My students frequently laugh and joke with me, “Ms. B, you always do things the hard way!” I have to agree with them because if there is a hard way to do something, I will find it. Often, they will ask me if I have thought of doing something another way… an easier way… and I always have to laugh and admit that I hadn’t… until they suggested it. Then, of course, that easier way seems obvious, and I wonder why I didn’t think of it before.
This classroom anecdote connects directly to my life, which has been characterized by actions and choices that have frequently taken me on more difficult pathways. The result has been a lot of bumps and bruises, frustrations and heartbreaks, and setbacks and failures. However, the hidden treasure beneath all that emotional pain has been my inner growth. Because of my seeming predisposition to do things the hard way, I have gained in wisdom and learned many life lessons, some of which I have shared here with you.
When life flows and things feel easy, we are not challenged to grow. I know that I hit “cruise” and go for the ride. It is when the circumstances of life rip us wide open and we are left exposed and raw that we learn what we are truly made of. It is then that we are challenged to grow, and we discover inner strength that we didn’t know we had. We find a way to go on, at first just one step at a time, but as survivors, we do go on. As we move forward, we face the obstacles or challenges in our lives and stretch our inner selves to overcome them.
Sometimes, life seems to bring us repeated heartbreaks and setbacks, and we wonder why. It is because we didn’t get the lesson we needed to learn the first time. I seem to be a slow learner in the life lesson department because the repeated lessons are quite apparent as I look back on my life. Of course, I didn’t recognize what my lessons were as I headed into what would soon be more painful situations, but with hind sight, I see that I hadn’t truly learned what I needed to learn. From this vantage point in my life, I know that if I seem stuck in a life circumstance or if I seem to be repeating a similar painful situation, it is because there is something I need to learn. When I “get it,” my life moves forward in a positive direction, and I can move on to a new life lesson.
I would like to think that I have learned to make wiser choices in my life and that I will experience what it is like to do things the easy way. One promising sign is that I have learned to listen to the guidance of my inner voice. Every time I headed into a painful lesson in the past, I experienced inner warnings, but I disregarded them and rationalized that I could make things work. Wrong. Each and every time that I ignored my own inner wisdom, I stumbled and fell hard. I learned how to pick myself up, dust myself off, and move forward with my life.
I have learned many lessons the hard way, but I celebrate each of those lessons for they have stretched and expanded me in ways that I wouldn’t have experienced if I had done things the easy way. To all of you who have also done things the hard way in your life, let us celebrate the rich and wonderful lessons we have learned.
Doing things the hard way has caused us emotional pain, but contemplate the inspiring and comforting words by Khalil Gibran in The Prophet:
And a woman spoke, saying, “Tell us of Pain.”
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.
Has your pain broken the shell that enclosed your understanding so that you could heal yourself? Has your pain broken you open so that you could grow and your heart could “stand in the sun”? Have you learned to embrace the lessons hidden within the emotional pain of doing things the hard way? Have you learned to trust your wise inner guidance that speaks to you and waits for you to listen?
Let us celebrate our growth as we respond to each of these questions with a resounding “yes.”