I don’t know about you, but I like to let my imagination run wild.
On those special days, I take the reins off my Imagination Mustang and let her fly.
Yes, her name is Sally, and yes, she can be a fickle filly.
Sometimes my confident little pony runs to the light. She discovers places where dreams are realized. And not only realized, but ideally manifested. Places where goals are achieved and accomplishments actually bring about the desired feelings of joy and contentment.
Then other times, my scared little pony runs to the darkness. She finds places where dreams are dashed. And not only dashed, but completely destroyed. Places where goals are chased but unattained, or worse, accomplished but unfulfilling.
Friggin’ ugly places.
And yet, I continue to let her run. Because either place she chooses, light or dark, the stamina and determination and endurance of my little pony allows her to run so far and so fast that sometimes I’m sure we’ve arrived in a completely new, uncharted territory.
Some days, Sally makes me feel as though I’ve actually achieved the ever-elusive…
Original Human Thought.
But then I quickly come back down to Earth.
Because let’s face it, none of us has ever had an original thought. We haven’t completed a task, good or bad, that no one else has ever done. We haven’t experienced an emotion, positive or negative, that no one has ever felt. And we certainly haven’t imagined a dream, realistic or outlandish, that no one has ever envisioned.
It’s the Catch-22 of being human. We are inherently independent but innately social. We live in constant competition while still wanting a community. We reach but require support.
We will always feel that the grass could be greener, our laundry could cleaner, and our horses could be faster.
I have just come to accept this as the Fundamental Human Fact- we are never alone.
In fact, I’m so sure of it, that I’ll go ahead and say that the Fundamental Human Fact (FHF) is pretty much indisputable.
Feel free to disagree. I just like to stir the hyperbolic pot once in a while.
But as I started to think more and more about this Fact, I realized that we are terrible misusers of it. Rather, we aren’t using it at all.
And, I’ll show you how.
On the one hand, we have a fundamental desire to be independent.
We want to be unique. We want to stand out. We want to make our individual contribution to the world.
Be remembered. Be important.
And, when we are sure of ourselves and Sally is running toward the light, we tend to share it with others. We broadcast our successes and communicate our achievements. We establish bits of our very identity in the things we accomplish.
It is at this moment that we acknowledge, and inevitably get bummed out by, the Fundamental Human Fact.
Then, when we are seeking some level of attainment or trying to accomplish something huge, this Fact can be a total buzzkill. Sure, we may achieve something truly astounding. But just knowing that there is always someone else who will attain a little more, reach a little higher, or perform a little better…
Well, that just sucks.
But someone else’s Sally will always run just a little farther.
And we know it.
Not only do we know it, but we hate it. We hate it, because we want to think we are the special case or the exception to the rule. We want to outperform or win.
In this case, we want to be different.
On the other hand, we have a fundamental desire to be social. We want to be normal. We want to fit in. We want to keep the world spinning just the way it is.
Be secure. Be ok.
Then, when we are unsure of ourselves and fading toward the darkness, we tend to hide it from others. We avoid standing out by pretending that we know where we’re going or that we have it all together, even if we don’t. We try to maintain a little bit of that identity we gained while we were in the light.
It is at this moment that we screw up, and rather than using the FHF to our advantage, we completely ignore it.
When we are at our best and performing, we acknowledge that we are not alone. But when we are at our worst and failing, we think the exact opposite.
The darkness seems to have the ironic and unexplainable ability to make loneliness shine.
Instead of taking solace in the FHF, which says that we cannot possibly be alone in our thoughts, feelings, or experiences, we fight it. Instead of sharing the struggle and taking solace in the knowledge of others, we once again cling to the notion we are the special case, the exception to the rule, outside of the normal human experience.
We use the same broken logic, but this time, in a different, more destructive way.
Well that’s pretty straight-forward, you’re thinking. I totally get that, you’re saying.
You know why?
Because you’re reading it. You’re hearing it. Someone is telling it to you.
In all those other instances, those moments of hiding and pretending, those moments when we misuse the FHF, we definitely don’t see it. We don’t see it, because no one says it. We don’t even say it to ourselves.
But oh wow, the moment that someone does say it…
…you’ve never felt less alone in your life.
C.S. Lewis has this amazing quote about friendship. He says that friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another:
I thought I was the only one…
He also once said:
We read to know that we are not alone.
And the written word is precisely how I realized that I was not alone. It’s what I use to now spread that message to others. I write to tell that wonderful truth to everyone I can—
You are not alone.
Tons of influential people can pinpoint one book, article, or story that provided the turning point in their lives. Tim Ferriss attributes his love for life-style design to the audiobook Vagabonding. Marie Forleo tells the story of finding Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love in her moment of need and crying in the middle of a bookstore aisle. Tucker Max egotistically claims that his own best-seller is the book that changed his life.
But that’s Tucker for ya.
The book that changed my life, made me realize I was not alone, and travels with me everywhere I go…
Ugh, ok, I have to pause here, but not merely for suspense. I’m honestly embarrassed to actually say this so I need a minute…
My life-changing book…
Is a coffee table book.
But not just any coffee table book.
It is quite possibly the cheesiest-titled, most-commonly overlooked coffee table book of all time.
That’s right, ladies and gentleman. As introduced in Chicken Soup for the Soul and with a forward written by Jack Canfield himself, the book that changed my life is:
::pause for eye-rolling and potential scoffing::
Now, if you’ve never opened this book, first of all, shame on you. Second of all, you just do not know what you’re missing. Third of all, if you think this is some ploy to get you to buy a book, just email me and I’ll send you my copy.
This puppy is a game changer.
Or, at least it was for me.
If you’re not into meaningfully corny stuff, then we can agree to disagree.
But I have a good feeling that you are… so I’ll keep going.
There is a strange, ethereal, wonderful comfort that comes with seeing a thought you had in your head… appear on a page… written by someone else.
And with this book, that kept happening.
On literally every page.
I picked up this book on one random and unexpected visit to see my parents, who lived almost 2000 miles away at the time. I was in a place where I felt very lost, but was continuing to fight the good fight of life, thinking that my moment in the darkness would pass, and no one would be the wiser.
I was hiding.
I did this because I thought that no one could possibly understand what I was going through. No one had done it before. No one else’s Sally had ever run as far as mine, and damn, has she gotten me to a scary place.
But I was wrong.
This book, this woman’s words, this set of thoughts… made me see what I couldn’t see before.
I was not alone.
It was then that I realized we can use the Fundamental Human Fact in our favor.
We can look at both hands at once. We can make peace with that Catch-22. With a little logic, we can even make the FHF work for us, help us, help others.
If it’s true that someone will accomplish more than you, isn’t it also true that someone will attain less? If it’s true that someone can be happier than you, isn’t it also true that someone can be sadder? If it’s true that someone can imagine a dream grander than yours, isn’t it also true that someone can have a dimmer vision?
If it’s true that we are not alone in our highs, isn’t it also true that we are not alone in our lows?
We can use the FHF to remain humble and thankful in our highs and hopeful and steadfast in our lows. We can use it to know that we are not alone. But most importantly, we can use it to share it with others.
Your personal story may be different, but your human experience is the same.
Share your story.
Write it down. Speak it out loud. Give it to the world.
You never know who needs to hear it.
(As an aside, I have never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott, the author of that book. If someone wants to facilitate that, I will not stand in the way.)
What written or spoken word has touched your heart? Who may possibly benefit from a story like yours?
I believe that every greatness we enjoy right now can be traced back to one person, conversation, or observation that provided a turning point in our lives. I’d love to hear if you believe this, too.
Did this story resonate with you? Or did it make you think of a story of your own? Share your story or your reaction in the comments below.
Because sharing stories is an instinctual, powerful way to touch the hearts of others and change the world around us.