Life isn’t just a bowl full of cherries. Most of us will definitely experience events or even periods of our lives that will challenge us in not so pleasant ways. These less than pleasant challenges often bring frustration, sadness, pain (of various sorts), and maybe even occasional trauma, as well. Few major challenges are ever forgotten. Sometimes I look back on mine and strangely appreciate the education and positives they’ve eventually brought me. So are they altogether bad?
Every so often I’ve had to enroll in a new “course” in dealing with hard knocks. Some previous “courses” ended, while others overlapped. Certainly I’ve found it a relief when one ended, and like college classes, the relief can be even sweeter if I feel I’ve earned a high passing grade. But some “courses” are especially grueling and seem to go on far too long. Or what can be equally demanding is having a really heavy “course load”, and feeling desperate at how to manage so much at the same time. In the past, I’ve even had literal college semesters when I’ve wiped the sweat off my brow and exhaled, being glad I finished just satisfactorily, instead of exemplarily.
I’ve had to learn important things about dealing with others in my life. I wasn’t lucky enough to have a gift for being well-liked by everyone. Part of my education was to learn acceptance that this would continue to be the case, at least to some degree. Another part was learning how to be a better communicator, giver and diplomat to others, without sacrificing my true self. And if this still didn’t work, though it may hurt to be rejected, sometimes rejections are for the best. For we all have places and people waiting for us where we do belong, and where we will feel at ease. One must search for them sometimes and yet other times they find us. Changes over time within ourselves, can also make a difference.
When I was a child and young woman, my mother would constantly say “Patience is a virtue.” It used to drive me crazy, and I’d do my best not to have to wait for what I desired. But some challenges don’t afford that option. One extreme example has been recovering from the worst of my bipolar disorder. Never have I had to endure such pain, frustration, lack of control, humiliation, sacrifice, and rejection as I have during the past 13 years. The first four were particularly taxing! I’d feel like I finally caught a break, and then “Boom!” I’d find myself below square one all over again.
To describe my bipolar journey these last several years, I used to use an analogy of slipping down the side of a mountain, again and again, as I struggled to hoist myself or scratch and claw towards the top. I had to learn a degree of acceptance of this struggle, but also how to find pleasure and strength in my current spot(s). And yet, I prevented myself from losing hope of seeing and experiencing the world from a higher (or at least different) vantage point. So, very very slowly, as I can, I inch my way upward, or take steps forward along lateral paths. As I traverse and ascend, the world takes on a new and interesting view. Sometimes I take a break in a spot, and rest and meditate, but eventually move on. If I fall again, I try to choose a new route or one I wish to revisit in some way, but hopefully only for good purposes.
If or when I’ll ever reach the top of such a mountain, I don’t know. Is it even necessary in the end? My journey will not be for naught. All I know is that staying at the bottom forever is not an option for me. I will not be chained forever down there, nor will I dig a hole even further down to climb into.
Oh how one can learn from challenges! I sure have. And though challenges don’t always make us feel like better people, I am happy to say they have for me. I think my mind has opened up more fully, that I’ve become more compassionate, less self-centered, and even less afraid of what awaits me. Perhaps I haven’t yet earned a Ph.D. from the School of Hard Knocks, but I know I’ve qualified for a few Masters Degrees.
What are some the main things you’ve learned from your major challenges in life?