We are shaped by conditions, limitations, rules and regulations from the moment we are born. Our parents have expectations, our friends have expectations, and the establishments we immerse ourselves in condition us to live a certain way. There is always that nagging fear in the deep part of your chest, if I don't do that, then this will happen, and the extent to which that pressure shapes us all varies greatly. But it exists, regardless if we dedicate ourselves to adhering to every standard or if we attempt to live outside of every norm we encounter. These invisible lines of society constrain us in big and small ways and the more we fight against their restrictions the tighter they knot around our wrists and ankles, forever reminding us that we are bound to these laws, an unfortunate side effect of being alive.
There are many unfortunate side effects of being alive. Creativity and focus are scarce resources, and we wade through a cess pool of mindless routine, stopping occasionally to view the creativity of others and wishing we had enough time in the confines of the 24 hour day to feel some sort of expression within our selves. We focus on the insignificant, deeply despairing every mishap to befall us, and everything worth our notice, our focus, slips by, undetected, only to be seen by the person who manages to stand still, just for an instant, in the forward monotonous movement of life.
Existing means watching everyone else also exist, and if one isn't careful there is the very real danger of wasting an entire lifetime watching the existence of others and wishing to exist as they do. Another condition of society is that we must always care about everything at once, from the crises happening in our home and across the world, to the latest slip ups of those in the spotlight to the mundane drama of the people around you. To care is to feel, and to feel is incredible, because it opens us up to experience the world through different multicolored lenses, a kaleidoscope of emotion that distorts and bends the very conditions we try to live outside of. But many people do not know how to care, and by extension, do not know how to feel. To care has been reduced to expressing a slight interest in a topic, or to reposting a widely circulated piece of information, or to nod blankly at your teary eyed friend while all the while considering your own life in the back of your brain: the pressing appointments, the piling paperwork and the emotional pain eating away at the pit of your own stomach.
But love! you'll cry out to me, the most important thing, the force that makes living this regulated, overprocessed life livable, the force that liberates us from this grayness or bleakness. Or maybe some of you won't say love, you'll say money or things or knowledge, which is just another ironic symptom of a conditional society, because you've been forced into an existence where you've learned to prioritize tangible things over intimate connection with the people around you, over meditation and peace. But who really finds peace anyways, right? Because we are bound here, stuck here, maybe even happy to be here, content to relinquish calm for chaos.
I'm afraid we've turned happiness into a product, something we can purchase online or off a bookshelf or in therapy, and honestly I truly hate the idea of "happy" as something constantly achievable. Happiness is just a clever trick of the conditions of society, because no one will ever always be happy, but we still have this ridiculous idea that when we don't achieve a consistent euphoria we've somehow failed, or come up short. We'll look around us at all the other happy people (ha) and we'll curl up at night with the blanket clenched in our fists staring obsoletely out into the blackness of our bedroom wondering what we have done to deserve such a cursed, unhappy existence. Happiness is an example of life's conditional love: only those who meet all the little white boxes can find it, so we must always strive to be someone who might eventually be worthy of a check mark.
And who said love was the reason for living anyways? Love hurts, especially for those of us trapped by the conditional love of a parent or a friend or a lover. Every individual on this planet deserves unconditional love, a space to fuck up and still be loved, a space to be yourself and still be loved, a place to do the unthinkable and still be loved. But so many of us are deprived of that, or cannot recognize it when we see it because we been blinded by years of love wrapped in conditions, love that tells you that you aren't good enough unless you do it like that, aren't beautiful enough unless you look like them, aren't worth being loved unless you lose yourself to this. Conditional love curls us up in the safety of warmth and affection and than spits us out unexpectedly to fend for ourselves and collect the shattered pieces of our hearts. Conditional love waits for us to tape it all back together, form some independent semblance of ourselves that we might consider loving, and then it pulls us back in, lulling us into a false place of trust before breaking us all over again. Conditional love is needy and greedy, it itself is struggling and it needs the goodness of another heart to survive, just until the moment it decides that it needs to seek its life force elsewhere. Conditional love is a master in the art of selfishness, an art that those who it preys on need desperately to master. Conditional love leaves us wretched and alone, it makes us zero in on our flaws and on our gifts, deeming everything unworthy. It abandons us with a body we've forgotten how to love.
But to recognize that you will only be loved by someone if you meet a standard is to learn self preservation. Perhaps years of suffering will be needed to learn this, perhaps for a great time you will need to beg for scraps of peace from a person, from a job, from a drug, only to learn that they will never give it to you, and that every high will end with a long plunging trip downward into something dark and twisty that you swear each time you will never face again. But when you see it, when you see that thing restrict your chance at peace, and you begin to pivot in the other direction, until one day you can take a step, and the next day you might actually be able to manage a brisk walk to a place far away from the thing that leeches off you, you will have broken free of a condition, (how edgy of you!) and maybe, just maybe you'll find that what everyone wants from you truly isn't important, and that what you want from yourself may just save you.