Humans are fascinating creatures.
Really we are.
One thing that constantly amazes and baffles me about us is our capacity to know what is best for us, and to do the exact opposite.
I woke up today and, through an odd series of events: ended up losing my iPhone in the river trying to take some obscure photos of pelicans at dawn, and then receiving a ticket for not wearing my seat belt when driving the 60 seconds it takes from the harbor to my favorite early morning café.
This all happened before 6:30 am.
I arrived home defeated, feeling sorry for myself, calculating the photos I had just drowned and the money I had just kissed goodbye.
My first instinct was to drink coffee—a substance I only ever turn too when I’m feeling down—and desire to sink a little deeper into the well of despair.
My second instinct was to throw an oddball collection of clothes, books and writing pads into the backseat of my car and allow an empty road to carry me to that illusory place where troubles disappear with every white line that ends up in the review mirror.
My third instinct was to hibernate, to shut myself off from the world entirely, to close my door, nestle down under a colossal mountain of blankets and pretend for as long as possible that there was no world waiting for me outside of that wooden barricade.
Of course, all three of these solutions would bring me no relief, they would not succeed in lifting me or nourishing me or pulling me out of that place where only darkness seemed to dwell.
For many years of my life, I relied upon these escapes, this shutting out of the world and falling back into habits that had no means of serving me. How often do we turn to our vices when we need to hold onto our strengths the most?
People drown their sorrows in a bottle of whiskey or smoke a pack of cigarettes in the hope that the smoke will offer a buffering cloud of invisibility. If we are angry we speed, we listen to loud abusive music, or in more extreme cases, we hurt ourselves, starve ourselves, cut ourselves, do that one thing that brings the delicious comfort of white noise to overtake our minds.
After many years, I am beginning to see the warning signs and hear the bells of doom that rested on the horizon for me. I began to recognize the fall before I was pushed and I learned how to step back from the edge, no matter how tempting the raging dark sea below appeared. I learned that pain was temporary, that no matter the situation and the emotions, they would pass, that everything in this world works in a cycle that sometimes just has to run its course.
I began to actually believe that the miniscule pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel would become brighter with each step forward and that the moment you relax into a strong current is the moment that you are set free.
I learned many of my lessons from nature, for that was often where I escaped to. I discovered that life wasn’t always fair, but that beauty and strength lurked in the lessons that pushed us down.
So now, when I feel that darkness closing in, when I feel the speedy rush of need, when I feel that all-consuming desire to lower myself further into the slippery well that I know will welcome me with evil sneers and comforting familiarity, I step back.
I know that these feelings are fleeting, that the end of the world is not near, that it is up to me and me alone to seek the next step forward and decipher the silver lining from the gloomy clouds that surround me.
So today I wrote, I opted for tea, I chose an open space of singing birds and smiling faces. I wrote a new list, I surveyed my goals, I focused on all that is amazing in my life in this moment. And there, in the shimmer of infinite potential, I found myself again—whole, a little bruised, but complete.
One of the greatest lessons I believe we as humans can learn in this lifetime is the fleeting nature of our emotions. When we allow for our emotions to own us, to take the reigns of our decisions and physical body, it is then that we falter and fall.
When we truly believe in our strength, when we truly believe in our self-worth, it is then that the step back from the edge feels like the easy way out, rather than the fall.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Hannah Harris/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Pixoto/ Karan Shah