We are pretty good at beating ourselves up with increasing levels of imagination and creativity. I recently scanned past a message on social media that said, “if you’re not grimacing every time you look at old work, then you aren’t growing.”
Although on first glance it didn’t catch my attention. In fact it seemed to make sense.
But later that day I paused and had a double take.
“Hold on, what!?” I said to myself, thinking back to the quote. So if I’m not grimacing…EVERY TIME I look at my old work, then I’m NOT GROWING.
It’s no wonder so many people experience the modern world under a cloud of inexplicable anxiety and dissatisfaction.
These kinds of messages aren’t intentionally harmful. They don’t want us to feel bad about ourselves. They are a symptom of a world that requires us to believe in the bad infinite.
A world that encourages us to pursue a painful grimacing path. Why? Because we’re promised a soothing balm for our discomfort…just a little further.
And we encounter an ironic (and perfectly natural) contradiction. Growth and wilting are two sides of the same coin.
Cycles of Becoming
Our story of becoming is one of growth and degradation, seasons and cycles.
The grimace seems like a rejection of this truth. A dismissive turn away from our humanness.
If we grimace at what has been then we will forever be grimacing, while tethered to a carrot of false magical thinking that tells us we will get there if we keep on growing. Even though all we find when we get ‘there’ is another fragmented window through which to look at our past and grimace.
All we have is now.
Our relationship with who we were before we got here, and who being here will take us to become, is a complex web of experimentation, play, pain, growth, and entropy. We’re moving in circles as we oscillate forwards. The inhale and the exhale.
What if the grimace is a warning sign? The pain of our inner-child expressing itself in the mirror. A whisper from the soul. Pointing to the ways we’ve become internally fractured, alienated, and disconnected. The cost that comes from sacrificing ourselves to the perpetual empty promise of future satisfaction.