Adversity a blessing? You got to be kidding! Who would even consider such a thing? Who wants difficulties? And how can misfortunes or hard times ever be considered a blessing?
And yet, when I am honest with myself, it is precisely in those times of difficulties and adversity where I have grown, learned I could do more than I thought I could, and developed emotional, mental and spiritual muscles.
It is where I learned to face my vulnerabilities head-on, where I chose to take charge of my life, not backed away or sidestepped or became a victim.
Adversity challenges us.
Am I willing to step out of my comfort zone and take some risks? Am I ready to acknowledge my limitations and celebrate my strengths? Am I ready to put in the effort and hard work to become capable and confident?
Throughout life, we will experience losses that drastically change our way of living. It isn’t the momentary losses of car keys or misplaced important papers; but life-altering events such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a childhood, our dreams, and expectations. An injury or chronic illness is losing life as we knew it. Life will not be the same.
Losses come in all sizes and packages; some with the normal progression of age – some with the unexpected telephone call in the middle of the night. Some began early in life when day after day we are yelled at or hit by an alcoholic parent leaving us feeling angry and worthless. Later in life, the depth of those early losses become more evident and we are required to process and grieve them.
How do we recognize them? How do we survive and move past them? How do we grieve them? How do we rise above them?
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. Aristotle
If you woke up tomorrow morning and could be doing whatever you wanted, what would that be? What are you doing? What are others doing? How do you feel? Are you motivated and excited or anxious and doubtful?
Most of us know what we don’t want but have difficulty defining what we do want.
Before making new goals for our future, it is important to reflect on what we want and why. What is meaningful and valuable and worth pursuing.
Here are 3 important words to consider as you begin this process:
I share with you today a handout I created years ago when helping to create a chronic illness class. It is important to remember that every day we can let go of unimportant stuff and focus instead on what we can do to meet any of life’s challenges.
Let Go – Take Control.
“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.” Victor Frankl
To experience freedom and create meaning in our lives, we must “let go” of the past while taking “control” of the present and future.
Did you know that just by searching for positive things to be grateful for, you are activating your brain to produce more feel-good hormones? According to research, just the process alone begins to change the brain.
Wow – that’s pretty amazing.
If we can actually feel better by finding those blessings and things to be grateful for, then why aren’t we doing it?
Instead, we hover incessantly over all the things that have gone wrong or are going wrong.
As I read stories of people who have gone through tough times but still found things to be thankful for, I remind myself of all the blessings I have received.
Yes, there have been tragedies; the loss of my husband and a son, both to cancer; the loss of our newly built dream home and retirement pension, and the near loss of a daughter to breast cancer. The list goes on – just as yours does.
We have all suffered unspeakable tragedies in one way or another and people wonder how we will survive, go on, rebuild, find joy again.
Unplug and just “be” – be in the moment. Take 5-10 minutes and disconnect from life as usual. Connect instead with your self, God, and your surroundings.
From the time we get up until the time we go to bed we are running. Even when it is time to relax, our thoughts and minds are bombarded with all the things we should have done, should be doing or must do.
We try to block out all the internal and external noise by spending time on media sites, posting, texting or by zoning out with TV or video games. We go to bed exhausted and get up with little rest.
Unplug and take a timeout
When our kids were young and they got too exuberant in their play or started fighting, we would put them in a time out for 5 minutes until they could calm down.
As adults, we are no different. We keep up a demanding, relentless pace until we are so stressed we can no longer function. And when we try to relax, our thoughts continue to keep us stressed. Before that point is reached, quick short timeouts can calm both our minds and our bodies.
Take 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day. With all the things that need to get done, this may seem like a ludicrous suggestion. But in the long run, you will have more energy and be able to accomplish so much more.
It may be the most important 5-10 minutes of your day.
As I rest on my deck at the end of a hot and busy day, I enjoy the peace and quiet surrounded by the many different blooming plants I have. They create an environment of contentment as well as beauty. Hummingbirds flit in and out adding to the ambiance.
The flowers in my pots are well taken care of: good dirt to grow in, watered and fed on a regular basis.
Not all plants enjoy such care. Some struggle through constantly invading weeds, others endure long stretches of droughts. And still, others find themselves on rocks trying to find someplace to sink their roots.
On trips to nearby beaches, there are many craggy outcrops of rock. I am amazed at the number of trees that seem to be growing out of solid rock. On closer inspection, however, you see cracks that contain enough dirt or nutrients to allow them to grow. They have a beauty all their own.
What drives a seedling to push deep into what appears to be nonexistent soil in order to grow, survive and even thrive?
Nothing creates fear monsters faster than when we constantly go over and over a problem focusing only on the anxiety it creates to the exclusion of looking for potential solutions. Fear is healthy and keeps us safe. But when it goes beyond its intended purpose, it soon takes over our lives.
What are you saying to yourself about your situation?
While sharing with friends can release some of the tension we feel and can help us gain a new perspective, it is what we say to ourselves that is critical.
We are often unaware of that continual stream of conversation we have with ourselves 24-7. If that self-talk remains focused only on the fear and anxiety we feel, we will not find the solutions we need.
Our brains respond to the thoughts that stream through our consciousness. If you constantly repeat to yourself how bad things are, how little control you have, how helpless you are, how others are so much better off than you, etc. etc. etc. you will begin to respond accordingly. If you think there is no use in trying, you will have little creative energy to move forward.
Our thinking can produce a self-fulfilling prophecy. Negative beliefs soon become a reality. We can perpetuate the problem or we can find ways to resolve it. We can give up or we can generate determination and an “I can do it” attitude and mindset.
Tell yourself, no matter how hard it is, giving up is not an option. Focus on the things you can do, not what you can’t do.
On your list of wants and needs, where do you place happiness?
We think of all the things we want to have or think we must have in order to be happy. But do they really make us happy in the long term?
In fact, “things” in general typically leave us wanting, disappointed and dissatisfied after a short period of time.
Being happy is a choice we make on how we want to live.
As we go through life, we form beliefs and worldviews and act upon them. In the process, we can look for the positives or remain focused on what went wrong, what didn’t work out, how bad the world is or how mean people are. We choose our focus and our responses.
Research on the body-brain connection reveals the impact thoughts can have on our overall health. Our thoughts create a chain reaction throughout the mind and body. What we think, believe and say to ourselves has profound physical consequences. If we are hopeful no matter what happens, our body responds in kind. If we allow hopelessness to become the norm, it too has a profound reaction to our health.
We just celebrated Independence Day – a day bought and paid for by the lives of people who loved freedom and fought and died for it.
We get together with family and friends and enjoy the fireworks displays that were a culmination of the day’s festivities.
But what does freedom mean to you?
“What alone remains is ‘the last of human freedoms’ – the ability to ‘choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” Victor Frankl
Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist and Jew who lived during the Nazi regime in Germany. He along with his entire family was sent to Nazi concentration camps. He was taken to Auschwitz, one of the most dreaded of these camps. Except for his sister and himself, his entire family perished in those camps. Every possession was taken from them, and the Jews who weren’t shot or sent to the gas chamber endured years of unspeakable horror.
Yet, in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Frankl writes: