I think people are much stronger than we are given credit for.
I once heard someone say, “If we knew what everyone’s hand was, we would still choose play our own hand.” As to say: no matter how bad we might feel about our lives, if we knew what everyone else’s situation was, we would probably choose to live out our own.
Everyone has demons, make no mistake. We all are burdened by the ghosts of our past, and the weight of our traumas stay with us for most of our lives. It amazes me every day that people are able to hold themselves together. (And I’m not kidding.)
This has something to do with our inherent nature. We’ve been surviving through periods of scarcity and unimaginably harsh conditions for most of our history—so of course we have become adept at bottling in our sorrow and carrying on with our lives. That’s what human beings do, for godsakes.
The problem is that we also need some kind of release—an avenue for self-expression—otherwise we get stuck in the mud and allow our inner demons to swallow us whole. The fullness of life cannot be felt if we are always in survival mode—and this is the way most people live. Human beings can endure, and endure, and endure—but at this stage in human history, we are capable of doing more than just surviving.
It is time to thrive.
For a couple years, I worked as a stonemason’s apprentice. It was hard work—and the workers were even harder! These were rough men who would chug 20 beers a night after nine hours of labor, and they’d do it all again the next day. Oh yeah, and most of them were 50 years or older! They were the toughest people I could’ve imagined, but their bodies were so rugged and torn from years of heavy labor (and heavier drinking) that at a certain point they would just become hardened shells of human beings with hardly a semblance of their soul shining through.
It was a bit tragic, to be honest. Here are some of the hardest people anyone would ever hear of, capable of suffering with more grace and endurance than 99 percent of people on planet Earth, yet in many ways they’d become broken people. This is when I learned that life is about more than what you can give or what you can take—it is about how we can move between the giving and the taking in a way that serves our heart’s deepest desire.
I learned a lot on that work crew, but mainly I learned that toughness is not enough. It is important, but not enough to make life meaningful. It is not our capacity to last that makes us human; it is our capacity to thrive—to uncover moments of joy and creative play in the midst of suffering.
Through my experience with a pretty serious chronic illness, I have found that simply lasting, enduring, or “taking it” is not enough to manifest my soul’s purpose. When I am 55 minutes deep into an hour-long meditation, I am not just trying to last. I am sucking out as much juice and marrow as I can from these moments. I wish they were longer. I am not simply lasting the duration—I am thriving.
What does it mean to thrive? To uncover our shining moments through the shadows of time. To see the infinite possibilities of every passing second. To breathe deep and seek peace. To find the silver lining of joy and love in the wake of our pain and strife.
Life is music. Life is beauty. Life is power. I truly believe that our purpose is not merely to survive. Our purpose is to express our soul and manifest our greatest potential. Nothing could convince me otherwise.
Don’t just last in this life—learn to thrive!