By Sarah Show, from the March 2018 Issue
People in the western world are no strangers to adversity. When you work with livestock, equipment and outside in all seasons, there are so many things that can wear us down or go wrong. Hard work and hard times often go hand in hand. If you look around, a neighbor, a friend, a family member, someone close to you, is working their way through a struggle of some kind. Often times those hardships are not known or seen by others.
We’ve learned these days that showing our struggles or our adversity, makes us vulnerable. With social media and insecurities growing at a steady rate, people have learned that putting themselves out there puts them on stage to be attacked, ridiculed, or educated by people they don’t even know. So instead we learn to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. We strive to struggle quietly and to only show people the safe things. Those could be the things that bolster our own appearances, the things that present us positively, through only our happy moments, or maybe the successful ones. Some have even learned to do this same thing by only showing how bad they have it or how strong they constantly have to be, all the while covering something else they are battling such as a feeling of inadequacy.
No matter what the adversity, the insecurity or the struggle might be, the reality we often forget is we all have them. Maybe not at the same time, maybe not even the same level, but all of us have our silent battles. Our struggles that we keep behind closed doors.
I recently suffered a traumatic brain injury. Those of you who know me or follow me on social media are most likely already aware of that… A horse accident… One with no one on which to cast blame, nothing to try to justify the severity of the challenge that it would add to life, nothing that would bolster my status or allow me to find a way to make it shiny or attractive. It was just one of those things that come about in life. The kind of situation where you not only have to, but get the privilege to, decide how you are going to look at it, half empty or half full.
Isn’t it funny how our times of suffering or of hardship often come right at the time we either already are caught in the middle of adversity, or right when we think we are so close to something incredibly amazing or exciting that is about happen? Time is pressing in, you are growing weary or your motivation is building rapidly. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, hard times strike.
So, what next? We all know that feeling of our stomach sinking, disappointment, exhaustion, overwhelm. We have to make a decision. What next?
I know this might sound strange, come across weird maybe, you might even think its brain damage talking, but I am going to say it anyway. I feel incredibly blessed by my most recent adversity, that adversity being, my traumatic brain injury. Although I would never wish the struggles, pain or fears from a brain injury on anyone, I can’t say with a clear conscience, that there has not been huge blessings that have come from my experience. I think we can all agree that the Lord works in mysterious ways, the same way, that sometimes ‘God’s biggest gifts are unanswered prayers’.
By the forced hand of my situation I was required to slow my life down. I was stuck in bed for much longer than necessary to acquire a severe case of cabin fever. My head often strikes in pain if I try to push too hard, too fast. I had to learn to rely on others, even if I would prefer to take care of it myself. Once the stubborn denial, angry frustration, the feeling of loss of something I had been working so hard for, finally wore off, I was gifted the circumstance of reflection. I was able to take the time to break down my own insecurities, defensiveness, striving and behaviors. With the hopes and the glory of pushing so hard to make myself something… to show people I have worth, to make myself feel secure in my veiled image, standing happily behind whatever wall I was building between me and being genuine to the point of vulnerability, with people both close and strangers… suddenly shattered. I was forced to reflect.
I have come to know reflection as one of the biggest gifts in life. Authentic reflection has the ability to change our lives. It has the power to show us flaws in ourselves. It has the power to show us where we have created unhealthy relationships or unreasonable expectations of just about anything. It helps us to free ourselves of things we have believed that may be hurting us or smothering our abilities more than they are helping. Reflection can open our eyes to things we didn’t even realize we were missing. Time of deep reflection is why I consider my accident, my brain injury, a blessing. Through that time of reflection I have decided to change my view. I have made a clear minded decision to see this hardship as half full. Honestly more than half full because of what the hours spent reflecting have helped me to make changes in myself for a better future.
Never would I have expected myself to be relearning how to do things. Or even to be slowing myself down enough to enjoy the tiniest of things without hearing in the back of my mind all I had left to do pushing me to the next task on my list. Never did I expect to lose something I was working so hard for and striving so hard to make perfect. Nor did I expect to have it come back better than before with the freedom of truly just being myself. I would have never guessed that things I once loved and enjoyed had been turned into so much stress, a chore, without me even noticing. But I have learned how quickly and unknowingly that really happens to our lives. Never had I thought about how it is truly our own responsibility to make those things back into joys rather than stressors. We have the power to do that. I had lost track of my own ability to control my reality, my happiness, my life. Not in my wildest of dreams would I have expected to gain that ability back with a deeper awareness after damaging my brain. I have learned that vulnerability, in the sense of authenticity, is an underrated thing. The freedom to be ourselves and not strive to posture ourselves as something else, for other people’s approval, is an extremely empowering thing. This journey is not over, but it has been a whirlwind already.
We all have hardships, struggles, adversity. There is often more going on in the world of others than we can even begin to imagine, especially in the lives of strangers. Crisis has an incredible ability to shape us and help us grow for the better. We all have the power to choose how to view the hard times and what to do next when they are handed to you. It doesn’t take away from the pain or the struggle they bring, but it does often give opportunity for us to receive blessings we didn’t know we needed, if we can choose to find it in our hearts to allow them through the journey. We all have the choice to be kind to others and understanding of what we may not know about their lives or struggles. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, decisions and choices. We have the power to better our own lives. We have the choice to love and be courteous to others, to support and build them up rather than tear them down in our own self-serving manner. I don’t know about you, but for me, I am going to choose kindness and love for others. For myself, in hardships, I am going to take the time to find the positive. To the best of my ability I am going to choose to view hard things as half full rather than half empty. My hope is that through your pain, struggles and adversity, you too will be able to find some silver lining, a blessing in disguise.