I was talking with a friend recently about some of the struggles I have been facing. It was Christmas day and I had spent most of the day feeling sorry for myself but trying my best to convince myself that it was okay; that I was okay. Friends had dropped by in the evening and we had great conversations and fun, but they had to leave. I was left in my apartment feeling more alone than before they arrived.
I began to feel deeply sorry for myself and was emotionally and mentally low. I could not muster much positivity at all. Life can be like this: it is not always the dream life we want it to be – it is real, it is gritty, and at times it can weigh upon us like an anvil.
I shared with a friend what I was thinking and what I was feeling. Instead of nodding in agreement and pacifying my complaints they gently reminded me that I needed to focus on my strengths. I was struck particularly hard by this statement: when you feel weak remember your strengths. I was cast back 20 years to my grandfather telling me how he used to count his blessings every day. And so, in the following hours and day I began to consider my strengths again, and it really did lift my spirits, and my thoughts were lifted with that.
The following day I went out for a long walk. I used to love walking in the hills and out in the wilds – it somehow soothes the soul. So I walked. I walked through mud paths alongside green fields, slipping and sliding, falling in the mud and rising up again laughing at myself and the mess I was in.
When we struggle and we fall we are offered a choice. We can keep ourselves down, wallowing in the mud, or we can pick ourselves up and carry on again. Life is full of struggles and we can feel like we are muddling along, but we always have a choice. We can choose to focus on our strengths and pick ourselves up.
I was told by three people yesterday that they think I am a motivated guy. I do not feel motivated these days, but I am choosing to believe them because they are good friends, and they know me well. They see something strong in me that caused them to articulate their encouragement towards me. I am choosing to believe that they see strength where I see struggle and weakness, and I am choosing to lean into that strength:
Like my grandfather I spent some time counting my blessings. I counted a lot of blessings in my life: job, relationships, my kids, and my sense of humour, to name a few. It shifted my focus from self-pity onto things that would move me forward and pick me up again. Denying our struggles is a dangerous thing to do because we can become deluded about our reality. The opposite is also true: wallowing in the mud of messy situations keeps us locked into negative thought and behaviour cycles. What I am writing about today is the balance in the middle: it is the acceptance of the struggle, but it’s putting solutions in place that stop the struggles from tying us down and losing the enjoyment of the fuller life. Struggles can overwhelm us and blind us to the blessings we have in other parts of our lives.
Whatever struggles we face; we do need to acknowledge them without letting them become our sole focus in life. When we look at life with all our strengths and weaknesses, we can get up, stand up, and move forward one moment at a time. I’ve known these truths for a while, but life can hide them from us at times.
May you, whatever you are facing, find the strength within you to get up, stand tall, and stride forward today. And as you do, enjoy the journey.