“Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” – – Albert Einstein

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There is a natural tendency to want life to be a linear pathway of accumulation, satisfaction, victories, and accomplishments. Most of us fight back the unfortunate reality that life and relationships are seasons. As poet David White says, the nature of reality is to experience a life that lies between the known and the unknown, the possible and the impossible. In other words, we are constantly walking on the boundary between who we are and the unknown parts of who we could be. When summer is here, the environment smiles and opens every opportunity available. Everything works out in the ways we want. There is an inclination to feel entitled to such a sensation of stability, pleasure, and ease; it is understandable too to want it to remain like that forever. When it is winter, we believe the universe is purposefully hostile. Everything becomes uncertain and untrustworthy, and the weight of life feels agonizing. We disengage from reality and lose ourselves retrieving memories of a cherished moment in the past or manufacturing a fantasy where we reach the tip of the mountain, where everything we wanted has been given.

Even as we go through these cycles in different forms, it is easy to miss two deep insights about the nature of life. It strikes me that life’s highs never become enough to keep us fully engaged in the present without being seduced into fantasies of a more desired situation. This means that even when experiencing heaven on earth, it is not as great as the paradise that our imagination can project. And secondly, it is astonishing to fall prey to the belief that eventually, we won’t be vulnerable to the unexpected. Part of the illusion is to think there is a tool, technique, or amount of mastery over one’s life where we become immune to difficulties, losses, discomforts, and confusions. As David White says, the mature identity lives in the entire cycle of rising and falling, growth and decay, knowing and not knowing without needing to be the single individual in human history to out-win the forces of life. Even in the moments where we are triumphing, such as when we become more mature, find wisdom, and grow our savings, other cycles, such as our youth or the precious moments with loved ones, might be silently decaying. Thus, the waking up moment comes when we realize that an intrinsic amount of pain and nostalgia will always come as meaningful engagements and life episodes come to an end. Likewise, the confusion and fear of not knowing what will happen next will be present no matter how well suited and prepared we think we are. Some sorrows and difficulties will be far beyond what we can handle.

Similarly, in love relationships, we would love to assume that the last crisis is evidence that everything will be alright from now on and that there won’t be any more misunderstandings or dramas after a few years of stumbling around with our significant other. Though again, loving and trusting relationships go through cycles of harmony, disillusion, and repair or prevention for further connection. Relationships go through seasons too. We like to think there will be a moment when we are entirely on the same page. Though how can we be on the same page when there are entire sections in our own lives that we don’t even know ourselves? Additionally, we are not considering that everything is a constant flow of change. Both people are being transformed moment to moment emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Contexts are not the same. Desires, fears, and needs are constantly emerging and fading away. No matter how much strength and resilience we accumulate throughout the years, we still get our hearts broken, and the real choice is to choose who we will give the power to do that. A meaningful life is where we are heartbroken by the people and projects that we deeply care about.

Following these realizations, success cannot be defined as having every area of life in perfect placement. Instead, it is about consciously choosing what we are willing to fail at to get a few things right today. We can’t have it all in the present, and whatever is causing us to lose our sleep at night can misdirect us to think everything is dark and cold. That nothing has meaning. That we are only failures, or that only hurt is present. And such an attitude is the one that paradoxically blinds us to the fact that from the standpoint of a sick or lonely person, an orphan or abused child, a homeless or a person in prison… we are living the dream life. Yeah, we might not have it all, but such an expectation feeds the discontent and misappreciation of the larger picture of life.

A counterintuitive insight is that life won’t always get better; as we gain in some dimensions, we lose in others. As balance emerges in one side of life, another naturally moves to entropy. So then, our best alternative is first to surrender and embrace the season we are at without creating a layer of resistance that causes unnecessary suffering. We can avoid the severe judgment and shame of feeling defeated if we consider that winters are not a reflection of how rotten or incompetent we are as a person. No matter how much planning, arranging, and preparing, we will never be able to foresee all the obstacles in our path. And even more, we will never be able to see where the trail is even taking us. Every end of a route is just a new beginning. A new call for adventure, a new challenge to face that will break and burn parts of an outdated self and provide a further reminder that we are not in control. We can embrace the wisdom that we won’t be able to anticipate the next kick of life and that, like everybody else, we will just have to take one day at a time.

With all love,

Santiago Barragan Noguera

Coach & Educator — Artistic Polymath

Copyright © 2021 Santiago Barragan Noguera. All rights reserved.