Posts tagged ‘hardship’

January 13, 2015

Adversity is an ally that helps you grow

I just finished reading Robyn Davidson’s excellent book Tracks, a bitingly candid account of Davidson’s mostly solo camel trek across 1,700 miles of Australian desert.

Davidson’s inner landscape understandably shifts considerably during her arduous journey. At one point, she falls into a deep depression and arrives at an observation that I think holds value for how we handle moments of despondency in our own lives:

In the past, my bouts of gloom and despair had led, like widdershins [water-worn gulleys] to the same place. And it seemed that at that place was a signpost saying, “Here it is,” here is the thing you must push through, leap free of, before you can learn any more. It was as if the self brought me constantly to this place — took every opportunity to show it to me. It was as if there was a button there which I could push if I only had the courage. If I could only just remember. Ah, but we always forget. Or are too lazy. Or too frightened. Or too certain we have all the time in the world. And so back up the ravines to the comfortable places . . . where we don’t have to think too much. Where life is, after all, just “getting by” and where we survive, half asleep.

What I take from Davidson’s words is this: life’s low moments often point us directly to the issues, challenges or shifts that really matter — the ones that we must, at some point, overcome or address in order to grow as people. To ignore these “signposts” and hightail it back behind the safety barriers does us no good in the long run. We grow through discomfort, not ease, and we must tackle discomfort head on in order to realize our full potential as human beings.

In this way, adversity becomes our ally — a partner and collaborator in the exercise of stretching our lives and our selves to new heights. We’d never get to the point of having to choose “leap or retreat” (“grow or stagnate”) if not for adversity constantly forcing us down the road upon which that choice lies.

The next time you are confronted with a “signpost” in your life, what will you do? Will you muster the courage to stride past it into the unknown, knowing that the true value of your life ultimately lies in this direction? Or will you quail, turn tail and scramble back to safety, mumbling excuses all the way? The direction is clear, but the choice is yours to make.

July 2, 2014

Unfurl, unrushed

Thought for the month, source unknown:

We grow one petal at a time.

Through thick and thin, good and bad, joy and sorrow, we grow slowly, delicately, one petal at a time.

With each new petal we unfurl, we become more beautiful.

March 6, 2014

We are all warriors worthy of compassion

Second thought of the day, courtesy of Scottish author and theologian Ian Maclaren (a.k.a. Reverend John Watson):

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

It may appear, on the outside, that the people around you have it all together, that the events of their lives flow along smoothly with nary a ripple to disturb the surface of their perfect and enviable outer calm. Not so. Everyone has issues, obstacles and challenges in their lives. Everyone.

Unless you walk in a person’s shoes, it is impossible to know exactly what hardships he or she is battling under the surface of his or her everyday facade: illness, job woes, difficult or abusive relationships, self-confidence issues, family problems, financial turmoil, etc. So be kind to the folks around you, whether they smile at you or snap. Like you, they are simply making their best effort to survive and thrive.

A little compassion goes a long way under such circumstances.

November 23, 2013

It’s the storms that make us stronger

I just finished reading Katherine Palmer Gordon’s new book We are Born with the Songs Inside Us, a collection of stories profiling 16 successful and inspiring First Nations people living in British Columbia. One of the persons featured, First Nations educator Anne Tenning from the Chemainus First Nation, now a resident of Penticton, shares my exact perspective on the cyclical nature of life and the benefits of surmounting hardship. Says Anne:

Yes, life has highs and lows. But sometimes the most valuable teachings come from the lows. You just have to hang on, hunker down and ride out the storm. No matter how tumultuous it may be, the storm inevitably passes and the sun comes out again, and you will be left stronger and wiser for that storm you just weathered.

My opinion — and my experience — exactly.

It can definitely be hard to recognize the potential for sun when you’re stuck in the middle of a long, dark night. But nothing lasts forever, not even the worst storm imaginable. Relief — and light — will come again, and you will be so much stronger for it.

June 22, 2013

In the abyss lies the treasure

I like this quote from American mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell about life’s hardships and the gifts they can give us:

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.  Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

How true.