Monday, March 30, 2015

I Can Do Hard Things

There are so many things about living that are beautiful
and awesome
and fun;
like the signs of Spring after a long winter
or unsolicited hugs from my teenage sons
or when my girlfriends get together and laugh until our sides hurt.

But there are also many things that are hard;
like working full time
or burying your child
and loneliness.

I've recently come to believe hard things can't be avoided - you can't pray or wish them away or out strategize them. Hard things come and it's my opinion that our reactions and attitudes towards hard things can greatly impact how well we survive those seasons.

Listen, I don't know about you, but when something is tough there is no way I want to make it any more difficult than it has to be.

So while I don't believe there is any prescriptive information that we can all follow to survive hard times - I mean we're all different and unique and different personality types ... what I have learned from my own trials and tribulations is what not to do in hard times.

So here's my NOT To-Do list when experiencing hard things:

Don't hide from the hard thing.

Have you ever known someone to be sick only to find they walk around pretending that they're not? These are the worst folks because while they're hacking and germifying everything around everyone they spout some positive thinking jargon like, "I'm not sick!" and you're all like, "Dude! If you're a picture of health why doesn't anyone want to be near you?"
That's why I think we can't afford to hide from hard things. Avoiding the obvious only delays healing.
Why be sick any longer than you have to be?
Instead, use the energy you were using to avoid the hard thing and instead steer it towards moving yourself in a healthier position.

Don't pretend the hard thing isn't hard.

This one was huge for me. "I'm not weak."
"I can do it."
"I don't need help."
"I. Don't. Need. Help!!" (stubborn much?)

I reasoned that help was a weakness.

Listen, friend - it's not. Help is a good friend. Help is mercy. Mercy is love. Love steps in.
Why would I ever deliberately keep love and help and mercy away from me? I need those things. I need to bathe in those things.
Instead I've learned to say, "Yes, this is hard."
And do you know what it takes to admit that?
Vulnerability with myself. And yes, with those I love.
That's a risk. Maybe I won't get help. Maybe I'll feel judged.

Or maybe admitting something is hard and calling it out by name takes away the shame and fear of weakness.

Don't cover up the hard thing.

I'm not suggesting you reveal to the world your hardships or pain. No, of course not. But if you hide your burden, and keep covered your pain, something strange and unlovely happens in those dark places. Fear grows in the dark.
Not everyone has to know about your hard thing, but neither is it a good idea to keep it covered and hidden.
Even seeds start in the dark. The dark, damp soil. But with light and water and nutrients that seed transforms up out of the dark and into it's purpose.
You can too. But not without light.
And friends.
And love.

I found the most amazing thing when when I refused to cover up my hard things ...

I was free from keeping false pretenses.
I was free to accept the help I needed.
I was open to hear the encouragement from friends.

Finding freedom in the midst of pain?
How's that work?
I'm not sure to say except that when that happened I actually felt a little
a little proud of myself.
And I don't know if I ever, in forever, remember having that feeling.
I mean, when was the last time you sat down, reflected and smiled ear to ear because you were proud of yourself?

It's an amazing feeling.

A few years ago, at the onset of my hard thing, I'll be honest with you... I didn't know if I was gonna be able to do it.
And if I could do it, still ... that didn't even mean that I could do it well.
I might make it worse.
I might not know what the flip I was doing most of the time.
It might be too much.
I might fail.
But who was I not to try?

I'll never forget this one time, while in the midst of a very, very hard day I sat in the bathroom and cried.
I was exasperated. I felt weak. It was too much.
But I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered what would I tell my best friend if she were me and I was there with her.
It was then I reminded myself of the words best coined by Momastery writer, Glennon Melton,

"I can do hard things"

So I wiped my tears and reapplied mascara because, duh!, and finished that day.

Then that day turned into that week.
That week became a month.
And a year.
And now years.
And guess what?
I can do years worth of hard things.
Years, people!

I would have never believed I could have done that, and even today I don't know what hard things still are to come, but at least in this moment I'm on the end where the light shines bright again and Hope beat out despair.
Yes! Today I find myself thankful
-yes, thankful-
for the hard things in my life.
For how else could I have learned my capacity for bravery and hard things?
Huh, who knew I had some?
And now this is what I say.
I tell people 'You can do hard things'
I told my daughter when I sent her back to college.
I told my son while studying for an exam.
I said the same thing to my darling hubs about a recent decision looming on the horizon.
Are hard things difficult?
Yep, but guess what? You can do hard things.
And I can too. 

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