So, I was going to write a post about something really trite and how you should take time for yourself and yada yada and there would be a cool metaphor tie-in at the end like there always is and you could get on with your weeekend.
But I have a question instead. How do people live life? No, I’m serious. This is not a metaphor or even an existential question. I want to know how people live with their whole life hanging over their head. The disappointment and fear and hope and joy. Like, every opportunity you do or do not take shapes you. And no matter how much you want something, it doesn’t matter, not even a little.
I mean, I wanna wake up covered in burritos with Ewan McGregor singing “Elephant Love Medley” next to me in bed every morning. But what does that have to do with anything? (Good question.)
It doesn’t have anything to do with anything. I mean, I might as well be a dust mote floating through a sunbeam rather than a sentient being, that’s how much my wants and desires matter to the universe. That’s how little.
And the thing that really gets me is that good people don’t get the things they want, no matter how hard they desire it and wish for it and want it. Like, how do we deal with that? Hard work means something, for sure. But what about the intangible? Just the want of something?
And all we have to show for wanting something when we show up to the competition and don’t even receive a participation trophy is someone saying “that’s life.”
Well, this is my rebellion. Just for one night, I’m going to say that “that’s life” just isn’t enough for me. I want to know why it just doesn’t work out for two people who love each other, or why that job wasn’t a perfect fit, or why people who never mess up get hurt when other people make mistakes.
For one night, I want to know why.
But I don’t think I’d even be comforted by the answer. Because that’s just life, isn’t it? And we’re all comfortable with the knowledge that it just doesn’t work out sometimes.
And so am I, usually. Just not tonight.
I’m not sure how old I was when my fiancee gave me his army blanket. But I’m pretty sure it was fairly early on into the relationship (the first 5 years, give or take.)
He gave it to me in the hopes that it would keep me warm when he wasn’t there. When he handed it over, though, I wasn’t convinced. It was very light and raggedy looking. Nothing at all like its fluffy, thick cotton candy cousins I ordinarily called blankets.
It wasn’t until I wrapped it around myself later that day that I saw what a gift he had given me. It’s deceptively thin, but it insulates incredibly well. You have to generate your own heat for it to work, but once you do, there’s no getting rid of it. And best of all, when he first gave it to me, it smelled of him. Not in a gross gym sock way, but like clean laundry. Occasionally, when I was feeling generous, I would bring it to him, and he would spread it out over us like one of those huge colorful parachutes we had in elementary school. I was glad he didn’t ever ask for it back, even though I knew he missed it some days. I think he just knew I needed it. (And not just because I was cold.)
And now that we live together, the army blanket is on our bed. It warms us both. It covers us both. It has come back to him, but it stays with me.
And yeah sure, I probably would have given it back had we broken up or something. (Well, I would have put up a good fight for it because I do love it, but I definitely would have given it back…probably.) But we didn’t, and so we share it now.
Which I think is a perfect lesson about love. You quite literally get what you give. And if you wait long enough, what you give will return to you again.
I shudder to think (in more ways than one) what would have happened if he had been selfish and had kept it for himself, or had simply let me borrow it. But he didn’t; he gave it to me, with no expectation of getting it back. And there’s a lot to do with love in that, too.
All I know is that love can be smothering or lightly covering, but above all, it should warm you all the way through.
Did you ever notice that no one really knows what to do with life? Everyone wants to find the meaning of it. Everyone wants to know its secrets. Everyone wants to “live” it. But no one knows how.
So, we spend our whole lives trying to puzzle out…our lives. Who are we supposed to be, and what are we meant to do, and how much time are we meant to do it in. Questions, questions, questions. And yet the core question of our lives, especially when we’re in our mid-twenties, is what are we put on this Earth to do. What are we supposed to do with the time that we are given?
But I think a better question is how do you want to spend your life?
Because everything is always so much simpler when you talk about it in terms of money (especially math, but this whole metaphor thing works, too).
So, think about life like it’s a crumpled dollar in your pocket. Think of it like it’s that last couple of pennies that you found in between the cushions in your couch. Think about life like it’s the money in your savings account that you’ve been hoarding since middle school. It’s exactly the same.
There will be times in your life when you’ll have to spend money on things that you’d prefer not to spend it on (baby showers, bridal showers, bills). And at the same time, you’ll have to spend time in life on things you’d also prefer not to spend time on (baby showers, bridal showers, bills).
And then, there will be moments that you don’t have enough money (or time) to do the things you want to do, but you’ll do them anyway, because you know that you are short on both but that these moments are important.
And in very rare times, you will be able to buy and spend the money and time that you want to, with even more fantastic results.
By viewing life this way, you suddenly take the pressure off yourself. Sure, sometimes it can be hard to know how to spend your money, and a lot of the time, you’ll get it wrong. (Why did I go to the store to buy salad ingredients and come back with French Toast Crunch?) just like (Why did I hang out with that group of friends because they left me drunk at the bar without money or a taxi?) But that’s life, too. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re, quite literally, going to pay for it.
The point is that if you treat life as you would your own money, you’ll find it to be a lot more precious and priceless than if you treated it as one big problem to be solved for x. It’s not necessary to have all the answers. All you have to do is spend your time (and money) wisely.
Bottle of water at concert venue: Also $20
Missing the entire concert because you were at the hospital: priceless
So, as the title suggests, I almost saw Laura Marling in concert. I had bought my tickets about 6 months ago, and I was ready to go last weekend. It was going to be a great concert at a small, intimate venue. Of course, my body wanted to hang back, so I ended up in the hospital and missed the entire thing.
And really, that’s the entire story. I was completely bummed and generally disappointed with the situation and with myself. Actually, I still am. I’ve wanted to see Marling since I first listened to “Alas I Cannot Swim,” her first album. As is customary when you fall in love with a musician and her music, you have to see if what you’ve envisioned matches up. You have to hear what they do with your favorite song.
I was thinking that this was seriously going to be a huge moment in my concert history, and it just didn’t happen.
So, I did my best to look on the bright side of things: I got some rest that weekend, I made some new friends in the form of nurses and doctors, and I could always buy myself a concert t-shirt later (which is really my favorite part). And then I added the fact that I had seen one of my favorite artists the weekend before with my favorite person (my sister).
And so without sounding like a complete spoiled brat by being able to go to two concerts in as many weekends, I had to admit that I was still lucky, even though I hadn’t been able to go to the second concert on the bill. Even though the only souvenir I had was a couple of bruises from having blood taken all weekend.
Now, when I face any other disappointment, I’ve learned that I need to realize that you shouldn’t begrudge life. It always gives you exactly what you need when you need it. And even though you may be frustrated because you want something to happen and it doesn’t, you need to bring yourself over it. Being stuck on what could have been makes you miss out on what is.
Basically, this is all a really elaborate metaphor for looking at the glass half full. Even from inside a hospital room.
In the end, I say buy the ticket. Whether you make it there or not.
Everyone knows that the media tends to control our lives and what we see in the world. But I think there’s a new threat: the weatherman or weatherwoman.
I mean, we already sort of plan our days around the weather. Oh, it’s lashing rain? I’ll stay inside and read a book. Oh, it’s sunny and warm? I think I should spend a lot of time outside today, and so on. And now that it is getting even easier to check the weather from our devices with updates and alerts (you know, instead of like, stepping outside), we’re seeing even more influence from it.
But really, we’re just making excuses. For example, it’s truly difficult for me to wake up in the morning when it is cloudy or raining. It feels like all of the blood in my body has been replaced with lead. And sure, there is a scientific reason for that. Blue light in sunshine (and electronic devices) tells us to wake up. The absence of it does the opposite. But can I rely on science to explain this? Can I honestly tell myself that my body would prefer to sleep in on a rainy day just because the sun isn’t out? Should I be blaming my troubles on the weatherman and Mother Nature?
The short answer is no. The fact of the matter is that I am absolutely able to wake up on my own (with the help of a couple of alarms). And the fact of the matter is, we are all able to get up on a rainy day or a sunny day or a cloudy day or a snowy day or a blustery day to do the things we need to do. And like it or not, weather warning or not, we must do them.
And most certainly, this is a greater metaphor for life, as most of my blog posts are. You see, the universe is going to present you with several different types of obstacles. Sometimes, they arrive all in one day. And as with the weather, you have the choice of deciding whether you want to make up an excuse or make it happen. And yes, I know. It’s really easy to step to the window and watch the rain fall down and stay inside with warm tea all day. But there is something else in deciding that you will get things done in spite of the conditions and circumstances around you that speaks more volumes of your character.
But if it helps, no one said that you couldn’t jump in the puddles along the way.
My parents got into stained glass when I was young. (I realize that I just made it sound like a new street drug, but stay with me.)
I can distinctly remember creeping down the wooden stairs of my basement to peer through the small space between the wall and the staircase to watch my father shape the glass pieces he was using. The shrill sound that the machine made as he meticulously ran the piece against it is still loud in my ears. Then he would take a ribbon of copper-colored foil and cover the edges of the glass with it. After that, he would make sure that the foil had stuck to the glass by using a plastic knife to flatten it. When he was finished, he would carefully solder it all together, the liquid droplets streaming like mercury, to make a small angel or a hot air balloon or a sunflower or a unicorn. Soon enough, his creations would pepper every window in our house and our friends’ houses. Then, when we needed a new creation, my mother would take me to the stained glass store so that she could pick out clear dark blues, milky pinks, and opalescent whites. Sunlight would strike the shop through the windows and illuminate her choices with dust motes swirling.
And so, I’ve always loved stained glass. I’ve sat in churches, fading in and out out of sermons, wondering how anyone could get that much detail into a window, how they could render the images of saints and souls in vivid color. I would watch light shift and undulate through the panels, making them shimmer and come to life.
But in the end, coming to life is what it is all about. We’re all stained glass windows. No, really. Light shines through us all of the time, through what we do and what we feel. We let light pass through us out into the world, and we also let light pass into us from the world. We are simply mediums for what we see and experience. This is living.
But what will you do with your life? Will you make it more than you were given?
Because you always have a choice: you can be the window, everyday. You can let the light shine through you, no matter how smudged or mud-covered you may get. (And that’s good enough. I promise you that). But you can also be the stained glass window, in which light not only shines through you, but allows you to project color and beauty outward. Through this, you are able to give something back to the world when it is giving so much to you.
So, what will it be for you? Will you dazzle in a technicolor display? Will you, no matter what, let the light shine through you? Will you be like stained glass?
I hope more than anything that you will. Because once you see yourself for the piece of art that you are, you will make use of the light that shines through you.
As I’ve mentioned before, everyone has their way of interpreting/interacting/dealing/making sense of/ the world. When painters try to make sense of their world, we get impressionist art. When musicians try to escape themselves, we get blues (oddly, a collaboration in suffering.) But when poets try to interact with their reality, society, more often than not, receives really bad metaphors. Like these: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/high-school-analogies-20-_n_1332745.html
However, as bad as these analogies are, they represent a solid attempt. They exist, and therefore, can be edited into something great. They are proof that these students tried to make sense of their world and won. They are the first step.
And therein lies the problem with writer’s block: it is an unaffordable luxury. It would be nice to think that every time we didn’t know what to say or write or do, we simply wouldn’t have to say or write or do anything at all. If we could just button our lip until the moment passed us, or keep staring at our phones until the person we don’t want to talk to passes, then maybe we wouldn’t have to think about anything for the rest of our lives.
Except, those moments and people keep coming. And at some point, you are going to have to embrace the world. Interpret/interact/deal/and make sense of it, too. And trust me, the world doesn’t play nice with people who consistently say, “I forgot my homework.”
Dealing with writer’s block is as easy as admitting to yourself that it doesn’t exist. It is as easy as saying that I choose to stop suffering from it. (Which, of course, is like saying that it is exactly that easy and exactly that hard. Since you are relying on yourself, you determine the speed with which you are able to erase writer’s block from your life. This could take minutes, hours, or a lifetime. Results, however, will not vary. You will be free of it as soon as you want to be free.) It’s just about deciding not to accept it.
Oh, and in case you were thinking that this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t “write,” I use “writer’s block” in a more general sense to mean a drought in creativity or otherwise lack of liveliness and enthusiasm that one possesses to reach certain achievements and goals. So, this means you are suffering from writer’s block any time you are stuck in a situation you don’t want to be in but are unable to get yourself out of.
And here’s the cheesy metaphor part of this: you are the author and the hero and the villain of your own story. If you need to write yourself out of a particularly painted corner, then you can do it. It’s just a matter of not accepting writer’s block for what it is (a temporary obstacle, a self-imposed limitation) and allowing yourself to overcome it. Write your life’s story in permanent ink, believing that you can truly make no mistakes and you won’t.