How To Survive The Struggle

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“Someone just hit me”… These are words you never want to hear from a person you love.  Last week, my assistant was running errands in my car when she was involved in an accident.

I rushed to the scene to find her shaken and my car smashed to pieces.   I took a deep breath and prayed as she was taken away in an ambulance.

They say bad things come in 3s, but I ignored this belief and decided to stay positive.  Then I got 2 more lovely surprises.

I needed to unwind so we took the boat out the next day.   We were gliding across the bay when the steering stopped working.   We were instantly stranded and had to be towed for 3 hours….in the middle of a storm.

Soaked and exhausted, I still managed to keep a smile on my face while on the inside I was saying, “Really?”

Then the next day I was hit with the granddaddy breakdown.   My son’s #1 college choice, the one he had dreamed about his whole life, (and that was a sure thing one week ago) called him and said there had been a sudden change and it wasn’t going to work out.

This was the last straw.  I threw all my happy thoughts out the window and had a temper tantrum.

When I stopped being an angry toddler, I started talking myself into feeling better.

“I am grateful everyone is alive.  I am thankful my son has other choices.  I am lucky to have a boat to breakdown.   I have been through much worse.   Things could be much worse.   I have 5 fingers, 5 toes, my eyesight and hearing.

But I still felt deeply disappointed…sad… and uncertain.

When you are in the middle of breakdown after breakdown, it is hard to keep your head up.  It’s like you are in the ring with Mike Tyson and he just keeps punching you while the referee is just standing there watching you bleed.

Let’s face it…. Adversity sucks.

We always hear inspiring stories about how someone fell down and then got back up.  We hear about how they rose from the ashes.  We rarely hear about the middle part…. what happened when they were on fire.

The middle is where we need the most help.  This is when we are scared, anxious, vulnerable and uncertain.  It’s when we are bursting with emotion on the inside and trying to be normal on the outside.

The middle is when you are waiting for test results from your doctor…When you are up to your eyeballs in debt with bills you can’t pay…  When you are having problems at work… When your child needs help and you feel helpless…. You’re your marriage seems impossible to fix…. When you want something so bad and it just isn’t happening.

Being in the middle of adversity is like treading water for hours not knowing how much longer you can stay afloat.

How do you make it through the middle of adversity? How do you get to the part where the storm is over, the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds and the pieces start coming together?

Give it to God

This is my number one go-to tool.  But I will admit, sometimes it isn’t easy, especially when things don’t make sense.

The truth is that there is a power available to us that is greater than any problem we will ever face.  We have access to this power through prayer, faith and belief.

We have to remember to choose faith over worry.  Choose belief over doubt.  Release our grip on the outcome and trust that what will happen will be for our highest good.

Sometimes you have to tell yourself every 5 minutes to have faith.   That’s okay…just keep turning every worry into a prayer and eventually peace will follow.

I like to tell myself, “This was no surprise to God… He has this handled”.

Change your story

What story are you telling yourself about what happened?   What meaning are you attaching to the event?   When you talk about the event to other people, how do you describe it?

Story is powerful.  It gives us our current state of being.   It gives us perspective.

The story we makeup about an incident can make us scared, sad, mad, resentful, happy, relieved, grateful or excited.

Change your story and it will change how you feel.

Work it out

Movement causes yummy chemicals to flood your brain.   Exercise reduces stress, anxiety and helps alleviate depression.

I use exercise as a tool to overcome adversity.   It moves me into a more productive state so I can find solutions, change my perspective and feel better.

But when I am upset, the last thing I feel like doing is exercising.  So I ignore my feelings, put on my headphones, turn on songs that inspire me, and then work out like a crazy woman!

This always takes me from grumpy and to grateful.

Don’t just sit there, do something

My mom used to sit in her favorite rocking chair, stare into the distance and rock for hours.  One day I asked her what she was doing, and she said,  “I’m worrying”.

When we sit and worry, we feel worse.  Worry doesn’t fix our future, it steals our present.  We need to have something else to do so worry does not consume our every waking moment.

Make a plan and take action

When we have a plan and take action, we feel productive.

Distract yourself.  Find something to do so you are not ruminating and stressing out.

One of the best things to do when you are worried is to help someone else.  It helps to get out of your head and make a difference.

Talk to people who have had a similar problem and get a new perspective.

Sometimes sitting can be productive… especially when you are meditating.  Meditation teaches you how to sit in discomfort without losing your mind.   The benefits are endless!

Look for the open window

You’ve heard the saying that when a door closes, a window opens.   In other words, when a door slams shut in your face, there is a bigger plan working that you can’t see.   Just trust the process, wait for the open window, then jump through it with both feet!

As I’m writing this, I am flying back from Boston where my son just committed to play baseball with College of the Holy Cross.

We found our window!  Just two weeks ago, we thought that the other school was best for him, so when the door slammed shut, we were shocked and disappointed.   Little did we know that there was a different school waiting for him that was even better.  In fact, it was above and beyond anything we could have imagined!

We are so thankful now that our prayer was never answered.  God had something amazing waiting for him.   We had to let go of our own plan and have faith in the  Master Plan.

The struggle is the hardest part, but it is our only access to the next level.  

Nothing worth having ever comes easy.   The struggle gives us strength and wisdom.   That middle part of adversity is the road to freedom, joy and peace.

But we have to increase our tolerance for discomfort.  We need to be able to make it through the icky part to get to the good stuff.   We have to dig down deep, face our fears and fight the battles.

Every day, we have to choose courage over comfort.  That’s the magic behind transforming the struggle into the victory.

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