Day 139 – The meaning in the chaos

I suppose you could view being human as both a blessing and curse. We’re here on this earth experiencing all the challenges and wonder and uncertainties alongside all the other living creatures, yet we’re different. We were given this extraordinary ability to ask “Why?” We search for meaning in the chaos. It’s an ability that has the potential to both inspire and destroy us. It’s a heavy load to lift–to question one’s existence and search for greater meaning. And it’s an immense responsibility to do something about it, to follow a path of purpose once we recognize it stretching out in front of us.

I think we spend a lot of time not trusting ourselves, second-guessing our choices, worrying over the what-if’s instead of appreciating the journey. There’s a lot to learn from our bad decisions, from the detours we’re forced to take in pursuit of our goals. And there are times when what we thought was the “right” path doesn’t even scratch the surface of our potential.

I think a lot of people get tripped up thinking there is only value in setting and achieving lofty, long-term goals. We end up measuring our value as humans and the quality of our lives by our ability to compete with others–to do bigger, better things than someone else. The side effect of this is that we miss out on the wonderful experiences and the small victories right in front of us. We start living for the future, focusing our time and energy on things that may never happen, while the very real and fleeting present moment passes us by. We start measuring ourselves and our self-worth by someone else’s standards.

It’s hard to live in the now because, frankly, the now isn’t always a great place to be. Maybe you’re stuck in an abusive relationship. Maybe you’re struggling to pay your bills. Maybe you’re battling an illness. Maybe you just lost someone you love. Maybe you’re stuck in a job you hate with a tyrant of a boss who takes credit when things go right, shifts blame when things go wrong, and thinks repeatedly telling rape jokes is funny.

Yeah, the present can fucking suck sometimes.

But it’s all we’ve really got, isn’t it? Life gives no guarantees. Life doesn’t even promise the next moment, so how do we keep deluding ourselves that it’s going to promise us next week, next year, or even the next item on our endless To-Do lists?

Maybe some people feel like that’s a pretty grim worldview. I don’t. I think it’s the most powerful move a person can make–to learn how to live in the present moment, to learn how to navigate and appreciate moments as they come instead of ignoring them to obsess over a future that doesn’t even really exist (and may never come).

So, it’s our burden and our blessing to be here now and to make the very best of it. And yes, it can be hard, but it can be beautiful too. And what I’ve discovered is that the good moments, the really magical moments, far outnumber the bad ones. We live in a world and on a planet built for growth. The default design is for us to continuously evolve, to move and grow along a positive trajectory in such a way that even the challenges and setbacks we face serve to propel us forward.

All we have to do is hold on and learn to appreciate the ride.

Day 78 – Character

If you only pay attention to the screaming headlines–you know, the ones that claim our world is overrun with scandal and lies and cheating and horror and greed–you probably walk around with a pretty grim view of this planet and the people walking around on it. I’m not denying that stuff exists. Of course it does. We humans are perfectly imperfect, and we don’t always care about each other the way we should or make the best choices.

But if you take a moment to avert your eyes from the sensational click-bait headlines and turn down the noise, you just might get a glimpse of the big beautiful world we’re all living in just trying to do our best and grab onto a little happiness along the way.

Call me naive, but I’m of the opinion that people are generally good. Deep down, I think we all just want to feel safe and loved. I think we all just want to find our purpose. But I also think we sometimes get lost along the way. We focus too much on ourselves, on climbing some social or professional ladder, on establishing ourselves at the top of the food chain, even if it means clawing someone else out of our way.

I’ve been posting a lot about the floods taking place here in Nebraska the past few days, and if you haven’t taken the time to read any of the stories, I hope you’ll take a moment to do so now. The devastation will tear your heart right out of your chest–the suffering, the pain, the loss. But the stories of people coming together, of communities rallying, of quiet heroes stepping in to lift up their neighbors and their fellow humans–those stories will make you whole again.

Character is the choices you make when nobody’s looking. Character is reaching out to help someone who needs it and expecting nothing in return. Character is loving and respecting other humans because they’re human, and not thinking twice about their race or religion or socioeconomic status or whether they voted red or blue.

Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.

Humans are capable of horrible things. It’s true. I’ve seen it up close with my own eyes. Hell, I’ve been on the receiving end of it. But humans are capable of extraordinary things too. And if you look around and pay attention, I think you’ll probably notice that there’s a whole lot more of the good stuff happening. And the best thing about that is, you can choose what you want to pay forward.

Get out there and spread some love and light.