I got my blood taken the other weekend. And in a very intelligent next move, I decided I would shoot some archery in my backyard right after. While I did hit the target, I also managed to smack my arm with the bowstring when it was fully taut. Which is probably about the second worst injury you can sustain when shooting archery. (Hint, hint: the first has to do with the arrows itself.) But this was still pretty bad.

Due in part to the needle puncture, the crook of my elbow turned into a yellow and green bruised and broken blood vessel mess. (Which I was weirdly proud of.) I would check it every few days to see how things were progressing, but after a week, I forgot about it. And now today, it is completely healed.

And that is amazing. I mean, I literally got stabbed with a needle and then smacked a thick string with considerable force against my arm. That should make you say wow! But it doesn’t. Because you hurt yourself all the time and your body heals. It heals. And it’s become so normal that you don’t even comment on it.

Well, this got me wondering: if the vessel that carries you, your soul or your consciousness or your essence or whatever, is that strong, then how strong are you?

I’d say pretty dang strong.

I mean, we’re not hermit crabs or turtles with this hard shell and soft body on the inside. Because our bodies do fall apart eventually (mine seemingly more than anyone else,what with all my annoying but non-life threatening ailments). They protect most of us, like a shell, but not all of us, unlike a shell.

So, where does the rest of the protection come from? You. You have to believe if your body is strong and can heal itself in time, then so can you. Because until you are able to pull all of your extremities into a small shell, then you’ve got to defend yourself, all of you.

I just hope that the next time that you see a bruise on your skin, you’ll remember that it is, quite literally, only scratching the surface of all that you are. Things can always bruise you, but they can’t hurt you unless you let them.

No Reason

Do you think everything happens for a reason? Maybe you do.

But more importantly, do you think anything can happen without a reason? That is, if a person takes a day off of work, do you think they ever do it for no reason? Do you think people can do anything without explaining to themselves why they are doing something? (Basically, if someone makes a decision in a forest, does it make a sound, and do they still argue about the pros and cons with someone when they get back to their camp?)

Well, the more I see of the world, the more I don’t think we’re capable of doing anything without a reason. We are completely motivated by a logical (or sometimes illogical) argument. We hardly ever act without first weighing the consequences. We’re all like, I don’t think I need to help my fellow man until his or her house is floating away after the worst hurricane ever. Then, and only then, will I contribute anything to help someone. Or even, I can’t buy this ______ for myself because it isn’t my birthday and we’re months away from any holiday. I guess I’ll just wait until it goes on sale and I have five coupons.

The problem is that when you wait for a reason to do something, you’ll be waiting for most of your life.

I mean, how many times have you put away some money for a “rainy day?” And how many times have you dipped into it at a later date? (Now, I’m not saying to splurge every day, but I think it’s time to stop kidding yourself.) And what about asking someone out on a date? If you’re waiting to see whether he or she is interested in you, then you’ll have missed the opportunity to simply find out by asking them out in the first place.

Really, I think it’s time to stop creating fake reasons for yourself to simply live the life you want to live. We’re creatures of impulse and instinct, after all. I think it’s time that we all bought ourselves a pumpkin spiced latte simply because we’re alive, not because we’re looking to reward ourselves for something. “Treat yo’self” doesn’t even begin to cover it. More like “enjoy yo’self” a little everyday.

The point is that you are going to miss a lot of things in life if you stay on the same path. When you only do things that you have reasons for. Rather, it’s important to do some things for absolutely no reason. To talk to people who you have no reason to talk to. To take roads you have no reason to take. To make decisions that you have no reason to make. Then, and only then, can you see what possibilities your life may have to offer. Then, and only then, can you find your true potential.

Give a Mile, Get an Inch

Stuck on how you are going to be the best person you can be? Confused about how to reach your fullest potential? Fortunately, there’s a lot of advice about how to achieve success out there. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of advice about how to achieve success out there. It’s hard to know what is right or what will work for you.

But I’ve heard one piece of advice from several sources recently that I love and respect. And the basic gist of it all is quite simply this: the universe hates it when you play your cards close to your chest.

Think of the universe as that nosy neighbor across the street that watches at the window for you to come home, and when you see a telescope lens poking out between his or her curtains you aren’t at all surprised. So, instead of making that little granny or grandpa work so hard to find out what you are doing, you need to reveal your life and your intent.

How do you do that? You work really hard. And then you work really hard. And then you work really hard some more. In whatever capacity that may be. If you want to be the best ballet dancer, you need to wake up and practice before anyone is even dreaming about practicing. If you want to be a great salesperson, you need to hit the pavement and not take no for an answer. If you want to be the best blogger, you have to pick a format and remember to blog daily (even when you’re in the hospital).

And then. And only then does the universe acknowledge you. Because the universe is getting requests like the stock market. It has all of these pleas and requests being thrust into its face. But it can only respond to the one that is most serious, the one that is going to have the most ROI, the most profitable.

So, when the universe finally takes your ticket after you’ve woken up at 5 am for three years in a row to crank out a masterpiece, when you’ve spilled hot coffee in your lap for the bajillionth time on your way to the gym, when your computer has crashed without you saving your work for the absolute last time (you swear), the universe sends down some heavenly host in whatever form you subscribe to (angels? goddesses? Chris Pratt and his raptors?) and provides you with a little bit of oomph. The strength to go on, or the last chapter of your book, or just some confidence in yourself.

But that’s only after you’ve given the universe everything you got. In essence, you need to give an entire mile to even get an inch. But that inch will give you the rest of the fuel to give and go another mile. And then life goes on…and so do you.

The Potential to Be

When you look at a tree, what do you see?

Yes, okay, smart guy. You see the bark. The leaves. The branches. Potentially the small creatures and birds that call it home, the ecosystem it contains. You might also see something that gives life to humans on Earth by producing oxygen. (If you want to get that scientific or poetic about plants.)

Now, imagine someone else is looking at that same tree. What may they see?

Maybe lots of books that could be made from the tree. Maybe a really nice mahogany table or cherry tree chair. Heck, they may even see toilet paper. At any rate, they are seeing the tree chopped down and then chopped up into smaller pieces. They see the tree as it could be, not as it is now.

So, who is right?

Both are correct. Simply because trees serve multiple purposes, living or dead. It simply comes down to what stage of the process the tree is in, and what potential can be seen in it at that time.

Now, erase the tree from your mind, and think about the last time that you faced rejection or pain due to the fact that you did not fit the mold. That you didn’t meet the expectations of others. That you didn’t fill a position or a void for someone. Of course this is hard to experience. But again, your perspective isn’t the only one to consider.

If you have experienced this feeling, it means that someone has looked at you during a different stage in the process. It means that someone has perceived you and thought “paper” instead of “ecosystem.” It wholly depends on what they are seeing, not on who you are.

My general point is that you can be more than one thing at a time. But if people aren’t able to see past something or aren’t able to see you, it’s due to how they are perceiving you at a current moment, not with how much potential you have. And that’s okay. A tree is not offended to be called paper. It is simply useful. A tree is not offended to be called a shelter for others. It is simply useful.

Remember that you are useful in whatever stage of the process (AKA life) that you are in, even if it is hard to see right now. There is as much potential in a seed as there is in a fully grown tree.

The Three Words I Am Most Afraid Of

There are a lot of phobias out there. Spiders, sharks, even mustard. (Yes, mustard.) And sure, there is a lot to be afraid of in this world. But mostly, humans are afraid of the collective “unknown.” They’re afraid of not knowing what is going to happen when they hold that spider, jump into the ocean, or er…make a burger.

And so, what am I afraid of? Well, three little words. I bet you are trying out all the most obvious calculations right now: I love you, You are fired, You’re wearing that?

But it isn’t any of those. It’s “could have been.”

I think most of our lives are spent battling the “could have beens.” Our entire existence consists of ordering the dessert we want and then seeing some other frosty cake pass by our table, making our mouths water. And sometimes, “could have been” is not getting dessert at all. It’s bypassing the sweets so that you can make sacrifices for your entree, so to speak.

You have to understand that “could have been” carries with it the most pungent sense of loss. It is the epitome of the “unknown,” and thus, manifests as the most frightening. When you are off being something else, there is always the allure of what “could have been,” but there is no way to see what it is without abandoning your pursuits completely.

As a writer, “could have been” is especially painful. You write a story or a poem, and you abandon it in an old notebook. You have a brilliant idea for a short story, but you forget to write it down. You send out your writing into the world as one thing when there are about fifty other plot lines that you could have delved into. I guess that’s why there are so many sequels of movies and books that could have simply ended where they did (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones television show. )

The difficult part about life, though, is that there aren’t any sequels. Despite appearances, there really are no second chances. Life is like a tree with so many branches. Each branch represents an opportunity, and when you travel down the length of one limb, the other branches are suddenly out of your reach.

So, what is a person to do with his or her “could have beens”? Make them into something. Even if you can’t do what you have set out to accomplish in the first place, do something. It will take the emphasis off what “could have been” and give you back all of the wonderful things that you are.