love.

*a few of the stickers in the image are from snapchat

the cruel words we say

Contempt is one of the biggest indicators that a couple will break up eventually. It’s termed one of the Four Horsemen in respect to divorce. The other three are criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The other three also make more intuitive sense. We critique those we love because we want them to be the best they can be, but taking it too far means not really loving them for who they are, but who we want them to be. Defensiveness is a sign of distrust; we find tidbits offensive and feel the need to defend ourselves without realizing that they possibly didn’t mean offense at all. Stonewalling is refusing to engage with the person you’re angry with at all, sort of hoping it just goes away without you dealing with it. All of these make sense because it deals with mistrust and miscommunication.

The Four Horsemen are popular fellows, not just in romantic relationships but all relationships. There’s different theories to why we react in such ways to people who are close to us, but I would guess a lot of it comes from uncertainty. We criticise because we are afraid they will see the flaws in us, so we remind them they are flawed too. We are so uncertain about what they mean, we find things to become defensive about. We stonewall because we don’t know how to deal with the emotions and hope it just sort of resolves on its own. There might be a whole slew of why we do these things, but it’s not healthy to act in these ways because we aren’t solving anything– we’re making it easier to give up.

Yet contempt is a funny emotion, one we don’t know a lot about. It makes sense to have problems trusting another person because you want to but also don’t want to be hurt. The question with contempt is, why hate someone you are in such a close bond with? What’s the source there? Is it mistrust? And yet we can trust people and still loathe them. Contempt, if I might suggest, could be a result of a non-confrontation. If you ridicule someone who matters to you, you’re doing it for a reason. It might not come to one’s mind easily, most certainly isn’t the petty little thing want to call out, but it is there.

In terms of contempt, I think it’s really important to be honest with yourself. Being cruel doesn’t solve a relationship’s problems, no matter who is in that relationship. If you can’t seem to stop yourself, then ask yourself why you’re still there. It’s important to be able to trust and communicate with others, and that’s never going to stop being a challenge. However, you also need to trust yourself and know where the line is. It’s simple to be contemptuous, but the best bonds aren’t simple; they are strong.

how do you like your coffee?

We best understand things when we understand the context. An abstract work to a mideval peasant is meaningless; they have no reference to know if it’s composition is well balanced, or to know the details of the materials. Two people can watch the same like, with only one person “getting it”. They both saw the movie, the same events and imagery were shown. Yet when we “get” something, we have a set of expectations and criteria to compare it to, thus feel we can form an educated opinion about it. The difference in appreciation is largely due to the situation and frame of reference the person has.

When we communicate with someone, we are building a mental picture of them. They hate Elvis, drink their coffee with a good amount of sugar but no milk, adore history but hate physics, joke about their physical apperance: these are all basic, rather meaningless facts. And yet, when we learn those meaningless facts, when all put together, it doesn’t seem so meaningless. The more you know about the person, the higher chance you have of relating to them.

That’s why they say the opposite of love isn’t hate but indifference. The apathetic friend isn’t a friend at all. We don’t often reveal our deepest fears and desires to people who don’t care about our opinions on chocolate cake. Communication and connection, these things are vital to us social creatures. That’s why small talk isn’t as pointless as some might assume. Learning what other people desire and hate and are bothered by, these are evident when you are there for the smaller interactions. That’s why spending time with people is so important. You build up the frame of reference when you communicate with those you adore, and then can understand where they are coming from. It makes a difference.

When we trust our phones more than people

We depend on our phones as an extention of our memory. The “youth of today” are not as capable of doing basic math in their heads because what’s the point when you have a calculator with you at all times? We don’t need to remember the author and title, we just need to remember enough key words to find a source again. While we might not like to admit it, a majority of us in the industrialized world rely on smartphones to augment our cognition. It’s external storage of knowledge. Whether this is bad or good or both is besides the point however; the real question is why can we rely on our phones and not other people?

The easy answer is that it’s less work. Phones don’t demand emotional support, and even their “alone time” of update installations only takes about 20 minutes every few months. The cellular device operates in a manner that optimizes it’s usefulness to the individual owner. Relationships are much harder. Relationships involve emotions and a wide variety of factors we can’t easily pin down all the time. Relationships also involve humans, where the effort is expected to be reciprocal. 

We rely on phones because there’s very little chance it will come back to haunt us. People are difficult to deal with, and so it’s much easier to just rely on something without any extra baggage. But frankly, we need the extra baggage of dealing with people. Our relationships are important, more than any material thing. When we rely on people, it makes us vulnerable. But we need to be vulnerable or we suffer alone. So talk to those you care about. Forgive petty arguments. Take the time to listen to each other. Depending on others is uncomfortable because it means you can’t be selfish, and that’s frightening, but it’s worth it.