Chapter 8: H is for Human

hu·man | \ ˈhyü-mən

Human: a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens): a person

a: having human form or attributes

b: representative of or susceptible to the sympathies and frailties of human nature*

Ah, humankind. What a beautiful, flawed, extraordinary, dull, kind, nasty, loving, hateful, complex, and simple bunch we are. There is nothing easy about being a human. That being said, there can be nothing easier. Keep breathing and keep living.

But what does it mean to be human? What makes us so different than every other living, breathing being on this earth? Well, the most obvious answer is our big brain and its ability for complex thinking.

We spend our whole lives thinking, trying to figure it all out. Trying to decipher what we are supposed to be doing and who we are supposed to be. For most of us, it never ends, this striving to live an authentic, valuable, worthy life.

Early on, we look around us for clues on how to be a human, and often glom on to the most popular, wide-spread information that our culture or society is offering us. But because of this complex brain of ours, sometimes, as much as we try, this information does not compute. Our brains are wired in a way that the popular theory of what it is to be “normal” does not work for us.

Listening to the cacophony of voices telling us what we would, could, and should be can lead to, you guessed it, anxiety. And if you are living with an anxiety disorder, you may feel like you are at a disadvantage.

I spent a large part of my life worrying that I was getting this humaning** thing all wrong. Although at times I had the advantage of being able to fake it pretty convincingly, inside I couldn’t be what my society was telling me I should be. I couldn’t seem to comply with the rules. And I beat myself up about it all the time.

Luckily, because of this lovely brain of mine, I was able to educate myself. I was able to apply reasoning to my situation. And, eventually, I realized that I’m just fine the way I am. I came to this earth with something to offer and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to offer it.

Each of us has something to offer. A few of us will contribute in a big way, but most of us will just be regular folk, contributing in ways both seen or unseen. We are humans who are gifted in writing, speaking, or listening. Humans whose gifts allow them to uphold laws or do the accounting. Humans who are great cooks, cleaners, or are better able to help those less fortunate. Humans with limitations, be they mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical who understand the gifts of wisdom and compassion. Humans who make love, not war. Humans whose art brings joy to others. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends. We can all bring something to the table.

So if you find yourself thinking that you don’t fit the narrative, remember that there are lots of stories out there, and one of them might just fit better than the one you’ve been living. Better yet, write your own story. And don’t believe the fairy tales that tell us how to live “happily ever after”. There is no such thing.

For me, when my humaning gets to be too much, I go back to the basics. I meditate. I write a list every day of all of the things that I am grateful for, from the sunshine coming in my window, to having the luxury of spending my mornings reading in bed, warm and comfy under my duvet, with my wee dog by my side. I try to focus on the good parts of my life as a human.

And the wonderful thing about humaning is that the human condition is never static. Life changes from year to year, month to month, day to day, and sometimes moment to moment. The joy of this is that if we are sitting in the bottom of a hole feeling like crap, we probably won’t be there forever. Our circumstances can change. And learning a few life hacks can help us to help ourselves move on to the next thing. Change is good, especially if you’re making peace with yourself.

I think it’s also really important to remember that NO ONE HAS IT ALL FIGURED OUT, even if they tell you that they do. I wish someone had told me that about 40 years ago, which is why I’m telling you now.

We all have good days and bad days. Some days I’m pretty happy with who I am and some days, I find being me to be exhausting.

Honestly, I think that most of the time, we are all just doing the best we can. And being human is rarely boring. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?


** Humaning: the art of being a human. I am well aware that this is not a real word, but I don’t care. I like it. I hope it goes viral.

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