Monday, February 18, 2013

The Dirty Little Secret. . .

photo credit SheCat
Life is messy. It rarely works right, and most things you try will go wrong the first time. Learning something new is frustrating, and skills take time to develop. People will disappoint you--repeatedly. Sadness is a part of existence, and happy times will not last forever.

Ok, go out and enjoy life!

No? Ok, then let's say a little more. I am a self-help junkie. I have been about self-improvement since I was little. Somehow, I missed the memo that says people don't start out perfect at anything. I got discouraged and quit when I did not show instant talent for music, sports, and the world of fashion. I avoided things that I didn't immediately master, and missed out on a lot of fun and useful skills and experiences. 

The books I read were very linear. Their format: 

  • This is how horrible my life used to be.
  • I tried XYZ Strategy.
  • After a short amount of work, things got better.
  • Now I'm a millionaire/in amazing health/smarter than you, etc.
I read these books as completely factual accounts of the author's struggles. It never occurred to me that no one falls once, gets up, and walks on with nary another problem. So I would try XYZ Strategy, and when it didn't work, I felt that I had failed.

As I grow (relentlessly) older, I have hit snags. I believe marriage is for life, so when I hit walls in my relationship with my husband, I had to roll up my sleeves and learn to get along with another human being. When my health would not improve with my quick-fix changes, I had to begin a slow process of changing everything--how I thought, what I ate, my activities, and my expectations. 

Finally, I realized the truth that some people are blessed to see in their youth: life is hard, but well worth it. All those points in that first paragraph are true. There are a lot of things that will hurt you, disappoint you, and make you cry in the average life. 

But there are also daily miracles of shining suns, arching rainbows, babies' cries, and making slow but steady progress on your own goals. People will disappoint you, but they will also surprise you, touch you, and humble you with their love, devotion, and kindness. A soothing touch, a small gift, a small but heroic deed. 

You may not succeed at everything, but the things you struggle with will yield a sweet sense of accomplishment when you do conquer them, and will build resilience when you do not.

Accept that most things in life take work. In an interview with Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon.comBrene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, talks about the importance of struggle in becoming a hopeful person:
"Yes. I’ve seen again and again that hope is a function of struggle. People of high levels of hopefulness are very often people with deep experiences of adversity. Yet we see people doing things we admire and think, “I could never do that.” But most of us haven’t seen all the falls and scrapes and bruises it takes to get there."

No one told me how the bitter times in life make us who we are, and give us the ability to appreciate the sweet things. Never despair in your struggles--they may just open your mind and heart to something wonderful!