You Don’t Have to Be Certain to Be Helpful

I’ve decided that being a relatively content human is often about learning how to hold two contradictory truths in your brain at the same time without imploding.

What do I mean by this?

Well, let’s start with an example — namely, me. Because I am a total contradiction in so many ways.

I am largely a science-y, show me the evidence, where’s the proof kind of person. And yet, I absolutely believe that intuition trumps intellect in many situations. I also study both neurobiology and astrology in my spare time (what???), and while I am ridiculously grateful and content with my life, I am also simultaneously the least satisfied person ever. (And, yes, that makes me pretty annoying to be around sometimes.)

I’m mostly put together and emotionally grounded, but I also regularly deal with anxiety that can seem to arise out of nowhere and can be, at times, completely overwhelming in scope.

I’m a mess. Maybe you are, too.


And while I’ve written about this before, I feel like it’s worth reiterating. Especially in light of a conversation I had with a friend this past week about the struggle to stay grounded in his own gratitude amidst the suffering he sees around him in the world.

Because this world is fucking crazy, you guys. And terrible. And ugly. And there is a lot of nonsensical madness and violence to be found almost anywhere you go.

But also:  The world is beautiful and kind and peaceful. And it is full of loving and compassionate souls. And there are so many incredible, magical things to behold.

Both of these things are equally true. The beauty and the ugliness. The love and the immense hatred. The creativity and the destruction. It’s all a part of the larger, more complex whole within which we are living.

There are days when I find it exceedingly challenging to reconcile the contradictory nature of reality, days when I feel guilty for the freedoms and luxuries I enjoy knowing what I know about the world at large. And lately, I have been seeing a distinct uptick in the level of anxiety and dis-ease I’m encountering in my work with patients.

It feels like the election this past November brought so much of the ugliness of this world to the surface and forced us to face it in ways many of us have not been forced to face it before. People have been feeling less hopeful, it seems. And less joyful. There has been more fear and sadness and anger.

And there has been a lot of grief. A LOT.


But here’s the thing, you guys:  We cannot forfeit our gratitude because of what anyone — orange or otherwise — in a position of power chooses to do with that power.

We cannot disengage or fall into apathy. And we certainly can’t allow it all to entirely override the beauty and the love that will always and inevitably coexist with even the ugliest of realities.

If you are reading this on your computer or your smartphone or your tablet, I’d venture to guess that you’ve got some things for which to be thankful.

To which I say:  Yes! Be as grateful as you possibly can.

But then? Mobilize that gratitude into action.

Joy is meant to be shared, spread around, scattered as far and wide as we can muster the strength to scatter it. And if you, like me, look around at your life and marvel at the abundance by which you are surrounded on a daily basis, I would argue that it is your responsibility to take the reigns in this communal joy-scattering effort.

My friend of whom I spoke earlier? He might be struggling with the contradictions, but he’s not letting that stop him from doing a shit ton of good anyway. In fact, he’s on his way right now to provide medical care for refugees halfway around the world.

What? I know. He’s amazing.

So, if my friend can muster up the courage and the compassion and the badassery to mobilize his own gratitude and abundance in such a beautiful way, I’m fairly certain the rest of us can do so on a much smaller scale in our own lives.

Even if all you do today is buy a stranger a cup of coffee, that’s WAY better than doing nothing. Right?


So, here’s to joy and gratitude and love. And to the messy work of being a thoughtful human in a world full of confusion and contradictions and uncertainty.