Hang on friends, because it’s Tough Love Day.
It’s time to acknowledge something if you haven’t already: life is hard.
Life is often unfair. It can sometimes be cruel. And it will always throw those nasty curveballs.
So what are we to do about it? Sit around and wallow in misery, doubt, and self-pity? Should we whine when things don’t go our way? Should we pout when we only have what we need but not what we want?
That’s the easy way. And it feels good. (I should know; as an only child, I did more than my fair share of spoiled pouting and whining.)
(Okay, okay, fine. I still bitch and moan from time to time — but at least now I fully recognize it, acknowledge it, and apologize for it.)
But what do pity parties accomplish? What good does it do to collapse into a heap and hysterics when life does what life will always do and forces us to face a challenge we’d rather not tackle?
Life is hard.
It’s hard for everyone, everywhere. Everyone has problems. Financial problems. Job problems. Family problems. Health problems. Personal problems. Heck, even metaphysical problems.
No matter what your life looks like, there are obstacles that you will face one day or another. You will run smack into something that doesn’t have a solution you find fun, easy, simple, or painless.
So when life gets hard, what are you going to do? You have two options:
- Give up.
- Toughen up.
Giving up is easy. Toughening up is very, very, hard and sometimes you just can’t do it — at least not all at once, and not permanently. And sometimes the only thing you can possibly manage is to continue on to tomorrow.
Here’s the good news: sometimes, that’s all you need to do. Just keep going and maintain your hope… and more importantly, your appreciation for the things that are good and right in your life.
Here’s what not to do:
- Seek to place blame on others
- Burden yourself with guilt when you did nothing wrong
- Refuse to deal with your problems, or ask someone else to take care of them for you
- Lash out at people who want to help or people that care about you
- Keep quiet and isolated when you would like or need help (asking for help is not the same as asking someone else to fix your mistake or deal with your problem for you)
- Ignore the cause of the problem
- Dwell on how life is so unfair instead of taking positive action
When life gets hard, don’t wallow in the bad stuff. Don’t ignore what makes you smile in favor of something that you don’t like.
When I start feeling sorry for myself, or angry that I don’t have what I want, or envious of someone else — or anything that encourages considerable amounts of whining and pouting — I try to step back and seek perspective.
I try to practice gratitude. To express appreciation for all I have. To recognized the privileged existence I lead that must seem like a living dream to countless others.
I try and express gratitude because the people I care most about are here, whole, and healthy. I am thankful that I have a number of people I could connect with at any time if I needed them (and some of them are people I haven’t even met in person yet).
I try and express gratitude that none of my neighbors have been shot dead, wrongly or otherwise. No one is rioting in my town. I do not live in fear.
I try and express gratitude because I have no idea what it’s like to struggle every single day. I have never gone hungry because I could not afford to eat nutritious foods. I have never seen war — despite that for nearly half my life the country I live in has been engaged in military offensives in foreign lands. I have never been so physically or mentally ill that the healthcare I have access to couldn’t make me better (or refused to help me).
I try and express gratitude that I am never alone so long as I can reach out to someone else.
I try and express gratitude because the problems I do have (because we all have our own burdens, though the weight of each may vary) are manageable. I’m thankful that I can brainstorm solutions to my “worst case scenarios” 99% of the time. I’m endlessly appreciative of all the resources and options available to me.
Yes, life is hard — for each and every one of us experiencing it. And no, my problems don’t mean any less because my life is not as hard as someone else’s. That’s not the point.
We all have a right to feel sad, angry, annoyed, depressed, upset, negative, scared, and hopeless. No one should tell you your feelings are invalid because somewhere, someone has it worse than you do.
The point is, for those of us who do lead privileged lives, who are blessed or lucky (or whatever you prefer to credit) — we have absolutely no reason to sit, be sad, and expect others to be sad with us.
While we have a right to pout and moan and groan, we have no good reason to do so. Unless, of course, we are really going to be that self-centered that we routinely fail to see beyond our own temporary pains and therefore cannot see what brings us comfort and joy.
We should be way too occupied in counting the things for which we have to be grateful. We should be so caught up in awe at even the smallest things that too often we take for granted: the clean water we have to drink and bathe in, the energy sources that provide cool air when it’s hot and hot air when it’s cold (and can power machines that miraculously keep our food fresh, our clothes clean, and our dishes beyond sanitized), and the insane abundance available to us in a country like America.
My mind can’t even process the countless things that make life extremely good. The more I start thinking about what I have to appreciate, the more incapable of intelligent thought I become. Everything, even the simplest things, becomes something to feel amazed over.
So, together, let’s acknowledge that life is hard. Things go wrong. We don’t get what we want. It sucks.
And, together, let’s acknowledge that there is far, far more in this beautiful, fortunate, miraculous existence to appreciate and do a happy dance for than there is to complain about.
If you enjoyed this post, my lovely friend Tonya had a good read on on Budget and the Beach last week. I appreciated her sharing her thoughts so openly and honestly, and her writing encouraged me to do the same here today.