“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”
Over the past two months I have been listening to an album written by a man who has lived a life far more complex, more arduous, and heartbreaking than my own. The acknowledgement that another life may be more burdensome than mine probably sounds quite strange given that I have devoted so much space on this blog to writing about my struggles with anxiety and depression in an effort to understand them. But what I have overcome no longer seems so insurmountable in comparison to a man who has lived through similar battles to my own whilst also suffering from physical ailments.
Since the album’s release in March I have often lay awake at night and pondered its lyrical content, asking myself what it must have felt like to live through some of the moments sung and screamed about in harrowing detail. This is nothing new for me. Music has always had a huge impact on my creative process. I draw more inspiration from singers and songwriters than I do from authors and poets, and I consume far more albums than novels or magazines.
But for the past two months, two lines separated by seven songs have resonated with me much more deeply than anything else in recent memory. At first I thought that I had simply fallen in love with the songwriter’s vulnerability, but then I came to realise that they have made me begin to examine the dualism in my own existence far more closely than I ever have before.
Before we go any further we should probably pause for a moment so that I can bring you up to speed. I’m alluding to an album and talking about lyrics, yet I haven’t actually told you what those lyrics are, or why they are so important to me…
As I said above, this entire post was inspired by two lines separated by seven songs on an album written by a man who has found the positives within his suffering. The first line goes like this:
In every way that I am strong, I am also weak.
The lyrics are growled with so much angst that you can feel their weight pressing down on the signer’s chest as he attempts to jettison the heartbreak from his body before his lungs runs out of air. And then, seven songs later, he inverses his previous sentiment through spoken word, uttering the line:
In all the ways that I am weak, I am also strong.
The first time that I heard these two lines, I felt something inside of me fracture. It was as though someone else had found a way to articulate the war of contrast that often rages inside of my head. It pained me to hear that something that has always seemed so complex could be summarised with such simplicity. But now I realise that in some ways I have always subconsciously understood the role of both strength and weakness in my life, it just took the words of another writer to bring that understanding to light.
As I write this I’m sitting on a mattress in Indonesia tapping away at my computer so that I can try to make sense of a few ideas that have been rolling around in my head for some time…
Tomorrow I will be flying to London to commence a solo journey around Europe for two months; during which I will be living out of a backpack and sleeping in over crowded dorm rooms filled with people that I have never met. When I originally booked the trip in December of last year I was in a bad place. After a relatively fruitful 2017 I had relapsed into a mindset that left me feeling depressed, and damaged my willingness to create. The trip was something positive to look forward to in a life where I suddenly felt worthless and as though I didn’t have a place where I belonged.
But in the months since deciding to flee the constraints of my own existence, my mindset has shifted once again. Whereas a few months ago I felt vulnerable and weak; I have since rediscovered the strength inside myself that has previously allowed me to grow from boy at war with himself into a man. In doing so I have reignited my desire to write, overcome the reemergence of my anxieties, and began to view a trip that was originally born out of fragility and a desire to escape from my realities as a journey of self-discovery and emotional metamorphosis.
This dualism; the constant movements between feeling worthless and being virtually fearless in my creative endeavors and self will undoubtedly continue for as long as I shall live. At my best, I’m a supremely confident writer who believes himself to be on par with the literary industry’s best. At my worst, I’m a self-depreciating masochist who undermines his own successes with negativity and doubt. But even though I have learned to embrace them as part of who I am, these contrasts in thought are not uniquely my own.
Every man, woman and child to have ever walked this earth has experienced similar moments of elation and despair in their lifetime. Each of us is continuously transitioning between success and failure, hope and heartbreak as if we are adrift in this great ocean that we call life, pulled towards the shores of our strengths and weaknesses by the winds of change.
So why is it that we often neglect to acknowledge the dualism of our existence? Why is it that we refuse to acknowledge the strength in every weakness, and the weakness in every strength? And why is it that after overcoming my anxieties more than once, I still struggle to remember that my lower moments will pass when they inevitably arrive?
The answers to those questions aren’t easy to quantify. In truth, it’s almost impossible to understand why the human brain functions as it does. You can ask any neuropsychologist and they will tell you that we as a species have barely begun to fathom the intricacies of the mind. Yet despite not fully understanding why the brain functions as it does, we can still be mindful that for our lives to have meaning we must experience, and embrace, both our strengths and weaknesses.
For me personally, some of the weakest moments of my life have allowed me to develop strengths that I never could have dreamed of possessing. Had it not have been for the failed romances I have lived through, the heartbreak of book deals turned sour, or anxieties that almost claimed my life, I would never have become the person that I am today. I wouldn’t have the courage to write what I write, speak how I speak, and love with the reckless abandon that I chose to love with had I not have experienced weakness and loss.
And had it not have been for the relapse into a depressive mindset that occurred in December of last year I wouldn’t be preparing to face this new challenge of adventuring through Europe on my own…
While I originally booked this trip to escape a period of self-loathing, I’m now planning on using it as an opportunity to experience a world beyond my own comfort zone so that I can continue to grow as an artist, and more importantly, as a man. I’m thrilled by the knowledge that over the next two months I will become hopelessly lost in numerous foreign lands, and that my mind, imagination and creative impulses will be redefined by my experiences.
But thanks to an album written by a man who will never read this, I’m making a conscious decision to remember that in all the ways that I am strong, I am also weak. Throughout my adventures I will inevitably experience moments where I feel lonely, or afraid, or as if undertaking a solo trip to find myself was a monumental mistake. When those times do arrive, I’ll try my hardest to remember my strengths, and to allow myself to accept the importance that fragility has on my personal growth. For had it not have been for a moment of hopelessness and despair, I would have never had the opportunity, nor the strength to allow myself to become so wondrously lost on my own.
65 thoughts on “Solivagant”
Nice thought stream Not many can understand the ability to be strong through weakness. You nailed it, seems like.
I reread the this post when I was done with it. Resonates with me in so so many ways. Finding opportunities created in adversity, picking yourself from a dark place and finding a light to walk to.Even the duality of our existence and feeling. Wishing you all the very best for your trip. May you return energized,renewed and bursting at the seams with inspiration!
this definitely resonates. i must say you capture the paradoxical nature of the soul quite powerfully. i could use a long solo trip too, but for now i wish that yours would help you see with new eyes! cheers.
Chris, thanks for this. I think I say this every time you write, but it remains true for this post as well: this is deep and you’ve given me much MUCH to think about. Those lines resonate within me as well. Thank you for sharing.
Good luck on your trip. Stay safe and enjoy another world!
Insightful as ever. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how my greatest weakness and fear is also a source of inspiration that keeps driving me forward. Have a wonderful, wonderful trip and lose yourself in the magic of other places.
So inspiring and encouraging to read about the process you are going through to birth your destiny. A dear friend, Paul went through unpalatable experiences like yours, and he was counselled by God to hold on because God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. When we are weak He is strong. The fact is our trials are our testimonies to encourage others. Hold on Chris.
Good luck Chris 🙂
Life certainly is a duality and travelling is a great way to meet fears head on, live them and grow from the experience. I’m twelve months into solo travelling and it is magical. The beauty of being a writer is that everything is inspiration for a story. You have the writer’s gift, Chris. Have a fabulous time!
What an odd co-incidence. This is the first complete post I’ve read, and it’s one saying a temporary goodbye.
You say goodbye, and I say hello.
As someone whose anxiety seems to have overtaken their depression, I wish you well on your pilgrimage. Travelling alone inevitably results in times of loneliness and lostness. Hope you find strength in your weaknesses.
Yes! I have lived in adversity and it always produces confidence and skills you never knew you had. I admire what you are doing!
Nothing brings back a flush of enthusiasm for life than arriving in a new land with a backpack and an open schedule 🙂
Adversity is the first path to truth. — Lord Byron
More fitting, I think, for a romantic about to sojourn across Europe. Man, this volatile depression rollercoaster. Walk. Write. Get over it. Tortured artistsyndrome is like an old school proverb. You know money in your pocket, free time and a selfie at the Eiffel Tower make heartbreak a hard sell. We expect some adventurous tales from the road. You don’t have to go all Kerouac and Burroughs, or even Steinbeck. But notes from the road to recovery are a must. “You can cheat your landlord if you must, but never cheat the muse…”
Thank you for reminding me of how messy we are as human beings, and how curses can often also be blessings. My foray into Kabbalah, and my Jewish roots, has helped me tremendously to reconcile my contradictions and complexities. Have an amazing journey through Europe!
Sounds like it’ll be a good trip. I wish you safe travels and can’t wait to hear about them.
thanks for posting, that was a breather for me, because of what i am currently going through. Thanks again. have fun on your trip. Be inspired and create.
Beautiful investigation of your compelling life moments!
“Each of us is continuously transitioning between success and failure, hope and heartbreak as if we are adrift in this great ocean that we call life, pulled towards the shores of our strengths and weaknesses by the winds of change.” It was all written well and expressed exquisitely but this line captured the incessant back and forth of emotions we can feel. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
I have some fond memories from backpacking Europe with my siblings. I am revisiting Norway and Finland, but much of Europe is still on my list to explore.
Thanks for stopping by my blog, Chris. Best wishes for your journey forward. I can so relate to what you say about duality — Life as we know it is a polarity and when we fixate on any end — strength or weakness, we seem to get stuck somehow. You have spoken about it so beautifully thanks. 🙂
“And why is it that after overcoming my anxieties more than once, I still struggle to remember that my lower moments will pass when they inevitably arrive?”
It gets easier with time. Hang in there.
Weakness in strength and strength in weakness. Duality is an integral part of my existence and the more I embrace it, the more at peace I find myself.
I love your style!
If you’re passing through Hamburg and would like to swap stories over chai or a poison of your choice; drop me a line. Cheers!
Hello from Denmark! (not native, expat)
What an important post for me right now. I’m glad you shared it. I felt a ‘click’ in me whilst reading and remembering the ways I grow creatively through struggles. The songs that come out of it. Artwork. And especially writing.
I also thought of something about my own experience; how the ways I’m weak (being afraid of losing the right to live in the same country as my husband if immigration stuff doesn’t work out) are the ways I’m strong (reading through countless lengthy wordy pages of laws and filling out endless forms, despite struggling with ADD and anxiety, doing the work so that we could be together). The feelings of weakness jostle hard for center stage at times, don’t they?
Have a beautiful adventure.
Hi Chris, Thanks for stopping by my blog.
Very deep post indeed!
All the best for your endeavors. Travelling surely helps one to explore oneself in a new light.
Hoping to read your travelling experience.
Praying you have safe travels and an uplifting, beneficial adventure. Kind regards!
You have a great blog and some nice posts. Can you please visit my new blog and provide me your valuable feedback about it?
Reblogged this on Coffee, Sass, & A lot of Class..
Wow. You are an amazing, very gifted writer. I hope you have a wonderful time in Europe!
Your ideas bring to mind the words from Adrienne Rich “…her wounds came from the same source as her power”. This is something I’ve lived and thought about a lot- how everything not only becomes fodder for my expansion (power UP!), but also in some ways, my challenges have been almost perfectly designed to touch off my “weaknesses” which, given enough time and perseverance, I’ve been able to transmute into Power.
It’s not an easy path, but so worthwhile. I’ve come to love it more and more over the years.
Thank you for sharing with us, with me. It’s been a gift to me this morning. ❤
That’s deep Chris. Enjoy the world.
I hear what you say. I’m not sure I would have the courage to travel on my own for all those months although I think it would do me a lot of good. I quite understand what you mean when you say that we would not perhaps become what we are without the necessity to live through good and bad. Given the choice however I would skip the bad and keep the good. My wife by way of example has been constantly bright and cheerful throughout here life (more or less). She is a naturally happy and positive person. I by contrast am prone to doubt and negativity although I have done much to combat my ways in recent years and have been relatively successful.
Nonetheless I do believe in something like the Abolitionist Project
I am convinced the answer to depression lies in science rather than self help but the latter is pretty well all we have got at the moment. It will have to do.
Thank you for a wonderful blog 🙂 On my Site, under “3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge”, I just entered your Blog Site on my page for “Day 3”. But, there is no pressure! It’s okay if you do not have time to participate. Anyway, thank you for a great blog!
Your writing truly speaks volumes. I admire you, I understand how depression is and how it can knock you down so far you don’t think you’ll ever be able to stand again. I’ve recently begun writing again as well, I have a long ways to go with it still. You’re doing amazing though, I’m happy for you!
A fascinating read about your “spiritual journey”, if you don’t mind me calling it that. That’s my own language. But I am sure many can empathise with the feelings you write about so powerfully. The lines about strength and weakness are haunting. Best wishes.
Excellent article. You raise two interesting questions: “So why is it that we often neglect to acknowledge the dualism of our existence? Why is it that we refuse to acknowledge the strength in every weakness, and the weakness in every strength?”
The society we live in awards those of us who are perceived as beautiful, strong, and successful. Our professional success depends upon this perception. Attracting a good, if not perfect, mate depends upon this perception. In other words, we are judged by our strengths. To be perceived as weak can be a death sentence. One can become the target of bullies. We can see this one-sided perception of the dualism of our existence playing out at the highest levels of America’s political system.
It cannot end well for our nation and for the world.
It’s hard to remember that we are also strong. I’ve done a few brave things in the past couple of weeks or so that I would never have thought I would have done otherwise. Some things felt easier than others but in the end I was glad I made the leap. I hope you find some solace in your travels. I always enjoy reading what you have to say. Much love to you, my fellow blogging friend.
Hello Chris, congrats on your fantastic blog and achievements as an artist-writer. I have enjoyed this post very much. You are clear and informative, also truly honest about the dualism of human existence which mainstream media constantly undermine, where weakness and vulnerablity are seen as bad assets to a patriarchal capitalist model. Moreover, gender differentiation is still being made. Whereas we women are a bit more allowed to show some weakness, you men are still not. I love watching men cry in the openness. You pose the philosophical question: “Why is it that we refuse to acknowledge the strength in every weakness, and the weakness in every strength?” that ancient Greek philosophers like Heraclitus already analysed in their understanding of the world and human nature through opposites. Thus while Heraclitus believes the main element was fire, its opposite was water. Fire has traditionally been associated with strength, fight, war, while water is connected to weakness, our emotions and feelings. But, as you say, we are a mixture of both and, instead of refusing one inevitable part, we should take advantage of it as it complements the other and so new opportunities arise. What is more, life is a constant flow where Heraclitus said we never bathe in the same river as its water is always new. I wrote a haiku inspired on this: https://momentsbloc.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/we-bathe-in-rivers/
Wish you the best with your journey across Europe, which is surely going to be not just geographical, but also an inner journey of the artist-writer. BTW, thank you for stopping by my blog.
Oh, sorry for the mistakes on the first line of my comment. I don’t know what happened.
Good to hear from you, Chris. May you find strength and peace and stay in contact.
Chris, So funny how life is …I made an actual note to myself two nights ago to comment on your site. Your posts always move me, and, as such, I don’t comment as much as I should. I feel a great pressure to somehow capture how deeply felt your words were to me…but, then I feel inadequate to the task. And, then here’s your post Beggars. I’m working on a post on the same topic. I live in Carmel and on my way to the gym four days a week, I pass people who need help. I reached out to two of them recently. Your post was beautiful…it will inspire me to do my best work to capture my experiences with “beggars.” I also related very much to your previous post. I recently referred to myself as a “Prozac Queen” and discussed my struggles with the question of why such a tough lady needs an antidepressant.
Anyway, I am very touched by your words always. I hope you enjoy your travels and I”ll look forward to reading what you are inspired to share.
P.S. Congrats on the “uncle gig.” Love children’s books. Two of my family’s favorites are Miss Rumphius and The Old Woman Who Named Things.
Those words speak volumes ..I can feel the power , strength when I read it .. your writing is beautiful and it’s alway a pleasure to read your writings ,I’m happy you like my post so I could see yours again,its not often I see yours come up but now that I’ve signed up to get a notification you posted . This is wonderful.
Congratulations I have just nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award. Do have a look at my latest post and revert to the same in addition to completing the nomination on your timeline! So long! ^_^
As we all know by now Word Press Weekly and Daily Prompts are a thing of the past. I have a site “Weekly Prompts” which offers you a new platform to present your creative endeavors. Drop by anytime and inspect the site for yourself. Hope to see you there soon. Enjoy the day. 🙂
I have noticed getting a good feeling from helping others, and as for those priests, I get so annoyed seeing that kind of “i am better than you” it is pathetic and a reason we are where we are, love your post
Great observations. Thank you for bringing it full circle. Best one: What I am calling them out on is their refusal to acknowledge that the person they stepped over is human, and should therefore be treated as such. Because it doesn’t matter whether you are a priest, a beggar, or a writer without the correct change to catch the bus, you are no better than anyone else.
I sure relate with a twick – when I am weak, He is strong.
Many focus in the strength part and forget about the weak part. As you mentioned we are all weak, one way or another. Safe travels!
I enjoyed this immensely. It’s unfathomable that people don’t help others. Perhaps they thought, as far too many do, that they’re grifters and thieves, just “making a living” off of handouts, but the way I see it, it’s far better to give to those not in dire straits than to pass up a person who truly is.
If there’s one philosophical lesson I successfully passed on to my only child, I sincerely hope it was that, above all else.