By Kevin Alan Lamb
The present is constantly passing, and with it’s departure are fleeing accomplishments and struggles. Although sanity suggests that it is healthier to hold the good times closer than the bad, like all things in life, healthy peace of mind, body, and spirit, require us to equally reflect over our shortcomings and triumphs. After all, the sun always shines brighter after breaking through dissipating clouds of rain. I site the 1998 film “Pleasantville” as an example: The people of Pleasantville lived life in black and white, without controversy or color. From the outside in, everyone appeared to be happy, until one day colors began to shine through their static perception. While this revelation caused many problems, threatening the town’s accustomed lifestyle, mostly due to the fear of the unknown, it also allowed citizens to discover that their happiness was not confound within the limits of black and white pleasantries, but in the dynamic world caught between the thresholds of light and human emotion.
The November, Michigan air grows cooler, but the sun on my face after yesterday’s rain will always inspire sensation just a little bit more. Despite shortness of breath and angst that results from struggle and strife, it is our conditioning in the face of these realities that enables us to grow through the discovery that our limits are merely perceptions, and our perceptions are as volatile as the weather. Those born with the gift of heightened sense must learn to remain strong as the focus of sensory perception turns outward to in: we are extremely difficult on ourselves and intense with our scrutiny of present struggles, despite the prevailing belief that we will conquer them. Similar to the strength of one’s eyesight, some people are better at seeing the big picture, but struggle with day-to-day, while others represent the adverse. Some folks live comfortably amidst being paralyzed by the fear of not knowing who and what they want to be, while others struggle for their next meal, despite being certain of their purpose here on earth.
No matter the classification or compartment your worries and fears are filed under, we all have them and ought to grow more accustomed to navigating their certain obstruction from our health and happiness. A lyric from The Head and the Heart, one of my favorite bands, comes to mind, “We all complain if it rains or it shines, but we’re never mad at the moon.”
We oughta treat our struggles more like the moon: a constant, present at all times but only perceived at some. When the sun is shining we rarely notice the moon in a bright, blue sky, but it is there nonetheless. Never let your blues limit your reach, but try and remind yourself that they will always be present, only in different degrees. When I’m feeling up against it, I remind myself to count the good things, or positive experiences in each day. By taking inventory of these happenings, we become more accustomed to the multitude of ways, which progress is revealed. It’s often more subtle than we give credit. Although we remember progress by milestones reached, it is the miles, minutes, and days endured between our projected destination, that will define our character and measure growth. Let us see our struggles as opportunities, to be more prepared the next time we meet them.
We must equally learn from our fortune, and misfortune. When we succeed it is natural to examine the behaviors, actions, and choices that prompted success. When we struggle however, it is because we are human, and not necessarily due to an identifiable set of behaviors, rather unpredictable circumstances that very well could be out of our control: sickness, lack of work, the weather, hatred, timing, or downright bad luck. The consistency, however, resides in our ability to process and proceed from struggle. Each of us ought to work towards a navigational map that we can depend on, when times are tough. Confined within this map will be a key, a means or terms to remind us how we’ve successfully traversed the twists and turns of a bumpy road ahead and before. For me, certain musicians are essential in my ability to stay the course when waters are rough: Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver, Possessed By Paul James, The Head and the Heart, The Avett Brothers, and Greensky Bluegrass are my guide. All of these bands have songs which possess lyrics that serve as markers to remind me that no matter the present struggle, I have been there before, I am not alone, and I will rise again. Only the evil genius within each individual is capable of convincing him or herself that present circumstances will not pass, despite his or her willingness to ensure otherwise.
Do not be the cage within which your happiness is confined. The people you love will do their best to help you shine, but happiness is both a personal responsibility, and opportunity, that only you can pursue, or flee from. If you notice your tendency to insist your suffering, perhaps it is your way of telling yourself that your choices do not adhere to your moral compass and integrity. No matter the character of an individual, he or she will falter from their integrity, however, it is our ability to rectify our shortcomings that will define our time here on earth. Rather than punishing yourself with excessive disappointment over a choice that cannot be changed, direct your energy on the choices and actions that will create positive ripples on your external environment as penance for your mistake. Imagine all the triumphant acts of goodness committed as result of a single mistake… A snapshot doesn’t always capture the essence of a soul. A good man makes poor choices, same as an asshole who occasionally discovers what it feels like to shine in the sun’s light.
A single choice or action will not define you unless you insist it be so. Each success or struggle ought to trigger a distinct emotional response that we take note of, but depart from, to ensure it does not define our days to come. We feel like delicate creatures despite our instinctual ability to weather most any storm. Our ability to be self-aware is frequently limited to present conditions, simultaneous to the knowledge and foresight of its temporal circumstance. I believe it is our human condition that overreacts to the moment, versus animals that simply find a way to endure. I would not rid us of this design; I believe it can be credited as the source for creation of artistic expression. Our ability to find beauty between variable conditions is one of our most distinct human qualities: not necessarily form over function, but alongside it. I don’t imagine most animals consider the beauty within the struggle of changing conditions, however, their ability to be consistent no matter the emerging changes is something we could learn from. We are hindered by the ego and necessity to exist separate from the whole, perpendicular to the knowledge of how necessary and beneficial our alignment with the whole, really is. It is one of the many double-edged swords we subject ourselves to, but hope not to be defined by.
Once the individual is able to perceive self-worth or satisfaction from his or her contribution to the whole, true community will be practiced. Others can be a tremendous source of motivation when times are tough. It is easier to let yourself down, than others. For better or worse, the more you contribute to others, the more they will depend on you. I believe it is easier to rationalize giving up on yourself, than it is to give up on others. Let us consider community as motivation and necessary structure to free us from the cage within which we confine happiness. Let the sparkle in a child’s eyes be your reminder that this world needs you. Let the glowing smile of a beautiful soul remind that you too, are beautiful. Let the lyrical creations of another remind you that your suffering isn’t exclusive, but mutual. And whether it be the sound of pouring rain, or the gust of cool, winter winds, let it remind you just how special it feels when the sun shines upon your skin, and the moon sparkles aside the stars you gaze to.
Credit: Eric Hampton
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