For the longest time, I thought I was the lone fuck-up in a world of over-achieving do-gooders. I thought everyone’s life was an unbroken string of success and that the charted trajectory of their experience was the steady, upward climb of progressively improved living. I thought everyone had their shit together and I alone was staggering in the dark trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.
Holy shit was I wrong.
As I have come to dig more deeply into the lives of others and attempted to learn the secrets of their success, I have realized that nobody knows what the fuck they are doing. Everyone is just making it up as they go along and anyone who tells you different is a god damn liar.
The truth is that everyone in this world is just blindly stumbling through the shitstorm of life – wildly grasping at any sort of comfort that they think will give them a degree of happiness, pleasure or security and when they happen upon something that seems to work they cling to it, thinking that they have found the secret to a successful life when all they have really found is a temporary high mark on an otherwise twisting path of ups and downs.
The problem is that we get high – achieving success in our work, our love, and our social circles – and we start to feel like we have it figured out like we mixed up the recipe for success. Then suddenly, without a word of warning, life sees you getting a little too comfortable and arrogant and backhands you off of your cloud and you are faced with the stunning realization that everything you thought you knew about living was just a temporary perspective that is now completely changed and you have to start all over and figure it all out again.
And when we have to start again we feel like failures. We feel like we should be further along and we just wish we could have it all figured out like everyone else.
Well, we have to stop that line of thinking before it ever get’s started and what follows are a few ways to help with that.
Beware The Social Media Inferiority Complex
Social media has created an epidemic of inferiority. Scrolling through the perfectly edited photos of friends and family and the stream of upbeat status updates that litter their feeds would have us all thinking that it is only our lives that are falling off the fucking rails at a breakneck speed.
Don’t believe the social media obfuscation.
Every life is a little broken and every glass a little empty. For every glorious vacation shot taken with the backdrop of a red and gold sunset scraping colors across the sky – with children smiling and husband and wife sharing a look of love – there are 200 other photos not shown that capture the hardship of the vacations all of us have known.
The pictures of the kids screaming bloody murder in front of the resort crowd because you cut them off at their 5th soda. Or the ones where you are huddled over the toilet with food poisoning. Or the ones where you look like an overdone crab because you fell asleep in the sun and are covered with a blistery sunburn. The arguments and stress and passive aggressive looks across the dinner table or agitated comments about whose turn it is to change the shitty diaper. Those photos rarely make the highlight reel of social media distortion so don’t think that you are missing out on some magical, eternal moments of bliss and happiness.
However great someone pretends their life is on social media, there are things behind that smokescreen that hurt their souls on a regular basis. Things they don’t want anyone to see but they are the sort of things we all suffer through.
I suspect that all the people in the world have more commonality across their miseries then across their joys and if we ever had the courage to admit that to one another I think we might find ourselves a lot more compassionate to the sufferings of others and ourselves.
So when you reach out to compare your life to someone else’s compare your hurts and your scars. Those are the things that are the most honest and long lasting about any of us and when we see them in others it is easier to find the beauty of them in ourselves.
Don’t Take This Shit Too Seriously
The greatest lesson in life is the one that is hardest to grasp for me. I want life to be serious. I want life to fall into line and start getting it’s shit together and stop being such a random mess of ups and downs and gut wrenching body blows that leave me sucking wind. I want to be able to know what I am supposed to do and where I am supposed to be.
But life doesn’t care what I want, and it sure as shit doesn’t care what you want. Life just wants to make sure you realize that none of this living stuff is as serious as we make it and life is mostly made up of a series of sincerely comical jokes that the universe alone is in on.
Do you want proof that life is just waiting to make you the butt of its jokes? Ok.
Go park your filthy, unwashed car under a tree filled with birds. Leave for 30 minutes and come back. Not a single bird shit on your car, did they? Ok. Now go get a car wash. The most expensive car wash you can get. Now go park your car in an area that doesn’t have a single bird and leave again for 30 minutes. I bet my life that your car will be covered in bird shit by the time you return. That’s life’s sense of humor.
Once you get really polished and clean and feel like you have everything together – when you feel like you are avoiding the wrong situations and putting yourself in the right ones – life will take a massive shit right on your head because it wants to remind you that; even if you think you have it figured out and you know what to avoid and what to go after, all your plans don’t amount to shit in the grand scheme of things.
So don’t fight it. Fuck up often and laugh and learn from your mistakes. Life will laugh right along with you and, if you can get in on the joke instead of being the butt of it, you are going to enjoy living a lot more.
Live the Mystery
Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said;
“Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.”
A long as you continue to think of life as something you need to figure out instead of something you should be enjoying you are going gnash your teeth at the incomprehensible madness and randomness of it all. So put that heavy question down.
No. I am not saying that you should just accept the shitty mess you’ve made of your life. You should try to solve the problems you have that are disrupting your enjoyment of living, but trying to work out the mystery of life – what the point is and what you need to do to appease the gods of happiness – well that search is going to take you far away from the thing that actually will make you happy, which is living in the moment and appreciating the fact that you have a life to live at all.
There is Buddhist parable that goes something like this. Imagine you are walking through the forest and are suddenly struck with a poisoned arrow in your thigh. When this arrow pierces your body are you going to wait to pull it out until you know who shot the arrow, what the fletching is made of, what wood the shaft was carved from or what type of bow shot the arrow? No. You are going to first pull the arrow from your body to make sure the poison doesn’t spread and perhaps after that – after you are all patched up and healthy – you will dive into the mysteries that surround the arrows presence.
That is what we are talking about here. There is no point in trying to understand all the crazy shit of life when you are dying from the immediate poison of an arrow you refuse to pull. There will be time enough to ponder some of the deeper, darker mysteries of living and solve the problems of eternity when you are old and wrinkled and gray and need someone to wipe your ass for you. Right now you should be focusing on just living the mystery of it all and loving the chance to do so.
So, I guess if I had to distil this profanity laden diatribe about the futility of understanding life down to one salient point that you can walk away with it would be this:
It doesn’t matter at all what everyone else is doing. Just go out there, find those tiny bits of happiness that aren’t riddled with shit and enjoy them while they are still clean. Because what you have and love today may be poison to you tomorrow and what is poison to you today may turn into the sweetest nectar tomorrow. Nobody really knows how any of this living shit works and the best that we can do is stop comparing ourselves to others, stop taking this all so seriously, and start enjoying the fucking mystery of it all.
That’s the great, secret recipe of life if there is one. The epitome of my worldly wisdom. Take it, leave it. I don’t care. I have no idea what the fuck I am doing anyway.