“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.
102 thoughts on “Teeth & Bones”
I particularly love that piece, Teeth, and Bones. I thank you for the like you left me and I hope to see you again.
I will read more of your piece.
Bravo!!! Chris Nicholas. Teeth and Bones what an appropriate title.
Life is full of pain. Live that life trying to avoid it and you’ll miss out on life itself and lose your joy in the process. It’s like a prevent defense in football. It rarely works if ever.
I sure as hell needed that reminder right now. It’s a bitch when fighting mental illness, etc. But you’re right. I wouldn’t see life and its insanely devastating beauty the way I do if it wasn’t foe the kicks in the teeth.
Chris this reminds me of two things:
1. When you run, I mean really run, you know cover a lot of ground on foot, you find your legs aching, burning for days afterwards. Some would think that this is a bad thing, but in fact it’s extremely pleasurable, for the simple fact that it’s as reminder of your achievement.
2. Some old dude once said “For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.”
Kudos on a great blog.
Bonino, Bonino, Bonino, Bo-ni-nooooo-ooooo!
Peace be the Botendaddy, Chris
Yes, absolutely agree, there’s always a negative available to a positive and vice-versa! So many people do pursue happiness and in their pursuit I think they often miss what’s sitting right under their nose. For me some of my hardest and painful experiences have taught me the biggest and most important lessons. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to learn!
Great blog and I enjoy the way you write! 🙂
I can certainly relate…
I believe on what you have written that there is alway negative for EVERTHING that make life challenging .
that which does not kill me… thanks so much for reading my blog, too!
I just love how you have beautifully written two opposites as beauty and pain goes side by side ,and no pain no gain thats the truth. Loved it :”)
Certainly not the most diplomatically worded post, but one expressed with honesty and true passion. I am nearly 58 years old. I have experienced much of what you write about. Age and experience has a way of changing outcome. We can either LEARN from good and bad experiences and grow from them, or AVOID learning experiences and remain within self imposed “safe” confines. I do not believe either choice is “wrong.” It is a personal CHOICE that determines the lives we are destined to live. Personally, it has been my choice to accept the “pains” of “failure” because they have broadened my thinking and approach to life. I believe in focusing LESS on success or failure and more on PASSION and PURPOSE for living. This has given me the energy, motivation and persistence necessary to overcome substantial resistance in the face of my pursuits.
For those readers willing to view this post with good intentions, there is much to gain. For those unable to see positivity, their paths will likely remain unchanged. I hope people recognize the VALUE in your words and CHOOSE greater enlightenment.
Great post. Relatable sand honest!
I read this exactly when I needed it. Thank you.
You made me tear up as I read this. I understand everything you are saying; it’s as if you read the letters I write to myself in my journal. I tend to think that the more we are able to accept, and hell even become grateful for the pain, the more room we make for something better. Not that positive mumbo jumbo, but authentic happiness, because you are so grateful for the opposite of the dark. Thank you.
Reblogged this on Three Lighthouses.
I had life kick me in the teeth almost a year ago, and I know exactly where you’re coming from. I haven’t had the guys to blog about it yet, but your post really spoke to me.
Hey there. Thanks for following my new blog. I plan to post stuff frequently, probably every morning. It might be overwhelming. If you need to unfollow me, I understand.
Ace Parks supports this mesage 👍
I’m glad there are people in the world help g to draw attention to the damage our happiness-obsessed culture is doing. People always seem to think that if they are sad or unhappy in life, then they are a mess or not doing as well as their happy friends, or feel that its not right / ok to feel that way. Our entire lives should not be about shuting out / ignoring the negative in hopes of attaining “happiness”, because life doesn’t work that way. To truly be happy, you need to simply experience life – in whatever way feels right to you, i dont mean you have to go out and complete dare-devil stunts or try extreme anything if thats not you, experiencing life simply means to do things – anything, with an open mind & accepting the good and the bad.
If you cannot acknowledge or accept these bad things in life, you will always be focused on trting to escape them to ‘attain happiness’ and you will never get there. Happiness is being at peace with both the angels and demons in your life.
I went through HELL as a teenage; bullying and mental health issues. It was a really rough time and i just wanted to escape it – naturally, of course, but in any way I could. I was so obsessed with the the idea that I needed to escape it all to be happy, that i needed to reach happiness in order to stop suffering. It was truly awfull, but happiness is not. Destination its a mindset.
I think I’m just rambling at this point, but i just wanted to say the i agree, and pain is a necessary part of life that must be experienced in order to ever feel fulfilled in life…. or something…..
Feat post. Sorry for rambling.
Great post. I’m currently reading The Good Life, by Hugh Mackay. He would totally agree with you (and so do I), those ‘darker’ emotions is where we do most of our learning. We have a range of emotions, and they all come with their own gifts. Chasing happiness alone, just isn’t realistic or useful for growth.
These are interesting thoughts, well presented. Learning through pain and balancing joy with that learning is maybe the most important thing we do as humans.
As Arlo Guthrie said, “You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in..”
G’day, I’m a table tennis coach, more ping pong that yin yang. A basic principle I teach my students every day, you learn more from defeat than from victory. I must be a genius by now. Thanks for the visit I enjoyed your article I will drop by for more.
Great post. It really resonated with me having gone through my own dark period. Although it was certainly not easy at the time, I am so much the richer for having gone through it. Well done you. Keep up the thoughtful writing.
What a beautiful message and written just as beautifully. Your writing is mesmerizing, so glad you didn’t walk away from being a writer. All the best to you!
Great post Chris; and an inspirational blog. More people need to accept the fact that being depressed among other things is as real as you and I. Nicely written. I hope many people find inspiration here to get up and fight. 🙂
And thanks for the like @justlegibe. Stay connected. 🙂
Thank you for your like to my post to lead me onto your blog. Wow. This post resonates with me and reminds me about in part of what I wrote about my experience with spiritual awakening. It always takes adversity, a catalyst to awake us. If life would always be perfect, how would be ever learn about who we are, our values and what truly matters to us. If we can stay open minded, be optimistic and not let our experiences define us, we refrain from bitterness and are ready to learn what life has to teach us.
Thank you for sharing, I can’t wait to read more and get to know more about your blog.
this piece is such amazing and made me embrace hardship in a different way. you so talented and would definitely
read more of your future works.
Good piece. Pain and suffering are a part of the human experience in the sense that our bodies experience entropy, which is a natural result of aging. The point is not to dwell on suffering or pain or complain about it but to pass through it from a neutral place. By letting pain and the pursuit of happiness pass through and around us we are able to let go attachment and stand in the middle of the ting and yang.
This is exactly what I needed to read today.
Thank you so very much for continuing to write and share!
I find it difficult to express these opinions but relate so dearly to them. Thanks for sharing.
Utterly fabulous piece…a single “like” brought me here and will make me stay. You are right of course – there is always a dark side to the moon despite what we see in he night sky!
I love this, it is truth 🙂
This whole post is something that I’ve been learning about over the course of the past several years, but have referred to as the dialectic as a major component of DBT, dialectical behavioral therapy. The woman who developed the therapy has based much of it off of Zen teachings. One of the largest teachings is that two opposing ideas can be true and until you can accept the negative happenings, not like, accept, that you will live in suffering. Suffering can be avoided even though pain cannot.
If asked I tell a person to stay strong and keep punchin’ in the midst of difficult times, and since I’m a boxing fan I tend to liken
it to what goes on in the ring.
Sometimes a fighter is overwhelmed and it becomes apparent their focus has become about surviving rather than making an
effort to win.
Other times you’ll see two fighters whose sole focus is winning and they’ll go at it till the final bell.
Some times it’s a draw, other times a decision win, but often the perception is both fighters won due to the manner in which
they acquitted themselves.
Kind of a metaphor for life – you can go about it as a survivor or you can keep punchin’ in the face of adversity.
I’m not okay, you are not okay but that’s okay. 🙂
Oh yes a kick in the teeth, is definitely a way to get life moving again. Oprah says God hit you with a brick wall. Cold to hear but true and beneficial.
Pain is a great teacher. When we learn from it. Opposites are the way we fully experience the full breadth of our humanness.
In darkness,light. In sorrow, joy. We are all spiritual beings living a human existence. Denying our feelings only fuels them. Acceptance is one answer.
Feel the pain and get up and try again.
Good on ya! Loved this. How true that in order to appreciate one, we must understand and allow the other. No dwelling on sadness or happiness. Look at them as a piece of an unending circle.
Personally I’d always try to avoid pain. But shit happens and you might as well make the best of it. I completely agree that suffering is a learning experience but gratitude for it is beyond me.
“Accept that sometimes it’s alright to not be OK” Solid piece of advice!
Thanks for sharing that. I recently had a conversation with a friend and we discussed that in life, there needs to be balance and that is what Yin & Yang provides in a way – we need to experience sadness to know what happiness is and vice versa, cold to appreciate warmth, etc. We also need to learn to accept our flaws and remember life is a learning journey. Life is like a roller coaster so we need to be able to roll with the punches so to speak! Good to hear you survived yours! Peace and blessings! 🙂 Catching up on reading so am a few months behind!