“One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.”
-James Russell Lowell
The universe has a way of leading us to things that we need.
Two days ago I was sitting at my desk brewing my herbal tea, bemoaning the last six months of my existence as a coffee-free shell of a human. I try not to whine (at work, anyway) but the challenge is mighty when everything about you feels wildly different in a condensed period of time.
The whole of my body is foreign. It’s one thing to gain weight in predictable places, but it’s quite another to find unnerving changes in your wrists, nostrils, and eyeballs. Body mobility has shifted, and continues to shift, as evidenced by accidental injury after accidental injury. Symptoms happily fade while new, worse ones replace them.
I’m not as sharp, either. I once prided myself on my mental acuity. Now my brains feel soft and fleshy, like a toothless mouth gumming on itself trying to remember what the precision of biting into corn on the cob felt like. I know things used to live there, but all I can sense are their remnants.
Emotions might as well be brand-new. The first time we experience tragedy, the sorrow is stark and vacuous, threatening to pour our very souls over the edge of eternity. It’s like that, but in response to watching the Disney movie Tangled or a video of puppies and babies playing together. Often I emote all of the emotions simultaneously (there are a lot of emotions, btw), and exhaust the available supply. If there are to be tears, I cry out all of the fluids in my body. If I am amused, I laugh out every bit of laugh my muscles can bear. It’s a terrible comedy that nobody wants to watch (but one to which my husband always has front-row seats).
While dwelling on my woe, I remembered times in my life when I had become stagnant. For someone who craves stability, it’s merely a skip over the pond to stagnancy, which is detestable. Juggling the balance became a defining characteristic of my twenties. The thing about stagnancy is I end up longing for experiences of all kinds. Terrifying ones, thrilling ones, exciting, uncertain, novel, spontaneous, unpredictable, content, full, still, vast ones. Existential boredom at its purest, yearning for anything at all.
I pondered the idea of stagnancy as I swirled the tea bag around in the steaming water, and noticed writing on the tag.
One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.
Ah, of course. Thank you, universe, for the lovely reminder that deep down, I am grateful for the experience of making a human. Because it is experience nonetheless, and however trying it may be, it means I’m living and feeling and being and doing something hard that scares the crap out of me. And I’ll take fat calves and bloody noses over existential boredom any day.