Do everyone — especially you — a favor and follow every last one of 'em.
By Karen Young
We’re all in this together, trying to flourish, get through, dodge the cave-ins and use the bumps in the road as a ramp to lift off.
Wherever we’re at and whoever we’re with, there are some rules that are an unavoidable part of being human. They unite us, connect us and when we embrace them, are a way to feel less like we have to do any of this crazy, messy, beautiful, human thing on our own.
1. Relationship is everything.
People are meant to be with people. We’re meant to love them, like them, miss them, trust them, open up to them, learn from them, walk towards, walk away and sometimes, the hardest by far, get over them.
Growth happens in the space between ourselves and another. It’s where we learn to love, trust, risk, find our limits and push against them. Don’t be scared to open up to it. It’s where the wild, beautiful things are.
2. We all have our armor. (Other people too.)
Things won’t always work out the way we want them to but when they do, the risk will always be worth it.
A lot of life is missed from the sidelines, waiting for the right time, the right opportunity, the right moment, the right person. Be daring and be brave. We all have our armor and it will always be there if you need it – just be careful not to grab it too soon – or leave it on for too long.
Sometimes the people we meet will have theirs on so tight to their skin, it will take a lot of commitment, tenderness and patience to see what lies beneath it. Sometimes it will take too much. Too much armor will make the wearer worn down, untrusting and brittle.
Being on the receiving end of this will feel like it’s personal. It’s not. It’s the result of one too many heartaches.
If you’re the one wearing your armor too tight, make sure the reasons you’re wearing it are still valid, and not left over from sadder, lonelier, more painful times. People can’t love you if you don’t let them in. And that’s a hefty price to pay for the protection of old wounds.
3. We all have a body. Best learn to love it.
There is only one body like yours on the entire planet – and you own it – so that makes it a pretty precious commodity. Look after it and get to know it well.
Above all else, love it. You can’t take care of something you don’t like. Either we can treat it well or we can treat it with delicious bad carbs and luscious, lazy days on the couch. I’m all for a bit of both.
But note to the universe, when it comes to taking care of this body of mine, if exercise had the side of effect of, you know, making me love exercise or something, things would be a whole lot easier, so you might want to work on that.
4. We all get our hearts broken.
There are lessons we need to learn. Oh I know – some days that makes me want to throw up too but it’s true.
A broken heart means this one wasn’t good enough, so learn what you need to learn so you can be ready for the one that is. Be grateful that he moved out of the way so you can see the one you deserve when he comes towards you.
Give yourself time to heal and to learn about what brings out the best of you in a relationship. Look at what it is that drew you to that person, what changed – about you, him or her – what felt bad, what felt good, what you want more of, less of, none of.
If you learn nothing, the risk is that you’ll be drawn to the same people, with the same baggage (yours and theirs), live out the same type of relationship and go through the same type of ending. And really, that’s such a waste of you.
5. We're all on a (big breath) journey, but sometimes things are just freaking unfair.
Confession. I actually hate that word – ‘journey’ – when it’s used like that. I hate it more than alarm clocks. ‘Journey’ is too much of a ‘holiday’ word and holiday words tend to suggest that you can opt out of the ‘carry your own stuff’ option but life isn’t like that.
We all have to carry our stuff. What’s important is not carrying too much of anyone else’s.
We’re all here to grow and to learn lessons and generally, lessons don’t come wrapped in something sweet with a ‘Here’s a little reminder for when you’re ready, Gorgeous,’ card on the top. They come with a smash and a bang, or whatever it takes to get our attention. Nearly always (maybe always) they come to us by way of relationship.
Beauty will always emerge from chaos, eventually.
6. Everything we need is in us. (But sometimes it's cake. Ourselves and cake.)
Everything we need to survive life and flourish is in us. Sometimes it’s layered under the losers we’ve loved, the lessons we’ve taken on but shouldn’t have, or the rules we no longer need but still live by.
If the things you’ve always done, or the rules you’ve always abided by are causing you trouble, it might be time to let them go. Maybe.
Too many times we let things sit there and claim a space in us, even though they offer us nothing at all. Take a fresh look at things. If something isn’t working for you anymore, get rid of it. The things that will work will be quick to take it’s place.
This might feel awkward for a while and that’s okay. Like new shoes, new ways of being in the world need to be worn in. Don’t hang on to the ones that are blistering your soul when there is something there that will nurture it beautifully if you let it.
7. There'll be bumps in the road.
There’ll be bumps in the road. Wish there wasn’t, but there will be. You’ll have two options – over or through. Actually, there is a third option – to stand still, but that will only diminish you, never the bump.
When there’s something in your way, chances are that you won’t feel okay okay until you’re safe and sound on the other side. Bumps aren’t called bumps because they feel good. They’re called bumps because they’re jarring and sometimes they hurt. Like any bump in any road though, sometimes the only way through is through. But however big that bump might be, there is always smooth ground on the other side.
8. You'll feel alone at times.
At times you’ll wonder why everyone else’s path looks as though it’s not only bump free, but lined with happy selfies and ‘Loving Life!!!’ Facebook status updates. This can make the pain of troubled times feel worse.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because other people’s bumps don’t line up at the same point in the path as yours that they don’t exist. They do. They do for everyone. It’s what makes us human.
Every person on the planet has had to go through something. Maybe not at the same time as you, and maybe not in the same way as you, but everyone has loved, lost, been hurt, scared or heartbroken. We all come of out it with bruises and scars. Claim them as proof that you survived and will continue to thrive.
9. Some days, the best you'll be able to do is breathe. And that's okay.
Who hasn’t had one of these days. Maybe more than one. And maybe for longer than a day. Know that it’s okay to fall down, fall apart and feel like you can’t get up. Stay there for a little while – it’s healing and important. Just don’t decide to live there.
10. That think you can't stop thinking about. Do that.
If you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s worth trying. So just start.
Stop thinking about what there is to lose (there’ll probably be plenty), and start thinking about what there is to gain (there’ll always be more). And don’t try to predict your path. When you’re doing the right thing, you’ll have passion, energy, creativity and resources that you never imagined. But they can’t show up for you until you do.
11. You won't like everyone and not everyone will like you. So save your time and energy for the ones that do.
There’ll be some people you like. And there’ll be some you can’t stand. Some of them will be ‘can’t stand’ times, like, infinity. Too many times we spend time with people we don’t like out of obligation. There are only two of these situations I can think of that are worth even entertaining, and even then they both have their limits.
The first is that they help to ensure your day to day survival – as in you work for them. But put a limit on this. You might not be able to walk out of a job you hate straight away, but don’t stay because you think you won’t find better. You will. It probably won’t come to you though, so you might have to hunt it down.
The only other reason you’d put up with anyone difficult is for love – as in in-laws or step-someones (because you love the one they’re related to). You can do this from a position of power though, by being clear in your own head that you’re making the decision for your own reasons and not because they have some sort of power over you.
Save your time and energy for the people you care about and who care about you back. The others will surely get over your indifference and lack of attention. Otherwise you’ll get over them not getting over it.
12. You're going to stuff things up sometimes. Sometimes it will be monumental.
Part of being human is our right to get it wrong sometimes. It’s normal, it’s important and it’s part of growing and becoming a better version of ourselves.
Own your mistakes and honour the lessons. It the only way to make sure the same thing doesn’t keep tripping you up or holding you back in the same way. Whatever you do, don’t spend too much time (or any time) regretting anything. Haul yourself up, dust yourself off and move on, all the more wiser for what you’ve learned and all the more prouder for moving forward.
13. Love hard. It's a superpower.
There are so many reasons not to love. The biggest is that it might not be returned. One thing is for certain though, if you don’t give it out it can’t come back to you.
If you’ve been hurt before, you might be reluctant to put yourself at risk again, but what you need to remember is that broken hearts heal. It doesn’t feel like that when the edges are still raw from the break, but you have to know that it’s true.
What holds people back from full living, even more than heartbreak, is the loneliness that comes from never allowing yourself to be vulnerable – the loneliness that comes from never taking the risk to connect.
That doesn’t mean you have to feel the love for every human that comes your way. You’re going to come across jackasses – particularly if you have an open heart. Know when to steer clear, or let go, but be daring, curious and willing to be vulnerable. Love will always come back to you in some way. If it doesn’t come back from the same person you give it to, be patient and open, because it’s coming from someone better.
We’re all human. We all have something to offer and something to lose. We all have vulnerabilities, potential, and an extraordinary capacity to grow and be something remarkable – to ourselves and to others.
The more we own every one of the beautiful, messy, confusing, rich, unlikable, warm and wonderful parts that go into making us the people we are, the more able we will be to connect, grow, love, be loved, take chances, take a stand, and fully live this life of ours.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.