the thickets in the thick of it

Here’s a short poem about hope

 

I’ve been going the wild side on the thicket near the edge of town

when I go to the grocery store up the ways, and the lights go down

quickly when you walk with the speed of a lazy cat, intrigued by three

noises tickling the tacky tackle of sharp chirping chickweed near me:

Past, future, present fumbling all at my feet, and still just walking longer

and longer as the pitch raises its void into the sky, as a fear-monger

to scaredy-cat hearts like mine.

 

I’m no linen-shirt tipping up my hat to pool my hands in my finds

I’m no gold-laden lad lying in fabulously good turns of binds

I have a thickness resting in my chest that’s mine to fight

to stumble over with the clumsiness of my own feet at night

Maybe I’ll fall down a black hole and keep falling forever

but that will make a story and folks will think me clever

Maybe there’s even no one, no one at all besides me

but just to breathe is a power that confounds the sea,

let relativity blur the line,

and bask in the knowing unknowing that unfolds quietly around us

the dumbest saying

There’s a phrase, “Failure isn’t an option”. This is one of the most frightful outlooks to have. It encourages a sort of rampant perfectionism: either you win or you fail completely and you’ve destroyed this whole thing.

What human never fails? It aims high, yes, but it also punishes whoever doesn’t reach a ridiculously high standard. We should all do our best, but the fact is, sometimes that best isn’t good enough to reach our goal. This runs counter to how people want to tell the tale, “Work hard and you’ll get there!”.

Not to be macabre, but effort can be useless if you don’t wield it effectively. For example, it doesn’t matter how many hours you play chess if you only play with three-year-olds. You’re not going to become a grandmaster chess player unless you’re also three and there happens to be a grandmaster chess player for three-year-olds.

Even if you set apart the time to work on something, and you put your heart and soul into it, people can still critique it. Furthermore, they can be right.

Failure is a natural part of life. Everyone fails, and I mean every single person who has ever existed. If failure isn’t an option, neither is success, because the choice doesn’t exist. Sometimes people mess up. Sometimes people are mean and selfish. Sometimes people try their best and it doesn’t get them where they want to be.

The key factor in this is the fact that: just because you fail doesn’t mean you won’t succeed again. We can learn from everything, and not taking the risk in the first place makes us miserable people. Sometimes we need to feel sad and confused because the circumstances are sad and confusing. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to be a bundle of joy and happiness, but it also isn’t guaranteed to be a horrible soggy mess of a day either.

Failure is always an option, but so is Success.

And in most situations? Those labels aren’t effective shows of what you’ve gained from the situation. Things are as they are. We mostly struggle in some parts and do well in others, but it’s a mixed, patchwork of results. That’s okay. Patchwork is what makes us real, live humans with purpose and meaning.

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.

 

 

we never actually reach tomorrow, so get going right now

Good things take time. The biggest trees can take centuries to reach their magnificent potential. Friendships are the closest when they are consider, “tried and true”. Books and long projects, they all require exercise, practice, and effort. However, one of the greatest mistakes we can make is to think that time is the only factor in success. Two others are hard work and taking well-reasoned risks; we need to be able to take the leap and flap before flying to Alaska!

We are always building something. Our lives are like houses that are slowly built every moment we are awake. Each choice is a nail, each piece of lumber an action. What we do matters because it is the formation of ourselves. Therefore, when we say “Not yet” and stop ourselves from taking risks and practicing what we want to achieve, we aren’t “stopping” our lives. Our lives keep going. The house keeps getting built. The difference is that what’s being built isn’t what we want it to be, it’s the boring routine we’ve found solace in. We then need to decide if we’re okay with that, with who we are right now and what we’re doing. If you’re not, time isn’t going to change that. You are the only one who can change that, and that starts right now, in the present.

Growing and building things take a long while. Global warming is a monolithic threat, yet we are able to ignore it to a preposterous degree because it’s not as fast or obvious as each scene of a TV show. In a similar way, it’s easy to forget we have time, but we do. The best we can do is our best, taking those risks and putting in the effort in this moment, in this time. Aim for lofty goals, be patient with them, but remember what’s going to build it is whatever you’re doing right now.

the time of your life

There are little pieces of life that show their age. Poodle dog dresses and diners and we think of the 50s. Big hair and rock and roll 80s. Even the early 2000s now, we can think of uggs and skinny jeans. It could be clothing, which tends to be the most obvious, but it also turns up in technology, language, and values. The world moves through time and we see the markers in an accumulation of these details.

The things we take for granted right now, like smart phones, are pieces of this era. However, we ourselves are also pieces of this era. We are shaped by so many things, but one of those is the time we are born into. Being born in the 80s and being born in the 90s means two completely different things because technology is different, values are different. Right now, we are forming our own era, our own time, our own customs and norms. Without conscious effort, we adapt the bits of life that will make this time stand apart seperate from the rest. Unlike physical things and trends however, our genes will go on.

What’s crazy to think about is that all of our ancestors made it. As in, we wouldn’t be alive if not for an incredible number of people surviving before us. Not only did our great grandparents need to survive to childbearing age, but so did our great great grandparents and great great grandparents and so on and so forth! The survival of a family, of a line of heritage! Our genes can bring us misery, and we may easily complain we aren’t tall enough or fit enough or happy enough because of it. Perhaps those things are true. Yet our genes have survived, and that’s an amazing thing! It’s easy to feel old when you look back at the things that used to be, but it’s even more stunning to look forward. Even if it’s not precisely our genes that get carried along, the fact we can impact people for the better is important. You matter. Your actions matter. We aren’t those 90s pagers because we are always a fit for the age we’re in: right now.

the long haul

“Love at first sight” isn’t real because love means putting others first, sacrificing and compromising selflessly, and we aren’t prone to giving up important things for pretty strangers just because of something that could be there. Faith, trust, love, paitence– some of the greatest virtues human kind has are things that are built. Many times we make lots of snap judgements and live our lives operating on those initial intuitions . However, the things that drive us to be greater than our selfish-selves, they have more substance. If we want to become better people, we need to give ourselves more practice.

Change is a long-term project. Becoming our greatest self, fulfilling our potential, these are goals that take the rest of our lives. The reason they take the rest of our lives is because each day holds the capability of making us just a tad more kind, more loving, more paying, more wise, etc. The change is real and beautiful, but it’s really hard to see when you’re staring at the progress from two inches away. We have to step back and look at our lives as a work of art, with each addition bringing it closer to fruition.

However, it would be a mistake to think that just because we are growing, we aren’t worth anything right now. It is wonderful and good to have goals, it is fantastic and beautiful to work to see them come true! Yet, trying to attack life like a perfectionist who isn’t done-just-yet will also leave you completely frustrated. Change is a long term project, we build up to amazing heights each day, but wanting success in the future doesn’t mean you are a failure right now; it means that haven’t succeeded your goal yet. It means that while we are messed up right now, the process of growing is as valuable as the end goal. So keep going.