“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.