“Physician, heal thyself.”
What right do any of us have to contribute to others until our own affairs are in order? Anything else would be hypocrisy. It’s easy to look at others and point out their flaws. We all sometimes pass sweeping judgements and allow our fears of the new and different to breed animosity, even if no one ever knows we’re doing it. We will fight to the death for our points of view, even when we know they are not the truth. Such is our kind. All change starts with telling the truth about how things are now, and that truth isn’t usually pretty. And no matter how smooth life may be, there’s always some corner of our lives littered with dust-bunnies of resignation.
“Life must be understood backward. But it must be lived forward.” – Soren Kierkegaard.
We may know better, but we all trick ourselves into believing our past governs what we are capable of one time or another. We temper our inspiration by using our history to determine what is possible. We aspire to bold action, and then treat those motions as life-threatening opponents. It is in the moments when we are most confronted by own complacency, fear, or ignorance that it is far easier to say “that person has something I don’t have, and that is why they succeed.” But beyond our public presence, none of us has a perfect life. We all have ambition for more, no matter how resigned or suppressed we become about those chances. Such is our kind.
It doesn’t take much to see other people’s humanity; it is our own that we struggle with. Whether we deal with it valiantly or with impudence, on some existential level every one of us rationalizes why things don’t work out, and we sometimes resist being honest about our part in it. Look at any tabloid, political news story, or the latest gossip, and you will see that no matter how glossy someone looks on the outside, none of us have it all together.
My own life is filled with interesting people, challenging projects, and the amenities of modern life: a reliable car, art I enjoy, and technology. I have a comfortable bed and my coffee is just the way I like it. Things seem to be expanding, and while I feel forever behind, everything I measure says I’m sailing into new waters. I don’t ever feel like I have it all together, but I do give each of the elements of my life regular attention, and I’m constantly working on one thing while another floats away. Balancing all of it is more important to me than having it all together. Besides, I get really bored when there’s nothing to do.
“It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~ Ursula Le Guin
In this fast paced, modern world, I’m on a quest to handle everything and get it all done. When will everything be handled? Only at life’s end. The last item on my to-do list is drop dead. And in that moment, it is likely not the destinations or trophies I will remember, but the journey. Haven’t you ever thought “once this is handled, I will feel better” or “I just need to get through this.” So what is it that we so desperately attempt to survive and get through, experientially?
Ironically, we sometimes attempt to survive the most magical moments of our lives. Feelings of stress, pressure, fear, and overwhelm; a racing heart is what being fully alive feels like. It is overcoming the pain of mile 15 that the marathon runner will savor, not the finish line. The fun of a roller coaster is the sheer adrenaline rush of the ride, not the moment we step off it and say “whew! Thank goodness that’s over!” Our journey shapes us. We can analyze and calculate when we will have it together enough to declare perfection (as if life is going to follow the plan), or recoil in defense, perhaps insisting that our lives are already great as they are, and there is no reason to explore any next levels. Some of us will argue passionately for why we can’t have what we want now and why we can never change.
We spend lots of time explaining why we cannot have what we want, saddled by time, money, or some lacking within those around us. Blaming the circumstances is far easier than taking action. We work to create stability and familiarity in our lives, and then wonder where adventure has gone. How predictable is it for relationships to tarnish, passions to fade, and our great works crumble, whether that decay be swift or tortuously slow? While one measure of success is how together we appear, perhaps what really matters is who we become in the face of the inevitable adversity life presents.
The beauty of reading this is no one knows what you’re thinking while you read it. I invite you to think for a moment. About the things that don’t work in your life, regardless of how trivial they may seem. Yes, you are taking action to move your life forward. I know this because you’re giving time to read this.
You. Yes, you reading this now.
You are capable of significantly more than you think you are.
You are far more prepared for what life is about to bring you than you think you are.
You’re loved, respected and admired by more than you think, no matter what they say.
Those crazy ideas you get about what you could accomplish, you probably can.
Give that a moment to sink in.
Then keep moving, you’ve got a lot to do. 😉