peace.

“Freedom (from):  the state of not being subject to or affected by a particular undesirable thing.”

Sometimes freedom from one particular undesirable thing brings a new undesirable thing, a worse thing.

Sometimes going through a rough spot ends, but at the expense of a different, equally terrible something consuming you. Pain doesn’t often have a name, nor does it care to. It will nest itself deep within you, regardless of its reason for being there.

Sometimes you’re so eager to rid yourself of a certain feeling, you don’t see the next one coming. The next terrible feeling. It blindsides you. You don’t know to anticipate it.

Sometimes you wonder if there are ups and downs, or if pain just finds new ways to manifest itself.

Sometimes you think you’ll have to define peace for yourself, because everyone else’s version doesn’t fit.

Sometimes you realize that this cycle might not ever end.

 

And sometimes, you won’t come to a conclusion at all.

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second chances.

Human. Physical matter. Marching on. No matter the wear and tear, the breaks and bruises, we are all still here. We do not disintegrate, we do not evaporate. Neither unmerited torture nor self-inflicted wounds can lead to our disappearance. We cannot remove our tracks. We cannot erase our words. The things we’ve done will always be the things we’ve done. Removing ourselves from one part of life cannot remove us from every part of life. So we march on. We make friends and art and mistakes. We sound, we hear, we mull. But we do not vanish. People join us, people abandon us. We welcome, we push. We can be plenty and we can be one.

And we march on.

freedom.

We are all products of our decisions. Whenever we make a choice, there are consequences. Essentially those consequences define our lives. All pretty basic, common knowledge.

But let’s say you don’t make choices. Let’s say you sit back, and just sort of watch life happen. We’ll call it an extreme “go with the flow” take on life. It could be because you’re just remarkably laid back and don’t care to have an impact on anyone’s life, especially your own. That’s one way of viewing it.

I’m doubtful that’s true for any of us, though. It’s more likely that we’re terrified of those consequences, because somewhere down the line, pain and anger will introduce themselves. And say, “Hi, I’m a direct result of the decision you just made.” For the greater part of my life, I’ve done a strangely good job of avoiding the whole decision-making thing. And then something I loved for a long time was taken from me before I ever made up my mind about it. Something I thought would surely be there all my life, so I wouldn’t really have to choose. It’s like having a really good job offer on the table for eight years. And when they finally give the job to someone else, you almost feel betrayed. “But wait, that was my position to take.” Really? Was it? Because you never made a choice. You didn’t accept, but you didn’t deny. You let it sit there. You let someone else’s decision affect you before YOU affected you. You let life happen to you, instead of you happening to life.

Learning that our [lack of] decisions affect[s] people takes time, especially for those of us who tend to watch life instead of participate. Alas! I’ve recently decided to participate. And I’ve learned some decently messy, extremely tough lessons. But they are lessons, nonetheless. And I’m learning how to take control of my life, instead of watching it take control of me.

Lesson 1: People will get hurt. You (the decision-maker) will most definitely be one of them. But so will your friends and family. Understand that pain is a part of life. And that this world’s eagerness to avoid all “negative” feelings is destructive.

Lesson 2: Selfishness is not the opposite of selflessness. There is a healthy way to make decisions for yourself while still caring for others.

Lesson 3: When you love, love with everything you have. Love boldly, love fearlessly, love out loud. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Even among the pain, I’ve found more love during the last bits of my life than I could have ever imagined. And choosing to love back has been the most liberating feeling I’ve ever known.

The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

ambiguity.

On what scale should we measure “life-altering events”? Is there a standard to which we compare everything that happens in a given lifetime, and say, “this affected your life 43% more than that” or “your life has significantly changed a total of five times in the last eighteen months”? No, really. These aren’t rhetorical questions. I’m not attempting to blow your mind with a load of unanswerable, theoretical inquiries of which we’ll never see an end. I just want to know: when do we stop focusing on the trivial, cumbersome events of day-to-day life and when do we start referring to some alterations as drastic?

We think we have such a firm grasp of what lies ahead. Hell, we’ve seen it all, right? We’ve been through this and that. We’ve seen here and there. So many of us spend a stupid amount of time planing for the unknown. We fabricate these futures in our minds; mine are often scarce of specifics. Filled with generalizations. The ambiguity of the future we set forth for ourselves is the exact thing that, when shattered, catches us so off guard. The lack of detail is the very detail that surprises us every time there’s change. 

Like I’ve said, I consider myself fairly “free-spirited,” taking little time to really hash out the details of exactly where I want to be, what I want to be doing, and who I want to be with. I’ve gripped some general facts about my personality, and that’s enough for me. Things like my love for good food, the sense of urgency I feel to travel, and my reliance on the handful of people I see being a part of my life for eternity. So how could life throw a wrench into my “plans” when they’re so ambiguous? 

So I was right. I learned to be less focused on the details of my future so that life couldn’t take me by surprise. New bridges crossed and corners turned were mere excitement. The thrill of change. Less room for “life-altering” experiences, because I didn’t have a set way of life to begin with. 

But I’ll warn you now: the more ambiguous you are with your plans, the harder it hits you when one of your general concepts about your future changes. You aren’t used to the radical ups and downs. You just know how to “go with the flow.” 

And I can promise you, that “flow” ends. It always ends. So should we lay out the specifics of what we wish our future to hold, so that we are continually let down, and it makes the monsters seem not-so-big? Or do we numb ourselves to the tedious tussles of daily life, only to throw ourselves into shock when something unavoidable happens?

[Insert postscript here acknowledging lack of focus/direction/theme in above post.]

sand castles.

Sometimes, things get in life’s way. Like when eggshell falls into your cake batter or it starts to rain halfway through your picnic. The lives we live are seemingly permanent; we become so engulfed by our daily, monotonous routines, we leave very little space for change. Ask me a couple months ago, I would have told you I’m the biggest proponent of change. I “craved” it, as I would often say. But I think I was confused. I’m discovering that I loved said change as long as it occurred on my watch. Or I at least had time to absorb/accept/prepare for it. 

But isn’t it strange how life never happens according to our plans? I suppose it might for a little while. We make plans to live in this place, have this job, be friends with these people. But a disruption in some form nearly always introduces itself, whether it slowly seeps in without a second glance or it somehow pushes through the walls we’ve built so high. 

And then I think about those walls. The walls we’ve built all by ourselves. Of our own accord. And do you know what walls do? I used to think they provided safety from all that’s bad in the world. I used to think they meant that life would only and could only exist within those walls. It was something I could “control,” and I like control.

Then, in a matter of seconds, something radical, something tragic, something terrifying turned my walls into dust. Not rubble, not pieces, but dust. I learned that our walls are not made of immovable steel or unbreakable diamond. I like to say mine were made of something like wet sand. Because wet sand makes great castles. With strong, regal walls. But then waves and crabs and children come along and those walls are easily torn down. And when this happens? When our chambers of safety are destroyed? The world simply tells us to rebuild our castles. Put everything back together just how it was, so we can pretend this never happened. And life will continue to be normal and together and complete again. 

Tell me, why would I do that? Why would I try to wet the sand and rebuild everything I once knew just so another monster can take me by surprise again? All I hear is the world saying “just pick up the pieces, Haley.” And do what with them? Build more walls? Blind myself to the world that’s out there so I’ll eventually find myself sitting in a pile of dust again? No, I don’t think I’ll do that. I think I’ll leave the dust on the floor, and keep my eyes peeled for what’s coming next. It’s a little freeing, really. To know I don’t have to rectify my life with walls anymore. Monsters don’t have to completely warp our worlds. Maybe if we don’t exercise every ounce of willpower we have to keep the monsters away, they won’t be so scary.

And hey, once we step outside our castles, we can watch the tide rise and the waves break. And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Image

Portstewart, Northern Ireland

investment.

People have been trying to define the word “success” for decades. “What does it mean to be successful?” “How much money does it take?” “What’s the fastest way to get there?”

Success seems to drive the world around us. The US, at least. Capitalism, you could say, is centered around success. Survival of the fittest, more or less. I have several friends who are highly motivated to climb the corporate ladder and to come out on top. To be the one making all the money. Is that success? And is that what’s driving me?

This topic may seem trivial, like it’s been beaten to death. I know, I’m not laying down any earth-shattering thoughts or challenging life’s biggest questions. I just need to figure it out. Is success different from happiness? Is success required for happiness? Are they one in the same?

I learned a lesson today. And maybe I’ll take it back in a week or so, but I learned something about myself. Money does not have the ability to motivate me. It cannot. I would rather make minimum wage doing something I love with people I love than to make money somewhere I don’t love. I know, I know. People say this all the time. But I think I’m starting to get it.

We often take our love for granted. When we love something, really really love it, we have to put our hearts into it. Lose ourselves in that, because we don’t know how long it will last, when it will leave us, or when we will leave it. Be so unconditionally, irresponsibly invested in what you love. And who you love.

Success is not money to me. It is not a job title. Success happens when we work hard. And we work the hardest when passion is involved. The more passion, the more love, the more work. Simple as that.

 

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?