I’ve spent the past couple of months navigating a veritable host of minor maladies and tribulations with my personal spaceship, this human body. I’m trying to hold an even perspective on the matter as I have a couple of friends who are living with major diagnoses carrying unknown trajectories into the future. In comparison, I’ve got the sniffles. At the same time, this is my reality, my story and I’m working on acknowledging that it’s valid without making a compare/contrast study if I am or am not worthy to have the struggle I’m having. My friend Mimi’s grandfather once said that if everyone you know got together and put their problems in a bag in the center of the room and you could choose to leave with any bag you wanted, you’d walk out with your own. Amen to that. You still have a bag of woes, it’s just your bag.

Dig in.

Though at the moment life’s personal challenges are taking physical form, it doesn’t matter the manifestation. Life, destiny and the universe will continue to dole out growth opportunities (cleverly disguised as hardship and adversity) in all arenas of life. It’s up to me whether I take a deep breath and grow or whether I snivel, stumble and suffer my way to the other side. Newsflash: Don’t want to grow this time? You’ll get another chance. Guaranteed. And Lesson 2.0? It’s generally less fun than the original.

So, this is what I’m working on. Maybe there’s something here for you, too, and whatever trial or tribulation you may be faced with in the moment.

  • Shraddha — faith. What I have is what I need. I believe this completely. Even when I look back at the darkest times in my life, I not only see the way I was prepared to survive, but the ways I was supported and opened and changed through enduring. There is grace to be found by leaning into faith that all is as it should be.
  • Gratitude. In a podcast I was listening to recently, an Austrian monk made a distinction between gratitude and gratefulness. It was very helpful to me. While there are some things that we just can’t be grateful for, there are always opportunities for gratefulness. In difficult times, it is powerful to shift from the platitude of gratitude to the attitude of gratitude. The choice is yours: keep your eyes down and wallow in the muck or look up and bless the beautiful sky, the swaying trees, the flying birds. The latter is infinitely more helpful in every situation.
  • Karma. I came into this life with work to do, with lessons to learn. So, I may as well get to it and learn them. If what I have is what I need, then here is my big chance! It’s probably not too wild a guess that one message in all of this is that I need to slow down even more– even more than I think possible, acceptable or necessary. Yes, that. Again. This is probably Lesson 18.0. And you guessed it, now exponentially less fun than the original.
  • Attitude. It is absolutely everything. I have survived far worse. Though physical challenges can become all-consuming, the regular reality check of how much is going right, the bigger picture of life and the world, and the daily opportunity to be a blessing to someone else do wonders to change a rough day.
  • Accountability. In one of the many reads on my nightstand, an author suggested that the cause of insomnia is not your snoring partner, the traffic outside, too much time on the computer, or any reason other than your inability to regulate your nervous system. Woah. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. As a self-reflective, self-aware person with a giant toolkit for dealing with whatever life might serve up next, when it comes to the physical realm, I am (apparently) still placing blame and looking for some external explanation. It’s never about something or someone else. Whatever it is, look in the mirror. The answer is on the inside. We don’t get to choose the lessons, but we have the power to decide what we do with them.

None of us are immune to the pains of this life: sickness, injury, divorce, addiction, death, abuse, neglect, anxiety, depression, betrayal, loss of all kinds. But I’ve found that these present-moment, real time challenges are often places where we uncover previously unknown parts of ourselves and are opportunities to connect to others in profound ways. Sometimes through choice and sometimes through necessity, our difficulties can rip us open to be more vulnerable, honest and real and provide intersections with others and the universal nature of being human. Self-knowledge and true connection? That’s as good as it gets.
Is pain showing up in your life right now? Here’s a chance to say thank you, and dive in to the bittersweet pool called growth.