by: IOW Staff
Today is our second installment of “Reasons to Live,” where the In Our Words staffers list some of the things that make life worth living right now. And, of course, Ryan Gosling was going to be somewhere on the list.
My reasons for living vary from day to day, and sometimes even moment to moment. On a good day, I’m staying alive because of all the fun and excitement in the world: the delicious tastes and sensations, the orgasms, the laughter, the movies to see and books to read, the LEGO towers to build, the board games to play, the water to swim in and grass to lay in. There’s so much to DO, and so much of it is wonderful.
But I can’t always keep that energy going. Someone directed a particularly mean comment at me. Someone questioned my gender or identity or sense of self. Sometimes I don’t know why – I just know I’m sad and want the sadness and the pain and the world to go away. When the world looks particularly dark, I remind myself how much my suicide would hurt my parents, my brother, my friends, all the people who love me. When I can’t be strong for myself, I try to be strong for them.
Dying is uncertain. When dead we really don’t know what is next; it could be anything from an eternity of being “rick rolled” or if you’re lucky, tea time with Ryan Gosling in the South of France. My point is, dying is uncertain and has too much unknowing for my tastes. But you know what isn’t uncertain? Living. Living at its most basic form is about breathing, and breathing we can all do. In Yoga, we use breath to not only center us but also to work through all of the pains and struggles within our practice. You breath to cultivate heat inside, and you breath to cool down. Breathe is key to human life, and with every breath you’re tasting life and what keeps this big bad world movin’. Use your breath, keep on living, because through breath we build moments, we build a life. Stay alive because you are breathing, and also because Ryan Gosling breaths and we all want to be more like him. Don’t we?
The nuzzle of my kitty’s nose against my cheek before I fall asleep. The way the first bite of an amazing home-cooked meal tastes to a grumbly belly. When a song you love is randomly playing in the grocery store. When a friend sends you a text saying something reminded them of you, and that they miss you. When you hug someone who needs it, and realize you need it too. The wagging tail of a dog on a walk who is so excited about everything they pass by. Re-reading a favorite book or poem. Learning something new. Exercise (and those sweet, sweet endorphins). The smell of baking (vegan!) cookies. The first snow, the first autumn leaf, the first warm day of spring when the city is unstoppable. Catching yourself at a good angle in a mirror. Laughing til it hurts your sides. The Chicago skyline. Stories of organized resistance and radical rebellion—stories that make you remember that struggle leads to progress. The satisfaction of a morning stretch. Impromptu dance parties in the middle of the day (with a friend, or your cat, or just yourself).
When I start to feel that this moment, right now, is either too much or not enough, when I begin to fall into the depths of nostalgia or hurl myself into hazy dreams of the future, I try to take a moment to breathe and be present. And that’s when I feel my eyes open for real, that’s when I start to notice those things listed above. I have learned, over time, that sitting with imperfection — with ourselves, with the world, with our surroundings — has a funny way of revealing things that are actually quite beautiful.
“I see skies of blue/clouds of white/the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night/and I think to myself/what a wonderful world.”
Louis Armstrong hit the nail on the head, in my opinion. Whenever I think of what has gotten me through some of my most dark and difficult times in my life, I remember this song. I generally manage to maintain a positive outlook on the world, so it’s often easy for me to remember the message of this song. However, there are moments that we all face when life is difficult and the world doesn’t seem so wonderful.
I think that the second line of this verse is particularly telling and an important reminder: the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night. In the good times, we’re living that “bright blessed day,” and in the bad it’s the “dark sacred night.” How could the darkness be sacred (not necessarily in a religious sense but in the sense of “highly significant?”) Even in those times, we learn about ourselves, we grow, and they really become part of us; they really become sacred. Another important reminder which that line gives us is that even in the darkest of nights, daybreak is still around the corner. There may still be difficulties on the road ahead, but we cannot forget that the bright blessed day will return. There are so many more days to be lived, and while nights may come, daybreak will always follow. In addition, there are even more things that make the world wonderful, and I think that’s enough reason to live in and of itself.