Tabula Rasa

19 Nov

quote, fear, success, failure, starting over, self-improvement, carl bard, inspirationalHave you ever felt like something (a thought, an idea, a situation) kept popping up all around you? I believe in the power of The Universe. I believe it’s always trying to guide us, and I believe in its infinite wisdom.

Recently I’ve been confronted with a series of situations and conversations centered around the idea of being undeserving. With one person it was being undeserving of success, with a few others it was being undeserving of happiness.

Tabula Rasa is a Latin phrase roughly translating to “blank slate.” It is the philosophical idea that humans are born with empty minds, and it is only through perception and experience that they gain knowledge. Basically, we’re all empty canvases when we’re born, and that canvas gets scribbled on throughout our lives.

I think we all see ourselves as Tabula Rasas. When we were younger we had so much potential, the world at our fingertips. Our youthful exuberance coupled with our desire to take over the world made anything possible for us.

And then? Well, a whole bunch of nasty shit happened.

We didn’t graduate high school. We didn’t graduate college. We got stuck in dead end jobs. We married the wrong person. We got divorced. Maybe we got married and divorced again. We suffered from an eating disorder. We struggled with addiction. We were broke. We struggled with our mental health. We were abused. We were bullied.

Suddenly our canvas looks like a Jackson Pollock painting, and it’s all our fault.

We spend years beating ourselves up over the shoulda woulda coulda of every situation. What if I hadn’t had that first drink? What if I had resisted the urge to binge and purge? What if I had listened to my friends and not married that awful woman?

Fast forward to when good things finally do happen to us. Maybe it’s finding a wonderful partner, or getting the job we’ve always wanted. Suddenly that pestering voice in our heads begin chattering, and the anxiety builds in our chests.

“I don’t deserve this.”

We’ve bought into it. The idea that we all started off so perfectly, and then crushed that perfection beneath the weight of our own stupidity.

I used to feel like an imposter. Work Jen is whip smart and motivated. Jen and Tonic is funny and insightful. Relationship Jen is loyal and loving. Friend Jen is generous and compassionate. But the real Jen? Well, she’s the screw up who hides behind the other Jens.

What I’ve come to realize is that those other Jens couldn’t exist without the real one. All those wrong turns I took in life shaped the person I’ve become. My insights, my humor, my work ethic, my loyalty, my compassion. These are all direct results of every single mistake (trust me, some were whoppers) that I’ve ever made.

Remember the Jackson Pollock painting I referenced earlier? And the splattered paint that ruined a perfectly good canvas? One of those bad boys sold for $140 million dollars in 2006.

There is value in destruction.

We have to stop looking at ourselves as blank slates that have been destroyed, and as amalgams of our experiences. Sure, we may have taken a rocky, more painful road to get to where we are today, but we still got here.

We still deserve love.

We still deserve success.

We still deserve happiness.

You deserve that.

107 Responses to “Tabula Rasa”

  1. Aussa Lorens 11/19/2013 at 11:07 am #

    I remember learning the concept of Tabula Rasa in high school… I didn’t like it then (when I was still naive and optimistic) and I don’t like it now that I am jaded and cynical either 😉 I don’t like to think of myself as a blank sheet of paper that can get scribbled on and ruined and crumpled.. I prefer to think of life, and me in it, like some sort of vine that just grows and spreads out in a million different directions, grabbing on to things and taking hold wherever I can find a chance. Maybe that’s the extra two shots of espresso talking though…

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:47 pm #

      Love the vine analogy! I also think the blank slate thing is total bullshit. Not just from an emotional standpoint, but scientifically speaking as well.

  2. Amanda Larson 11/19/2013 at 11:02 am #

    I love this–thanks for sharing! I’m also realizing that when I feel like the Jackson Pollock painting, it’s really hard to admit and be honest about it. There’s a strong pull to paint my life as if everything was great, as if I was strong and put together, and forever seeing myself as capable and confident. But in doing that, I minimize the fact that I am human, too. And like you said, that mess does not make me (or anyone else) less capable and less beautiful. Instead, it makes us real. And whole. Thanks for putting it so eloquently and for sharing this life lesson.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Yes! I am just now learning how to share my emotions, and find it difficult to share when I’m not feeling on the up and up. As though somehow it makes me weak when I’m not feeling 100%. Now I see that strength is being able to say what you’re feeling.

  3. The Cutter 11/19/2013 at 10:30 am #

    I do sometimes wonder why I have received good fortune, and whether or not I actually deserve it. I guess I do, huh?

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:31 pm #

      It’s amazing how those little negative thoughts sneak in and we don’t even notice.

  4. Edee Lemonier 11/19/2013 at 10:27 am #

    I might actually print this one out.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Print it out, staple it around town, e-mail it Congress.

  5. JWo 11/19/2013 at 9:49 am #

    Very insightful and I couldn’t agree more.

    We’ve all made wrong turns on the roads of life, but those are learning experiences meant to teach us lessons and shape us into better people.

    It takes longer for some people to realize that even the “bad” experiences can be good for them – often feeling like a victim – which sometimes causes them to make the same mistakes.

    But when we finally figure it out everything becomes clear.

    This is my story of the day things became clear for me…

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Really enjoyed your post. And yes, there are some people who love to victimize themselves. I do believe there are people who have been the victims of something, I just don’t think it’s ever healthy to be a victim of yourself.

  6. daniheart21 11/19/2013 at 9:44 am #

    Awesome narrative filled with so much truth. I believe the whole purpose is to muddy the canvas with experience and wisdom.. It shapes us into who we are. I don’t think we can fully appreciate good if we don’t know bad. 🙂

  7. Paul 11/19/2013 at 9:43 am #

    I absolutely loved this Jen. I’ve really been studying mindfulness lately and have already gained so much from it…especially from Eckhart Tolle. If you’ve never read it The New Earth by him is incredible. It expands on The Ower of Now and since I’ve been practicing letting go ironically more has been happening for me. I too share your belief in the inherent wisdom of the Universe: letting go and allowing it to do its thing without me getting in the way has been scary but incredible. Also check out Gangaji on Youtube. An amazing woman with a powerful message.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:05 pm #

      Love Tolle and Gangaji! Have we talked about this before, or are we just always in synch?

      Mindfulness is huge, especially when beginning to break the cycle of negative thinking. “Believe it to achieve it” or something along those lines.

  8. Burns the Fire 11/19/2013 at 9:40 am #

    The good, the bad, the beautiful and ugly. All of it. Thanks for this!

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:04 pm #

      Yeah, we’re all mixtures of the three…hopefully leaning on the good and beautiful sides.

  9. Love Associates 11/19/2013 at 9:36 am #

    Reblogged this on loveassociates's Blog and commented:
    I had to share because this is truly something to think about and apply to your own lives.

    ❤️One Love beautiful people

  10. Love Associates 11/19/2013 at 9:31 am #

    Bravo! I love this post. Thanks for sharing Jen😊

  11. ZakcHead 11/19/2013 at 9:20 am #

    Tabula rasa… Interesting. I have always wanted that, a blank slate. I am very pessimistic about the idea however, the only true revolution of past into the new future is death. Nothing is quite anew like the renewal of birth.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:00 pm #

      Even in death you don’t necessarily get a clean slate. In fact, death means your life ended there, and there is no chance of improvement.

      • ZakcHead 11/20/2013 at 8:51 pm #

        Well if life is over, then let’s be done with it.

        • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:52 pm #

          I should hope life isn’t over! I’ve still got more to do and see.

          • ZakcHead 11/20/2013 at 8:56 pm #

            With the ending of one life, begins another.

          • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 8:58 pm #

            Ah, well. I guess that’s a spiritual argument. I just think we die and that’s it. Although, I guess we do turn into fertilizer which plants love.

          • ZakcHead 11/21/2013 at 6:24 am #

            I’m still trying to adjust my views on the whole “after-life” thing, reincarnation sounds pretty swell nowadays… I’ve always wanted to be a cat.

  12. rollergiraffe 11/19/2013 at 9:15 am #

    Life as a Jackson Pollock; I like this analogy, because you can keep adding more layers and colours, and the stuff underneath isn’t gone, it just adds texture.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 7:59 pm #

      Yep. Those textures and layers are what make us interesting. I’m constantly amazed by people’s depth when I’m first beginning to know them.

  13. philosophermouseofthehedge 11/19/2013 at 9:06 am #

    We are a total of our pasts. Anyone who doesn’t have any mistakes isn’t growing. You have to know what you don’t want in order to know what you do want. Mush onward.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/20/2013 at 7:58 pm #

      “We are a total of our pasts.” That’s an excellent way of putting it. None of us are any one thing.

  14. michellestodden 11/19/2013 at 9:02 am #

    “There is value in destruction.” Very true. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Pema Chodron: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”
    We are not frauds; we are human beings.
    Wonderful post, Jen. Thank you.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 9:05 am #

      LOVE that quote! And it’s so true. I’ve learned a lot about myself from the situations that kicked me around a bit.

  15. RFL 11/19/2013 at 8:52 am #

    Beautiful post, Jen. Again!!!

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 9:01 am #

      Thanks, Rachelle! That means a lot to me coming from you.

  16. jessicagartlandn 11/19/2013 at 8:37 am #

    Reblogged this on The Dread Pirate Buttercup and commented:
    We must all conquer these things. An article for the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 9:00 am #

      Thanks, Jessica! Always appreciate those reblogs.

  17. -Pille- 11/19/2013 at 8:36 am #

    Thank you, Jen. Thank you for this post.

  18. jessicagartlandn 11/19/2013 at 8:35 am #

    “The real Jen” Exactly! I do this as well. I still most days feel like I am playing dress up and my role today is… Usually something to do with being an Adult. I am an imposter because real adults… fill in the blank. You have hit the nail on the head. Lately my imposter feeling are, ” I am not a writer etc …I still cannot fill out the about section of my blog,because of things like this. Or for that matter really figure out what my blog should be about. Thank you for this. I too hold ideas about Universal signs. So it turns out, you just may be one of mine 😉

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 8:59 am #

      Playing dress up! Yes! This is exactly it. I feel this way a lot at work. Like I’m some child pretending to be an adult.

      Also, don’t tell yourself you’re not a writer. You feel like you have something to say, and you try to express it the best you can. That is being a writer in my opinion. Practice doesn’t makes perfect, it just makes it easier.

      • jessicagartlandn 11/19/2013 at 9:10 am #

        Thank you for the words of encouragement. I often try and imagine that most writers and hell creative people in general go through this.” I am not a painter I just paint” etc…I often feel like an imposter the most when I am parenting. It may be because it is the most adult hing you can do . Just a thought. However the idea that someday when i :grow up” is just always in the background.

  19. Doggy's Style 11/19/2013 at 8:10 am #

    I just gotta echo what everybody has said, thanks and great post!

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 8:57 am #

      Absolutely! And thanks. Sometimes you never know what will happen when you throw your words out there.

  20. Ruby Tuesday 11/19/2013 at 8:03 am #

    One of the biggest keys to maintaining my sanity — and you know that with me, that was and will always be a matter of true life and death — is to never ever look at my life in terms of what could have been, what should have been, what would have been. None of that matters, all we have to go forth with is what is. And getting caught up in looking back can make you insane. Or turn you into a pillar of salt. 😉

    We are all different people in different situations, and as you found out, they all originate from the core of who we are, within. And you are one of the best eggs I know, Ms. and Tonic.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 8:57 am #

      Thanks, darlin’. Likewise.

      And you’re right– all we can do is take what we have, and work with that. It doesn’t do any good (and actually does harm) to think about the ‘what ifs’ of life. I wish I hadn’t spent so many years of my life spinning my wheels on those thoughts.

  21. Twindaddy 11/19/2013 at 8:00 am #

    Jen, you are truly wise. Love this post and I know these feelings you allude to.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 8:54 am #

      I always find it comforting to know I’m not the only one out there who has experienced self-flagellation.

      • Twindaddy 11/19/2013 at 9:03 am #

        You’re not even close to being the only one.

  22. TJLubrano 11/19/2013 at 7:55 am #

    “value in desctrution” – I love that. 🙂 Sometimes you do need to break before you truly and fully appreciate what you have rebuild and/or how you see yourself. You will never wear one mask in life and you have to embrace the many ‘yous’. Such a great piece!

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 8:52 am #

      “Sometimes you do need to break before you truly and fully appreciate what you have rebuild and/or how you see yourself.” So true! Sometimes everything needs to fall apart first.

  23. Calamity Rae 11/19/2013 at 7:53 am #

    Some things are harder to erase than others. I really like that Carl Bard quote.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 8:51 am #

      Isn’t that the truth? You can try, but the traces linger.

  24. NotAPunkRocker 11/19/2013 at 7:49 am #

    Thank you for this today; I needed it.

    • Jen and Tonic 11/19/2013 at 8:49 am #

      See? The Universe at play! Happy this message could reach you when you needed it.

  25. Le Clown 11/19/2013 at 7:46 am #

    Sometimes, a simple thank you must suffice…
    Jen, thank you.
    Le Clown

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