To greatly please my lovely catholic best friend, I will start this reflection with a quote from a saint:
“Love and suffering are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love.” -St. Gianna Molla
I haven’t had the pleasure of writing a reflective article for a while, but here I am, suffering for what I love! I’ve been working for about nine months now, just finished paying off my car, have been selling some artwork on the side, and have been thinking about what I’d want to pursue for a master’s in the future.
I’ve grown tremendously in my career so far alongside a really awesome team, but it definitely hasn’t been easy. As someone who is a perfectionist with anxiety (and depression mixed in it), it can be hard to have “good” days even when the day is the definition of good.
And through many nights of exhaustion, tears, wondering what else I should be doing with my life besides just working each day, I’ve come to realize that life will forever be difficult and that’s okay.
I’ve been doing my very best to remind myself that bad days are totally normal and that not everyday has to be productive or meaningful, and that you can only change the world so much, one day at a time.
You have to work hard to find purpose, but you also have to know when to stop and let the purpose come to you.
Or, to actually see it in front of you, rather than be so blinded by searching.
Facing difficulty, through perseverance, leads to resilience.
So rather than allow ourselves to be defeated, overwhelmed, or conquered by difficulty, why not embrace it, or even, allow ourselves to be liberated by it?
Think of an easy and hard experience in your life. Which experience did you grow more from? Which offered you more perspective, made you more thoughtful, empathetic, or open minded? The answer?: Your difficult experience.
Even if you’re on the brink of a break down, sometimes saying: “I’ve got this, I can get through it, and I’ll be okay”, and meaning it, gives yourself permission to accept hardship. When you accept something, it in turn becomes easier to manage because you are no longer resisting or defying it. You are allowing it to flow through you, rather than trying to stop the current.
That, in itself, can make a powerful impact on your perspective and your state of mind. Basically, this is a deeper way of saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” – and if you’re anything like me, you’re used to sweating the small stuff all the time (ugh).
I work in a field that requires me to help people all day long, which, as an empathetic person, naturally causes me stress (because I care of course). I’ve found that my shoulders are typically up by my ears for most of the day, leaving me stiff and in pain within an hour of my work day.
To combat this, I’ve tried to spend more time stepping away from my desk, dropping my shoulders, and just breathing and stretching with my eyes closed. My body’s automatic response to most things is to tense up when I’m stressed, so by allowing myself to recognize the pain and address it, rather than ignore it, I’m better able to handle the stress since I’m taking care of myself.
Stress in life is inevitable.
Your perspective and how you address struggle is of ultimate importance. Are you letting the cinder block attached to your ankle pull you under the current, or do you hold your breath, swim down, and force the weight to rise with you? That is the question.
Making things a habit is also very helpful. If you force yourself into healthy habits, such as going to the gym consistently, it’s much easier to devote energy and time to doing that thing. Of course, it’s hard to form the habit at first, but I promise you, it’s utterly helpful – make reminders for yourself, put it in your calendar, get up 10 minutes earlier to commit time to the new habit – make it happen.
I will say, going to the gym is probably the best form of “suffering” that you can do for yourself. It’s a literal physical manifestation of working through difficulty. You must muster through pain to grow stronger – and the harder you work, the easier it becomes to manage the soreness and the time commitment.
The same can be said for life in general. Working through pain, accepting it, and embracing it rather than denying it can lead to an enlightened sense of existence. Hey, if you can’t beat them, join them right?
This concept is very similar to the one from the book I read recently called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” – by Mark Manson – while the idea of simply “not caring” is laughable at best, caring a little “less” about certain things can really give you a lot more energy for things that deserve your care. Why make everything difficult when you can choose the difficult thing you actually want to put energy into – like your job, or working out, your hobby, your kids, etc. (Pst, if you’re like me, you may want to chill out a bit on work – it’s not that end of the world if you don’t give 100% everyday).
It’s important too to discount irrelevant or stress-inducing things in your life as well – things that take away more than add should be cut out or re-evaluated. Time is valuable and you shouldn’t waste it on just anything or anyone.
All in all, learning to understand difficulty rather than denying it, or constantly try to combat it can make a world of difference.
I’ve come to accept that I’m a naturally sad and anxious person – understanding that about myself gives me back a sense of control because I’ve accepted that I’m an imperfect person that has flaws – although my flaws can make things more difficult, recognizing them puts the power back in my hands. And when you allow yourself to recognize that, you start to see that hard things are often as hard as they are because you make them that way.