What A Beautiful Life

The last few days I’ve been watching a lot of videos about what life was like in the Victorian Era. While the things I’m learning are extremely interesting, they are also quite horrifying. I discovered just how unsafe it was to be alive during that time period, let alone all of the rest of human history. People would meet their death doing things as simple as taking a bath, eating food from the market, having a bathroom installed in their home, having colorful wallpaper, etc. It seems as though there were unlimited dangers all around that weren’t yet fully understood or identified.

It’s very interesting to me how I am able to simultaneously marvel at human achievements throughout history and also be dumbstruck at our sheer recklessness and stupidity. On both fronts it seems incredible that we have managed to make it this far. It really puts a lot of things into perspective for me. Generally I have expected a lot out of the human race. Perhaps that’s because when we’re young we are surrounded with the idea that humans are the pinnacle of evolution, fabulous, unique, God-like beings. At least that’s the impression I seemed to get about what most humans thought of our species. Yet in every waking moment, I seemed to be confronted with human limitation and outrageous foolishness. It would be a constant source of frustration. People never seemed to live up to the standards I had set for them. Not even I was able to meet those standards.

History used to be one of my favorite subjects. But as we learned more and more it seemed like the only things that mattered in recorded history were wars and politics. These things are certainly interesting, but there is so much more to history that I would have rather explored. Learning about society and the way other generations lived awakens a fierce gratitude within me for the luxuries of the time period that we live in. So many simple conveniences that we take for granted were not so long ago unimaginable. I’ve been reflecting on the amazing benefits we now have such as electricity, running water, plumbing, cars, medicine, technology, the internet, the list could go on and on. Most of us tend to use these conveniences everyday without thinking twice about them.

As you know I spend a lot of time worrying about the end of the world. The end seems more and more inevitable each and every day. However, learning about the history of humanity, makes me less concerned about it for some reason. I’m left just feeling grateful that we made it this far. It seems like each moment is an incredible gift. It seems selfish and ungrateful to complain that I won’t get more. In my twenty seven years of life I have already had more pleasure than entire populations had in a lifetime. I’ve allowed myself to feel so cheated that I may not get to live out my life and die of old age as it feels I was promised as a young child. However, when I think about it, I was never even guaranteed the time I’ve already had. Had I lived in any other time period, or even in a different part of the world today, I might have already succumbed to some horrendous illness or accident. This shift in perspective has been extremely therapeutic for me. It has made me feel lighter and reflect on my good fortune.

From now on I plan to work on being grateful for each moment I am given. However much life I have left on this earth will be more than enough. How absurd it now seems to complain when I have so much. Gratitude is truly the cure for so many psychological woes. Perhaps there is no better or more powerful feeling. Even love itself is a form of gratitude. And I really do love this life. I love the many beings I have been lucky enough to share it with. Each day is filled with so many unbelievable blessings. Nice clothing and bed linens, a safe, warm home, a cup of coffee, a hot shower, fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water. How insane the people of the past would think us for finding anything to complain about or to be dissatisfied with. What a beautiful life.

Photo by Austin on Pexels.com

Society & Stress

Photo by Fernando Cabral on Pexels.com

I was thinking the other day about just how normalized stress has become in society. Humanity has, in a sense, imprisoned itself. We exhibit similar behaviors to animals in captivity. Yet we have designed our own cage. It’s strange to me that there doesn’t seem to be any type of movement to address or change this. No one is working to restructure society so that we can live better lives. I don’t think anyone even knows how we’d do that or is searching for those answers.

If a zookeeper notices a macaw pulling out feathers, it is a huge concern. The bird is obviously highly stressed, to the point that it’s exhibiting unhealthy self-harming behaviors. Biting, picking, rubbing, pulling, these are all signs of distress that we easily recognize and try to correct in animals.

However, how many people do you know that bite their nails? Probably quite a lot. You may even bite your own nails. But this isn’t seen as a major concern, a symptom of living in constant stress. It is just a “bad habit.” A common behavior that no one thinks much of. Skin picking and hair pulling are a bit more recognized when it comes to mental health. But ultimately, despite being extremely common, they are still seen as a problem with the individual, and addressed as such.

At what point do we start to look at the bigger picture? At what point does the sheer number of people showing these symptoms begin to tip the scale from personal to societal? And what needs to happen for people to start addressing it?

These symptoms are somewhat inevitable for animals in captivity. Because animals were not meant to live in captivity. In the same way, I’ve come to view my stress behaviors as not necessarily a personal failing or imbalance in my brain chemistry. My brain and body are working just fine. They are responding how they were designed to respond. The problem isn’t with the individual, the problem is with the systems we have built ourselves into. We are simply not meant to live this way.

In the end, I don’t believe that any amount of medication or therapy will ever be able to address the ever increasing number of people with mental health problems. While valuable and worthwhile, these measures are only a band-aid on the gushing wound of our modern lifestyles. I desperately hope that someday we can work together to change our society rather than trying to force an impossible change within ourselves.

I don’t know what the answer is. I wish that I did. But I still think it helps to know that you are not alone. You are not broken. Your body isn’t betraying you. Your brain is not inherently ill. Your feelings are not wrong. You are doing the best you can in a strange new world that millions of years of evolution has not prepared us for. Forgive yourself. Be grateful to yourself for fairing as well as you have.

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com