Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Living Through Adversity

Lately, I have found myself giving a lot of thought to adversity. When I was younger, I imagined that my life would be a certain way. I envisioned family and friends and a home and all those "things" that people strive to earn and maintain. My children would be well-behaved and wonderful (all the time, of course!), my home would be welcoming (and perpetually clean), I would look and feel as though I had my act together. And, like most people do when they are young and naive, I thought that if I just worked hard enough those things would come to me. I really believed I would live in this little rose-colored bubble for all the rest of my days.

The truth is, it doesn't work that way. Sometimes the things you work for don't happen for you. Sometimes obstacles get in the way and divert you from your steady course. Sometimes you have to watch as others are handed the thing that you most desire. A promotion, in-laws who love and accept you as you are, a partner, a baby...it's really not important what your want is, although I am sure there are some out there who would disagree. But who gets to judge? Who says that one person's desires are stronger or more important than another's? Nobody could possibly ever know that. We are all strangers to the internal struggles of our families and friends. To believe otherwise is to play ourselves for the fool.

I have come to believe that life is adversity; without it, the world (and all the people in it) would be a very shallow and one dimensional thing. After all, nothing that is really worth having comes without a struggle. I found this quote through a friend of mine and I couldn't say it better:

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."
-Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Not all the people I know who have been through struggles are truly beautiful people, but all the loveliest people I know have definitely seen their share of hard times. It might be a childhood spent physically crippled, a lifetime of neglect by those who are supposed to love you most, the loss or extended illness of a loved one, a difficult and messy divorce; as with personal wants, there is no way to measure personal suffering. I can't know the pains of your life any more than you can know mine; we do ourselves a disservice by trying to measure our trials against those around us.

I think that adversity has the best teaching potential of all the forces in the world. I think that those who have suffered truly have the greatest capacity to live life to its fullest. I am trying to remember that each obstacle placed in my way is an opportunity to learn more about myself. I am trying to realize that the bad in my life helps me appreciate the good. I am trying to let go of the pain and disappointments from my past to make room for the wonder and beauty that I can see around me now. Some days it feels like slow going, but I think I will get there. Lately I have started to feel closer than ever before.

Do you feel that you have a greater appreciation through your struggles? Are you able to let your expectations go and live in the now, or do you spend more time than you would like lamenting the things that haven't come to pass?

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