The teeter totter of life seesaws us between joy and angst. The manic shift between the two occurs without our deliberate permission or willful desire. Still, life happens and we get hurt. Pain is a necessary reality of living. Wounds scar the psyche and remind us we are fallible yet growing. Growth comes from pain, from learning, from moving towards our potential.
Growth is designed to hurt so we never forget the lesson of the pain.
Monsters are not created in the shadows, but in front of innocent eyes forced to label the unthinkable. The blade pierces the heart when we realize the monster also lives within. I am a monster too. You cannot see the monster inside me because I would rather suffer with my story than let the truth be known.
Pain is an inevitability we cannot escape nor should we try. The painful experiences of living contain the precious lessons and blessings we seek when we question our existence, our path, our reason for being. These lessons are the pearls we seek to better know ourselves and our fellow inhabitants on this hurling rock called Earth. Pain is the connection to our collective humanity.
Yet, we do not seek out pain—or do we? We grasp for notions like happiness or cling to a belief in necessary suffering. We ignore our wounds while praying to forget our sadness. We hope to see the world as good and right, but our mind cons us into believing we are unlovable, worthless, and flawed as we try to fit into society’s current version of “perfection.”
So, we choose suffering because it is often easier than facing the truth. Our wounds are necessary for our survival. We must experience sorrow and agony so we may find joy and kindness. We can never know good without bad, right without wrong, success without failure. The yin and yang of living is not a battle between good and evil, it is an acceptance of pain. We have been looking at the continuum all wrong. Pain is a friend and foe.
Asking for help does not imprison us as helpless. These stories are wounds, which are reminders of the pain we are capable of inflicting upon ourselves. These are lessons which honor the challenges of living in the torrential waters of life. I am not a fraud shielding my inner monster from view; I am just a flawed human who is learning to accept my lessons as blessings.
Our wounds do not automatically intern us in suffering. We choose suffering just like we choose happiness. Suffering is the acceptance of victimhood. Suffering traps us into believing we are weak and frail. Suffering is the acquiescence to pessimistic judgment while choosing to ignore the brilliance of imperfection. We are not born perfect. We will certainly die the same way we arrived.
If suffering is indeed a choice, then we also have the power and authority to seek a different path. The only barriers keeping us from joy are our thoughts and attitudes. Let’s reframe our pain from fiend to ally and recognize our wounds as unique plots in the story of life. These are lessons and blessings we can sincerely share with our fellow spiritual travelers. We can revert to our ancient storytelling ways like our ancestors huddled around the sacred campfires espousing the virtues of a meaningful life.
Our experiences empower us with a story, a lesson to share. Our pain is a gift which has the power to transform lives. Stop being selfish. Stop wallowing in a choice. Find meaning in your stories and your wounds will not only heal your soul, but also others as well.
You are good, always. Even when the days aren’t as sunny as I thought they would be. Even when my expectations are totally different from reality. Even when I wake up and my back is hurting, you are good. Even when my life isn’t as luxurious as I want it to be, even when Your provisions are just enough for the day. Even when I hold my chest and I swear I can feel my heart breaking, you are good.
You are good, always.Even when the promises made for me can’t seem to find me as of the moment. Even when I am losing hope and can’t seem to find the right track for me. Even when I spend my whole life searching for ways to overcome with You, you are good. Even when obstacles flashflood and the sun never rises and the land suffers from a constant drought. God, I believe You are good.
You are good, always.Even when I’m not. Even when I’m stubborn and disobedient, even when I sin against you, even when I always fail to follow Your word and fall short. You are perfect in loving me, in caring for me, in being there for me, in helping me out. You are perfect in all of your ways, even when I’m not, even when I’m never.
You are good, always. Even when I don’t understand anything, even when I’m sitting in the lowest point of my life, even when my daily task is to fight, even when my eyes never run dry.
You are good, always. Simply because you love me. You love for who I am. And your love, it’s the kind that doesn’t care how dark and ugly and horrible my past is, it’s the kind of love that’s interested in getting to know me deeper, why I am that way that I am. It’s the kind of love that knows all the bones in my body, memorizes all the composition inside my own universe. The kind that knows all too well how my heart pumps blood throughout my blood vessels, the kind that knows why it pumps, who it beats for. It’s the kind of love that never gets tired. It’s always new and fresh, every morning, every evening.
You are good, always. Even in my brokenness, you love me with an unbroken love. The kind of love that protects and sends me to the rock bottom only for me to discover that You are the rock at the bottom. The kind of love that allow circumstances in my life, circumstances that sometimes I don’t understand the background, but is sure that all of it are in the purpose of making me a better person. The kind of love that lets me fail a job interview and lose a battle just so I can delight in a better, brighter and louder future. The kind of love that inspires and motivates me when I am dwelling in a sea of hopelessness. The kind that knows how imperfect I am but loves me despite.
You are good, always.
You show me the way, You guide me.
You know what I need, You permit me to lose people and hurt over relationships because You know exactly who I need. You release all kind of fear and assure me that I can ride the waves with faith. You ruin all other bad things in my life and hold my heart in freedom. You push me to strive harder and above all You acknowledge that I am trying. You are good, always. And at times, I cannot even expound Your goodness using the best words, nothing is ever enough to cover how much Your goodness and love shield me.
You are good, always. Simply because You were there and You will always be there. Simply because You, who began a good work in me will always be faithful enough to bring it into a magnificent completion in Your appointed time. You are good, always. Simply because despite of all the bad things in life, You are still here. And all these dreadful things doesn’t cancel Your existence. Not in any way
Life is a garden of experience. There are so many places to see, so many people to meet, so many things to try. Like children, we’re inebriated with life and want to have it all. But our days on Earth are so short, and if you’re like most of us, your available time is further constrained by the obligations of the day, along with all the other obligations that ensure you’ll only experience an infinitesimal fraction of all the things you so boldly aspired to accomplish when you are young.
In moments of despair, when you’re laying on your back in the middle of the night looking up at the ceiling, wondering if you’ll ever have an opportunity to break free from the shackles of an ordinary life, you might wonder, “What could I achieve if only I could live more than once?”
It’s one of the reasons we’re obsessed with immortality and youth. It’s one of the reasons we cling so desperately to life even in its twilight hour, because the child within, still so naive and optimistic, hopes in spite of its imminent demise to have it all.
What are we to do? Is there any way for us to fulfill such a foolhardy desire, or like death row inmates, are we to cower in our cells, waiting for the executioner to call our number?
Books are the answer.
Of course, nothing beats a first-hand experience. But stories nevertheless come in at a close second, for what are stories but intimate tales of other people’s life experiences? Whether real or imagined, stories allow us to slip in and out of other places and other lives, regardless of our financial, professional or social obligations.
Want to go some place new?
Open a book and transport yourself to anywhere in the world. Visit Europe. Explore the Middle East. Tour the tropical paradises of Southeast Asia. Whatever you desire is always available; the world is at your fingertips, waiting only for you to turn the page.
Is the Earth too ordinary for you? Purchase something of the sci-fi or fantasy variety and do what generations of explorers and astronauts have only dreamed of: explore new worlds. Books are gateways, portals to the vast multiverse of the collective human imagination. Contained within are worlds of every kind. Some are governed by the laws of magic. Others are governed by the laws of real-world science. Some are even a unique combination of the two.
For the cost of a cup of coffee, you can purchase a tourist visa to any number of other worlds, all of them accessible, ready and waiting for you to discover their secrets at your convenience.
Want to live a different life?
Have you ever wanted to pick up a new hobby, but you didn’t have enough time? How about a new profession? Hell, haven’t you ever wanted to know what it’s like to live someone else’s life entirely?
Once more, books provide the solution.
What truly makes stories worth reading is that they afford us intimate encounters with other people. Not only do we meet them, we’re offered access to their minds, their hearts, their souls. We’re granted an almost omniscient point of view, something that we mere mortals couldn’t dare to dream of achieving any other way.
We become the characters. Just as we travel effortlessly from one location to the next, so too do we pass from mind to mind, becoming each and every person we meet along the way. The result is that we live as many lives as we desire.
Even in fiction, the people we encounter are real, for every character was ultimately written by a real person, so that each is always a reflection of something true.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…” ― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
Every book is a world encompassing a tapestry of lives and experiences that are not our own, yet can be if only we choose to read about them. As humans, we might not be capable of immortality. But through reading, we can ensure that our brief time on Earth will be rich and pregnant with possibilities.
“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”
It’s hard to believe that the year is already half over. We crossed the half-way point in June, and as we turn the corner into the later part of the year, I once again come to terms with the realization that the year is not new anymore, and that life continues on as it always has, hurried and unavoidable.
When the year seems new, the canvas of my life seems fresh and untainted. I am unburdened; blissfully oblivious of how quickly time flies. I set goals and intentions for how I’ll live and how I’ll grow. I resolve to be better. The weight of the last year lifts for a moment, and I feel as though I can do anything.
Then I realize I still have responsibilities, and even baggage. Even my most low-key resolution – reaching to the people I care about – is exhausting; I don’t want to keep sharing my worries with friends who seem to have it together. I tell myself I don’t have time to chart- I’m just too busy. In short, I am sick of “trying.”
Some of you may be valiantly keeping all the promises you secretly made to yourself at the beginning of this year. But others, like me, are losing the determination to stick to our guns as cold July days tick by in Nairobi, thick with lazy vibes, and humidity. Our resolutions are quickly forgotten in the chaos of a monotonous days of the week, a bad case of strep throat, or the death of a loved one. Our best intentions are slowly getting beset by daily life.
To the people who feel like this year has already gotten out of control, who once again feel stagnant in their quest for a better self, who feel overwhelmed, who realize the brevity of the days, I’ve got a heavy but hopeful message: Mistakes and steps backward can be a necessary part of the journey, and change does not happen all at once.
In his book, Warrior of the Light, the author Paulo Coelho writes,
“He [the Warrior] often finds himself faced by the same problems and situations, and seeing these difficult situations return, he grows depressed, thinking he is incapable of making any progress in life.
‘I’ve been through all this before,’ he says to his heart.
‘Yes, you have been through all this before,’ replies his heart. ‘but you have never been beyond it.’
Then he [the Warrior] realizes that these repeated experiences have but one aim: to teach him what he does not want to learn.”
It makes sense that the majority of people don’t want to learn hard things through trial and error; it leads to disappointment and frustration. We desperately want for life to be normal or easy, for good things to magically happen to us. We are a reactionary species, and most recently a society which values instant gratification. Rare is the person who pursues gradual challenges or change.
To assume I will still have friends, if I never reach out and put in the effort to connect, is leaving a lot to chance. Most likely the results won’t be good. If I want to love my friends well, I better choose to be a more intentional friend by reaching out to them in tangible ways, every single day. Yet, because this change of self doesn’t happen overnight, I end up feeling like a garbage friend when I realize I haven’t touched base with certain people in over a month. Am I wasting my days? Why can’t I seem to get it together?
The “day-to-day” is messy, agonizing, and just down-right tiring. We are constantly faced with challenges and often don’t do what is ultimately best for us. We mess up. This is when those feelings of inadequacy start to creep in. We beat ourselves up for not being better than we are. But guys listen up: Personal growth has no timeline; there is no deadline to meet.
I believe that in the telling of my greater life story, misadventures lead to deeper self-awareness, clarity regarding our personal priorities, and give hopeful hints in answering some tough questions. What do I prioritize? What led to the failure I experienced? These rough times lead to the change I so desperately seek at the beginning of every year. The daily challenges are what make up a life that is consistently striving “for more.”
More purpose. More. Adventure. More growth.
In writing this, I hope to not only myself, but others too. While embarking on a mission towards a better self is risky, to never take the first steps because it will “take too much time or effort, would be denying ones’ self of the incredible opportunity to make the kind of change that instills itself in the soul and holds on forever. By wrestling with my tendency to give up making the effort to connect, I am building stronger will that can translate to other areas of my life. I may not always want to be vulnerable with people when connecting to them, and maybe I’ll chose happy hour over chatting, but at least I am trying. Only by trying, even if there is a possibility for failure, can we grow steadfast in our intentions.
Do not think of this year as a sprint towards a better you, think of it as one leg in the long marathon towards a more fulfilling story for your life.</h2?
We all learn at different paces and through different methods, so as we head into the latter part of this year, simply resolve to grow. Don’t give up this year as a lost cause. Set intentions and fail, knowing that one day you will not make the same mistakes and the goals, which once seem so unreachable, will come into view. I want to own and create a magical and empowered personal story for myself, one “letter to a friend” at a time, and so I will press on toward greater intimacy with those I most love, with the hope that this task that seems so challenging now, will one day be a concrete part of my ever evolving story.
“…we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future. We start to worry, thinking “What am I gonna do?”, “Where am I gonna be in ten years?” ….. in the end none of us have very long on this earth – life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night, and when a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish…Make your life spectacular.”
The good news is, you have the same 24 hours as every successful person you know. The difference though might be that they spend this time more wisely.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to monitor the things I allocate my time to and make adjustments so that my everyday behavior reflects what I want out of life. In other words, I have to make sure my daily actions are in line with my long-term goals.
How do you spend your days? Do you go to work and come home to watch TV before bed? This must mean you’re satisfied with your job and happy with your life. Do you make time to go to networking events after work? Then you probably want to take your career to the next step or continue your professional development. Do you spend your 5 to 9 volunteering or working on your creative projects – whether that’d be writing a book, filming and editing videos, painting, making beaded bracelets etc.? Then you have something you’re passionate about and showing the world what you care about. Do you stay home and binge watch the latest series and movies or mindlessly browse the Internet?
If you do something well and consistently, it will become your reality. Habits develop as a result of doing something long enough. They become the building blocks of your long-term behavior. This in turn determines the course of your life. If you’re unhappy with where you are, figure out what’s wrong and make concrete changes to fix it. Pay attention to your habits and what you naturally spend your time doing. Eliminate distractions and focus. This isn’t to say that you can’t occasionally take breaks and binge watch episodes of your favorites movies or shows(*cough*). However, maintaining a balance is healthy.
A full-time blogger didn’t just write one blog post to reach that level of success. A milestone can take years of dedication, smart investments, strategic thinking and planning.
Take a look at your life now. Have your actions brought you closer to your goals? Are you repeating mistakes and expecting to see different results? Focus on what you can control – your thoughts, your actions. I guarantee you the rest will fall into place.
So, what did you do today? Or better yet, what will you do tomorrow?
What if you had the courage to pursue the things you love? What’s holding you back from living your dreams?