The last few years, Christmas just doesn’t feel the same anymore. It’s not about the president, or the price of oil. It kinda feels like I’m just going through the motions. Buy presents… get presents… eat food… just another day. Really, I have everything I need, so why bother with gifts?
I have to admit: I’ve fallen into a rut. I’m ungrateful. I gripe about my anxieties and I’m starting to wimp out. If I want, I can keep my job pretty cushy.
I’m trying something different this season. I’m giving myself a new kind of gift: the gift of uncomfortable.
A few weeks ago I read an article by Mayo Oshin, “The Comfort Trap.” I highly recommend the article because it uses science and a bit of philosophy-crap to remind us to not be so wimpy. If you don’t want to bother reading the article, here it is in a nutshell: Struggle is good for us, but we do everything we can to avoid it.
My mother knows a lot about struggle. When we were young, she lectured my brother and I (Lord knows, we needed it): “Get outside more…” “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty…” “You watch too much TV…” “Eat your veggies…” She was right. Experiencing struggle is like taking vitamins – it does some important inner work so when you really need it, you just seem more resilient.
Newsflash: #1 Struggle is not a magic path to happiness or success. And, #2 It’s just plain unpopular.
Struggle with the dark?
Three years ago, I faced a depression that I can only describe as indescribable. When it hit me, it was like I fell head over heels into a walk-in freezer. The cold began to seep inside of me until it felt like I was being slowly crushed from the inside out. I am grateful that the Indescribable has left me and that it has been almost three years with no more than a few days of soul-crushing.
Still, even though I have learned a great deal from my experience, I don’t welcome the dark. No one does.
No one likes it when they face the Indescribable, unexplained anxiety, a tortured and self-critical mind, or an addiction. We don’t want cancer, diabetes, obesity or heart disease. We tend to ignore relationship problems for too long because we don’t want to admit that it’s not working (or especially that it may be over). And we may carry a life-time of regret because of decisions we made (or avoided).
The gift of the hard, hard, hard things
In everyday life we’re faced with the decision to either embrace hardship or avoid it… And whilst the easier choices are convenient and save time in the short-term, the harder ones save more time and create more rewarding benefits over the long run… Various studies have shown that people who experience and overcome adverse events—business failures, divorce, death of a loved one, difficult work—develop the necessary mental toughness required to overcome future adverse events. They also experience improved mental health, well-being and overall life satisfaction. Mayo Oshin
The thing about hard things is they are ‘user defined.’ In other words: If you find something ‘way too hard,’ it might be okay for me. And my hard stuff might be easy for you. And to make it a real piss-off, what feels impossibly tough right now may begin to feel much easier a few months (or years) from now. And (I know from personal experience as a card-carrying avoider…) if you avoid something long enough, a small thing will feel very, very, very difficult.
Give yourself 3 gifts this year
Embrace your struggle – Sure, this sounds trite. But it’s real for me, and I guarantee that it is real for you too. Whatever is hard for you right now is HARD. But what else can you do? Embrace it – even if all you can manage is just a little.
Accept – If you really can’t make it go away, allow it. Be willing. Accept what you cannot change.
Take a moment – as often as you can, to be grateful… for a meal, for a sunset, for a bit of music, for a day with less pain or for a day that seems less dark.
Glamour Magazine asked 70 people about things they found hard and posted the video on Youtube. The video reminded me that we can forget the stuff we have overcome. That’s because what is happening NOW feels like the hardest thing EVER! (But really, it’s not…)
Watch, and think about how you would answer the question.
For a related post, see “Can Life Be Full Even When You Do Not Get What You Wanted?”