Has 2014 been a year of hardship or loss for you? It has for me.
From significant personal disappointments to my husband getting laid off to coming to terms with my difficult childhood to three surgeries between my husband and one-year-old son...
I’m hoping for a better 2015.
But while I’m waiting in earnest for my circumstances to improve, I want to share with you what I’ve learned along the way.
I warn you that it’s not all the pretty, pithy, sound bytes that seem to populate our daily Facebook feeds.
• If you’ve ever experienced true setback or loss, you know it’s not as simple as willing yourself out of it by looking at the latest cat video and telling yourself to be more grateful.
Here’s what I’ve experienced:
For some this has a spiritual component (“I realized I can’t do it without God”), but there’s also a lesson in surrendering to the help of others.
Grief can be an isolating experience.
If you’ve ever
• lost your job,
• or gone through a divorce,
• or experienced depression, you may struggle with feelings of embarrassment, vulnerability, and isolation.
But people really do seem to want to connect on that deeper level, to understand and be understood.
You may be surprised to learn that most people are likewise struggling with things that aren’t exactly cocktail hour conversation fare. I’ve been amazed as I’ve let people into my life how much they’ve shared about their own.
I used to have all the answers and would sometimes ascribe ill motives to those who disagreed with me.
Now I find myself more often trying to put myself in another’s shoes (and for the record, feeling convinced that 90% of the world’s problems would disappear if everyone did this).
Where there was previously judgment there is now often empathy.
It’s easier to move past the B.S. and be authentic, which I believe has led to improved outcomes with family, friends, and colleagues.
I’ve found myself being more deliberate about who I want in my life and what I want it to look like.
Hard but honest messages are easier to deliver.
Yes, but sometimes more slowly and ambiguously than seems humane.
Cinema has taught us to expect a defining moment wherein the skies part and some grand epiphany comes from on high that suddenly makes it all make sense.
Real life is often more nuanced.
Day by day it gets a little easier to put your shoes on in the morning, and then one day, someone asks you how you’re doing, and you reflexively and honestly answer, “Good!”
I can’t complete this article without mention of a book I find myself coming back to when the going gets rough: “Broken Open: How Difficult Times Help us Grow” by Elizabeth Lesser.
I’ve found it to be the most lucid account of suffering I’ve read, and has repeatedly helped me embrace a positive perspective.
What have you learned from difficult times? What advice would you give others?