Similar to life, today's post is short, sweet, and a little bit harsh.
July 3rd, 2022 I brought home a Betta fish. I named him "The Admiral," after "Admiral Pl," the road we drive to get home. Betta fish are very aggressive. Because of this, I actually thought he was starving for food. I started feeding him more and more. He was disgustingly bloated and became constipated after a few weeks. This led to dropsy. I swear to god I couldn't even look at him, he looked like a fucking pinecone. I thought for sure he would die. I changed his water entirely, that did nothing to help. Then I gave him an Epsom salt bath, that seemed to help but still did not set him right. Finally, I bought a water heater and attached that inside the tank wall. I also purchased clove oil that day and asked James to put him out of his misery for me if he did not improve in the next few days. Thankfully, that clove oil remains untouched because he finally made a full recovery. Better yet, a couple weeks later he started thriving.
August 2022, I find I have a house full of plants. Succulents, Lilies, Ferns, etc. I cannot understand why these plants would do so well with little to no water and sporadic sunlight in nature, but yet here they are shriveled and dying in my home. I must not have a green thumb. I look at the Lilies thinking, "I have given you everything you need, what more do you fucking want?" So eventually I attempt to mimic it's natural environment, and even though it's in a pot on my living room floor, it suddenly comes back to life. In fact, a couple days later, it is thriving.
Naked & Afraid. If you don't know this about me, I love this show. Two individuals are plopped down in the middle of nowhere with no clothes, no food, and no water for 21 days. What happens throughout the 21 days? They scavenge and hunt for resources and food. They create shelters and fire with their bare hands. Sometimes the shelters fall apart. Sometimes their plans for food and water don't work out. They face starvation, dehydration, hypothermia, illness, sleep deprivation - you name it; but they do survive. They may fail several times but they do finally find material that is suitable for shelter. They finally get a fire going. They finally find drinkable water. Once they do these things, they expand - they get better sleep, they create clothing or shoes, find resources to help with sunburns, and bug bites. They find additional food to get them the calories they need to get to extraction. From our couch in our warm home we think they must be miserable (and they typically are), but if you really look close - by the end of the challenge, they are actually thriving.
A lot like having an aquarium full of fish, a house plant, or being a contestant on Naked & Afraid - often times trial and error is the best way to figure out what our own body, mind and soul needs in order to survive, and ultimately to thrive. With any luck, we don't nearly kill ourselves in the process. This process is never ending because our world, and your body, mind, and soul is continuously evolving. So when do we actually get to thrive?
According to Maslow's Hierarchy, which I did not plan to reference until my writing started taking me down this path today - we must meet these basic physiological needs below before we could ever begin to thrive:
Now, there are another four levels in Maslow's Hierarchy and you are welcome to Google them. For the sake of keeping this post in my own context, I really don't want to rehash them, but I do agree with this piece above. We must survive before we could ever begin to thrive.
This is where your self-awareness comes into play. You can spend your entire life attempting to control your environment through trial and error, and create it so that you can "thrive," but ultimately all you are doing in that scenario is living to survive. Just as the fish, the house plants, and contestants on N&A, we can only thrive once we meet our needs for survival and then recognize and finally accept our environment for what it is.
This is not from a standpoint of "settling." This means we have to be able to objectively look at who we are at this stage in our life; what we experienced as children, adolescents, young adults and how that shaped us into who we are now. We have to objectively look at who raised us, and who raised them. We have to understand how we are being perceived by others. We have to objectively look at what we do, what we eat, what we drink, and understand what it does to our bodies. Without self-awareness, we cannot even begin to thrive.
Are you realizing that you are living to survive? I was in survival mode for a long time, but yet simultaneously on the pursuit of happiness. They are two different things. I worked so I could eat, drink, breathe, clothe myself, and afford my shelter. I was consistently trying to change my environment, rather than accepting my environment and realizing it was me that needed to change. I always thought, "I'm this way because X." Or, "If I just had this new item I would be happy." Or "If I just move states that will give me a new start." Or, "This person at work is the reason I hate it." Or, "If I can just convince Serenity to stop doing X,Y,Z, I can sleep at night." Or, "If I can just get rid of one of the dogs..." Or, "If I can just make the flowerbed look nice, the neighbors won't judge me." All that time and energy focused on my environment, none of it focused on me. Time to self-medicate, right?
Your environment has stressors in it. You can limit them - like maybe 4 dogs really is too many in the house for you (like it was for me), but they are not going away. You can sit and rehash everything that happened to you as a child, and things that haunt you from your young adult years, but that shit is not going away. It is not going to change. All you become in this scenario is someone who wants to blame the world, your job, your home, your family, your friends, and anyone or anything else for your woes, instead of accepting these things and learning how you can adapt.
If you blame your environment for everything you are experiencing, you will never thrive. We lean into trial and error to find out what works best for us to survive, because each of us are different. We then lean into self-awareness to find out how we can thrive, again through trial and error, in the environment around us. If you are striving for happiness and you have not met your basic needs for survival, and have not objectively addressed yourself, you will never reach it.
Are you in trial and error, living to survive? Are you surviving, aware, and now ready to find what it takes to thrive? Or do you think this is a bunch of bullshit?
At different points in my life, I have answered yes to each of those questions.
Which question applies to you today?