Teeth & Bones

“You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

  • Walt Disney.

One of the most universally recognised concepts of ancient Chinese philosophy is the idea that all things exist as contradictory, yet inseparable opposites. Commonly known as the Yin and Yang, the principle states that there can be no light without darkness; no man without woman; and no joy without sadness. The earliest known depictions of the Yin and Yang characters are found on the skeletal remains of animals that were used in divination practices as early as the 14th century B.C.E. The Oracle Bones were carved with various symbols that served as questions to deities, before being subjected to extreme heat until they cracked. Those cracks were then read by diviners, and interpreted as the word of their gods.

Interesting, right? But completely irrelevant to a website that is supposed to be about writing. Don’t be alarmed; I’m not about to try and bluff my way through a post about Chinese philosophy, or ancient rituals. I already walk the thin line between deviating from my intended topic, and becoming a self-absorbed narcissist standing atop of his soap box. I wanted to make a point. It just so happens that the best way to do so was through ancient philosophy, an animator, and characters carved crudely into the bones of animals.

My point is this: Everything has an opposite. Which means that while we long to feel successful, happy, or complete; sometimes the best thing that life can do, is kick you in the fucking teeth.

A lot of readers are going to disagree with me here. They’re going to say that the entire purpose of the human existence is the pursuit of happiness. They’re going to state emphatically that there’s no pleasure to be derived from pain, and that only a sadist would ever believe otherwise. And while their opinion is admirable, it’s wrong. Without an understanding of pain, our happiness is meaningless. How the hell could you ever expect to feel content, if you don’t know what it’s like to be left wanting?

The reason that the concept of the Yin and Yang is so easily palatable to the human psyche is because it’s through the acceptance of opposites that we can develop appreciation of people, experiences, and things. We know what is right, because we know how it feels to be wronged. We know what it feels like to be safe, because we have also experienced fear. And, on a personal level, I understand what it means to be happy, because eight months ago I was kicked in the teeth so fucking hard that I momentarily forgot who I was, and almost took my own life.

OK, I’m not about to pick at old wounds here. There’s already a plethora of posts written by a man who had his heart torn out all over this website…

But, I am going to call out a society that is so fucking afraid of failure and heartbreak that it attempts to ignore the cyclical nature of the human existence, perpetuating a bullshit mentality that we can, and should, feel happy all the time. I’m going to say that for every positive experience that you are blessed with, you are also going to be met with a negative. And I’m going to tell you that if you want to be happy, and I mean truly happy, then you need to stop trying so damn hard to avoid your darker days, and learn to embrace them instead.


While the thought of ancient diviners carving questions into animal bones may sound like a bunch of voodoo to most, they were right in their belief that there is pain in every pleasure, and pleasure in every pain. For me personally, the pleasure that came with suffering through heartbreak and contemplating suicide is that I finally learned who I really am, and what matters in my life. I learned that I am a stronger than I ever believed; that I can be humble and still believe that I am a great writer; and that being kicked in the teeth was exactly what I needed to become the man that I should have always been.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that learning through heartbreak is easy, or even that I enjoyed the experience. It was horrible. When life kicks you in the teeth the last thing you want to do is smile your way through indignation and defeat. You want to sit down on the ground and cry your eyes out while blood seeps through your lips and spills onto the earth. And that’s fine. In the short term. Shit, I spent the better part of six months in tears. Even now, I still have days where I need to remind myself that sometimes it’s alright to not be OK. But after months of crying and feeling fractured, I eventually picked my teeth up out of the mud, and found the positivity in my defeat as I started over again.

Having found my positives doesn’t mean that life will never try to kick me in the teeth again either. It’s naive to believe that I will only ever face one monumental setback in my life. The recurrent realities that we exist within means that disappointment and failure are destined to arise periodically throughout my life for as long as I shall live. But knowing that I had the strength to find the bright side of suffering within the lowest moment of my life fills me with the courage that I can overcome any adversity I may face.

I am not defined by my failures, nor my successes. And neither are you. It is our ability to grow from our pleasure and pain that make us the men, women, and children that we are destined to be.

If we learn to embrace our defeat, and to be spectacular in our failures and heartbreak, then we can begin to find the positives in negative situations that will ultimately allow us to become stronger individuals. When life kicked me in the teeth, I tried to hide from my failures and lost myself in the process. I nearly walked away from writing, and from life altogether. It took me months to rediscover who I am. But thanks to the support I found by writing on this blog, and through the love of my family and friends, I survived. And in writing this post I found the wolf in my heart, and the world eater in my head that I thought I had lost forever.

So, I want to issue a challenge to you, the reader.

It goes like this:

Stop running from your pains. Stop telling yourself that you are broken, or that your life sucks because you experience hardship or difficult days. If you feel as though life has knocked you down and driven its boot into your teeth, take a moment to catch your breath and tend to your wounds. Then learn from your pains, and turn a negative into a positive. Accept that sometimes it’s alright to not be OK, acknowledge that life can hurt, and realise that heartbreak and defeat can become a catalyst for happiness and contentment.

When you do find the positives within your pain, help others to do the same. Tell them a story about ancient philosophy, animal bones, and how sometimes all we really need is for life to kick us in the teeth so that we can be reminded about just how much we have to be grateful for.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

102 thoughts on “Teeth & Bones”

  1. go Chris… call a spade a f*** spade not a shovel or pick axe or anything else. thank god for some one who is not afraid to challenge the PC police. i too am getting tired from having to watch what i say, do, pose, eat, sleep etc. no wonder we seem to be on the brink of a mental health crisis worldwide. love you work keep going.

  2. I have something profound to share, something eerily relevant. But I’m a passenger in a moving vehicle, and I don’t have access to things i need nor time to do write. I’ll return soon…

  3. Excellent. The “everbody’s a winner” collaborative mentality of no one is ultimately responsible for failure is complete bullshit. We learn who we are through the choices we make. With any luck we learn not to make the same choices repeatedly. Which is not to say there aren’t other’s out there waiting for us. I often look around and think people’s lives are on “perfect and happy” cruise control but that is also fallacy. One of my favorite quotes for this phenomenon is from, of all places, the movie “Adventures in Babysitting” when Albert Collins says “Nobody leaves this place without singin’ the blues.” We write out own fairy tales. And we sing our own blues. Ain’t no way around it.

  4. Thank you for sharing such a powerful message. I believe some of us get knocked to the ground so we can learn not just to stand back up again but how to teach others to stand.

  5. “You want to sit down on the ground and cry your eyes out while blood seeps through your lips and spills onto the earth…” Good description. And then, some of those who you thought loved you start kicking you. Oh, the pain. Well, if you are unable to share your story directly…like what exactly brought you to your knees and made the blood trickle from your mouth….I simply want to validate that you are not alone. Some of us live to carry on. Others, you never hear from again.

  6. First time I’ve curved my lips into a genuine smile in a few weeks now, I was hoping to write something quite similar, but haven’t been feeling as strong as I needed to be to truly mean it – besides, you’ve said it all far better than I could have put it

  7. You ARE a damn good writer. This is a powerful post . In fact, it’s so powerful and insightful that I am going to share it with the readers of my blog: eclecticspirituality.blog.

  8. This touches on so much of what’s stirring in my mind as well, of the struggles I have been and still am facing. There’s more I feel I should say but this comment section is probably not the place for it. So instead I’ll just say thank you! You are a brilliant writer, insightful and true. Don’t ever stop!

  9. Judie sent me here. Thanks, Judie.
    Everything changes — both the pleasant and the unpleasant. Pain will always change if we don’t transform it into suffering. The Buddha teaches that suffering is trying to hang on to something OR trying to push it away. Take the feeling to enjoy or learn from and then let it go on its own course. It will change. Nice post.

  10. Judie sent me here too! And I’m so pleased I came. Life IS ying/yang. How else can we know what it truly is teaching us. Or gifting us. Or showing us. Thank you for a powerful post.

  11. I find this elsewhere this morning, thought you might like it – The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well

  12. With all the self-help, pop psychology that makes happiness THE standard, it’s nice to see someone pointing out that a good life is bigger than happy feelings.

  13. I enjoyed the read tremendously. I honestly believe to know sadness, is to know happiness. I, myself, am currently in a struggle, and I am in the process of working out of it. This piece gives me more motivation to accept and move past with my new experiences gained from the situation. Thank you for the pleasure of reading this.

  14. Very true and well said. Important to understand and love all the lessons. I am thankful for those difficult times too, though they really sucked when I was in the middle of them. But I treasure them now because those experiences made my life richer than otherwise. Sometimes thinking about them can still make me sad or angry, but as you did, I spend many months allowing myself to feel those feelings and at some point I got tired of it and ready to move on.
    This reminds me of a conversation I had with my darkness, or my rage. I learned that the extreme anger was actually protecting me and in understanding that I appreciated and loved that part of me. I was able to see how much I needed to protect myself and in so doing, the rage could dissipate.
    Thanks again for the insightful post!

  15. Reblogged this on I think, I say, I do and commented:
    I am totally with Chris here and I think that it is important for all of us to be really true and not pretend all’s well when they’re not. We must to acknowledge and accept the bad that comes. There’s nothing wrong with tears. There’s nothing wrong with the feeling of hopelessness.

    Back in 1999, I was 27 then, I wrote a journal and this is an excerpt:

    “Life is good. It can be challenging, but it is good. It is interesting. It is colorful. Life is a wonderful journey that I intend to enjoy. Along the way, I may encounter adversities and conflicts. I may face pain and sorrow. Life may not be perfect. But yes, without them, how would I learn? How would I know that there is happiness? How would I know that I am strong if I weren’t presented with a test? How would I know that I am loved if nobody refuses to love me? How would I know that there are answers if there were no questions? How would I know of the day if there were no night? How could I appreciate my blessings if I have never experienced scarcity?…”

    Thank you for sharing this post, Chris.

  16. I enjoyed this post. If I may add this: Shifting from dualism into duality helped me begin to reconcile my trained and reinforced “need” for control. What you’ve written is a leap, and again, I appreciate your articulation of how you engage process and content.

    1. That was a good read. Thank you!! I went to WSU and the Cougs were kicking the crap out of UCLA on their home turf and Ryan Leaf in the 4th quarter came down the sidelines after another touchdown and did a Heisman Pose. SMH…It is good to hear he has had a change of heart.

  17. Absolutely beautiful. Well-written. I’m so glad you overcame your night of the soul. So very true about learning from defeats/failures, and not being afraid of them. Blessings to you.

  18. A wonderful post! I like the way you put it: “learn to embrace our defeat, and to be spectacular in our failures and heartbreak” Well said.

    To fall graciously whilst getting smth positive out of it through reflection and learning is a vital skill. Unfortunately, it is acquired the hard way and it takes ages to realize the benefits.

  19. This is very boldly shared with us – thank you!

    I think we all need reminding sometimes that we are not on our own; things screw up for us (and even we screw up ourselves) at some point! The important thing to remember is that with the right attitude it can get better again – although that is easier said in hindsight.

    As hard as it seems I think it makes us better people. You realise in those days what keeps you going, and equally feel what holds you back more than perhaps you would have understood before. That empowers you to make the changes you need. It’s a life experience – though not one we want to repeat too often!

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