Hugging The Cactus Is Not A Fun Activity

By: Taylor Nam

Let’s make something clear: I don’t want to talk about this. The category for this little blog post is Lesson. Lessons? Really? Like, this has got to be a joke, because my literal everyday life could be the subject of this post. Hello, semi-adulthood, and thanks for the continual crash course in “You Don’t Know Anything And You Are A Peasant”.

Thus, I bite my nails while panic ensues because HOW DO I PICK JUST ONE LESSON?! How do I make sure that the one that I pick is going to be meaningful, or at least entertaining to read? Then, how do I make it new and fresh and different and blah blah blah? Most importantly, how do I make myself still look pretty good while talking about a lesson that I learned?

The idea of a lesson implies that the person learning the lesson has made a mistake. One good thing about me is that I’ll be the first one to admit my mistakes…little mistakes, I mean. I don’t make big mistakes. I’m too smart for that. I’m not an idiot. I’m also not the spawn of Maleficent, so most of my mistakes were born of good intention. So I’m never actually that wrong, you know?

I mean, sure, I’ll talk about a time when I learned a lesson simply for the sake of this blog post, but I’ll still look pretty thoughtful and wise and, above all, right at the end of the day. I’ll pick a little lesson about a mistake that doesn’t reveal anything deeply wrong with me. And then I’ll wrap it up with something inspirational, something about slowing down or soaking up or savoring the time, because everyone seems to be talking about their #firstworldproblems of having too much of a good thing that they lose the significance of it along the way. God have mercy on our post-post-modern souls.

Anyway, all in all, that will make for a sufficiently punchy and uplifting blog post which, if may I repeat myself once more, doesn’t make me look too bad. Win, win, and win for Team Taylor.

And now, dear reader(s)—if any of you have stuck with me thus far, you deserve a trophy and probably a few Aspirins for the migraine that my obnoxious, self-absorbed rambling has most definitely given you—could I be any more pathetic?

I have been given this space to talk about something that I’ve learned, something that has impacted me or changed me or showed me a bit more of what it means to live with full breaths. I’ve been given an opportunity to explore. So, naturally, I sit myself down, throw up a few walls and dig a moat with only one bridge that is locked except for select visiting hours and, even then, it has to be a full moon when the earth is specifically tilted so that the Big Dipper is seventy-six degrees from the horizon, etc., etc. But, I mean, at least I don’t throw alligators in the moat, okay?

When it comes to mistakes that I’ve made and subsequent lessons that I’ve learned, my willingness to explore and to learn says, “No thanks, I’ll be in my castle.”

It’s protection. It’s some kind of defense mechanism. It’s pride—the bad kind. I am unwilling to be honestly real, and why? To maintain my self-proclaimed “good” reputation? To cling blindly to a skewed sense of worth in my mostly-always-being-rightness? Sure.

The truth is that for all my walls and moats and locked bridges, it doesn’t matter if nobody knows the really bad parts of me because the really bad parts of me exist anyway. The fact that nobody knows about them does not change the fact that they are there, rotting and getting worse.

I can’t change the bad parts, I can’t learn the lesson without admitting that there is a lesson to be learned. Maybe my lessons aren’t as “bad” as other people’s. Maybe they are worse. Maybe they are just as bad as everyone else’s—and, HELLO SELF, it doesn’t matter where you stack up next to everyone else! I don’t have to compare my lessons to other peoples’ lessons in order to learn them. I do have to recognize my lessons, though, and, in recognizing them, I must acknowledge the lack of knowledge, the mistake, the bad thing that I did to learn the lesson.

So, sure, I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve made a mistake. But how much am I willing to explore beyond the simple the admission of a mistake? Would I admit that, okay, maybe I did actually mean to be hurtful when I flung that comment your way. Maybe I was being selfish/thoughtless/ungrateful. Maybe I royally screwed up my budget for this month because I wasn’t careful enough to notice when street cleaning was happening, and thus got two parking tickets which cost more than I make in a day (true story).

What I’m trying to say is, when one is willing to think deeply about mistakes, then perhaps a deeper or more impactful lesson may be learned. Spoiler alert: this is not a fun activity. It’s probably not anywhere in any sort of self-help book. I’ve never seen a quote on Instagram in that cool loopy font that says: “Think about stuff you’ve done wrong and why you did it.” I mean, honestly, it sucks pretty badly, because who likes to think of themselves like that?

Now, hear me clearly. I’m not talking about guilt. That’s a whole different thing. I’m not saying that we should agonize or obsess about all the mistakes we’ve made. I’m not saying to practice self-loathing. I’m not saying to not practice forgiveness and freedom. One-hundred-percent, I’m a fan of forgiveness and freedom and self-love and moving on and on and on.

But, before we move onto the butterflies and sunflower fields of our existence, I think it is important to realize that, yeah, maybe we hated butterflies a second ago. Maybe we burned a sunflower field. Why? Think about the why. Perhaps the more impactful lesson hides behind the why.

My mom had this phrase she used to say all the time that made no practical sense, but it resonates metaphorically: “Hug the cactus.” Wrap those castle-building-moat-digging arms around the prickly situation, the embarrassing mistake, the time that you (surprise, surprise) did something kind of bad. Hold it. Think about it. Be willing to be more wrong than you think you were. Be willing to apologize twice or three times. Be willing to think more deeply and to really, really, learn the lesson. Be willing to hug the cactus.

Lark ReelyComment