Life is hard.
My daughter tells me of things she thinks are hard: Homework, carrying a heavy school bag, and waking up early for school are hard. Sometimes math is hard or getting along with other kids. She’s right; those things are hard. We talk about why they are hard and how to make them more bearable or easier to do. And I always tell her the same thing in the course of the discussion: “Life is hard.”
Because it is. And I don’t think it’s wrong or discouraging to be honest with our children – or ourselves – and acknowledge that fact. Life is hard for every one of us in myriad ways, and it just makes sense to be prepared for that fact, because I sincerely doubt that we are meant to sail through life unscathed.
In his General History of Virginia, Captain John Smith writes that “everything of worth is found full of difficulties…” and life itself is no different. We will all struggle with something at some point in life. We will all need help to solve our problems or to simply get through the day, just as those early settlers did.
I wonder, though, if the challenges and difficulties we find along the way are what give life its substance and meaning. Is there truly anything in life that we find “easy” that doesn’t also contain some struggle or pain? Do those struggles help to define and enhance the victories we experience? Think of anything you love, anything you do and ask yourself if it is truly something that comes easily, without effort, without any setback or imperfection.
I’m willing to bet you can’t name one thing. I know I can’t.
There are dinners that have been burnt, drafts of stories crumbled into the trash can, relationships ended, unplanned career changes, and so much more. Disappointment, struggle, and failure may all be simply part of the process of living, learning, and becoming who we are. We’re all operating without a handbook, doing out best to figure out this thing called life as we go along, but maybe that’s the beauty of it.
Somewhere in the preface material to his History, Smith also says, “Let no difficulties alter your noble intentions.” Maybe we’re meant to experience a balance of easy and hard, good and bad. Maybe we need to face problems and challenges so that we can learn how to solve them and pass on the knowledge we gain to others. Giving up when life gets hard won’t make things better, so maybe those hard times are ultimately the best path toward becoming more than we are today.
Just over two years ago, I left my full time job to work for myself, to be at home to raise our daughter and do the things I had dreamed of doing for so long. I left a known quantity for something definitively unknown and uncharted, much like Smith and his fellow colonists. It was terrifying. Some days it still is. I left behind circumstances that were indeed difficult and frustrating, but this new life I’ve carved out for myself isn’t “easy” either – not by a long shot. In fact, it’s pretty tough and full of a whole new set of challenges and frustrations.
I worry about finding work and bringing in enough money. I worry that I will never publish the words I’ve been working on privately; and I worry that I will. Many mornings it is a challenge to get all of us organized and out the door and to our respective responsibilities on time. It is nearly impossible to accomplish everything on my to-do list(s), and I still struggle daily with how to strike the correct balance between work and family life, especially now that I work from home.
But what makes this life easier, or perhaps better than the version of life I lived before, is that I am living the life I was meant to live. I am being true to myself, embracing what I know is right for me and for my family, despite the difficulties along the way. There were difficulties before, so what’s the difference, really?
The difference lies in the fact that it is much easier to be who I was meant to be, rather than fitting into some imposed idea of who I should be – for whatever reason. I am ever thankful for the nudges the universe provided, telling me it was time to go, and for the people who encourage and stand by me each step of the way.
And so I’ll stay my course. Because even when life is hard, my intentions for myself and for my family are indeed noble; in fact, I would say they are necessary in order to create a life of true happiness and fulfillment. The early Virginia settlers had to leave much behind in order to find what they believed would be a better life. Perhaps sometimes we do, too.
This week’s Ten Things of Thankful post is doubling as a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence was “My life is so much easier due to…”