Lately I have felt myself up against a brick wall, time and time again. I imagine you know what I mean — you’re faced with challenge after challenge, you tell yourself it will all “be fine,” you put on a smile and forge ahead.
Health issues. Job issues. Money issues. Relationship issues. Family issues.
You reach deep for strength and creative solutions, you manage to muddle through, and you breathe a sigh of relief. Still, you don’t want to let your guard down — not entirely anyway — and just as you begin to think it may be okay to do so…
Uh-oh! More challenges ahead!
So you wind yourself back up again and keep going… and keep going… and keep going.
Yup. Life Is Hard.
Life can be jazzy, joyful, jubilant. Life can also be brutalizing, baffling, belittling. So you operate with your own personal procedure manual and its most hard-won lessons: When you stumble, you straighten up and regroup; when you fall, you pick yourself up and try something new; when you run into a brick wall, you had better figure out some way to scale it, smash through it, tunnel under it, or get around it. Unfortunately, after a series of oversize impediments, you may be stuck… staring at one brick wall too many.
And you feel spent.
You tell yourself it can always be worse, and you know it can.
Still, you struggle.
My brick walls?
Like most of us, I’ve mastered my share of life skills required to face hurdles and jump them, if not with the athletic grace of an Olympian, well enough to advance along the track. However, too many of my brick walls seem to wield the proverbial upper hand. They haven’t been scaleable or smashable or navigable by taking a detour.
That may be my next trick. Hell, as a petite woman — I’m five feet tall when I tease my hair — I’m closer to the ground! Perhaps I could burrow with the help of a small trowel, not to mention my usual persistence when focused on an objective. But I am so weary of the obstacle course I have been running these past 18 months, I haven’t the reserves nor the bandwidth to effectively process my latest challenge.
Or so it feels… as I rotate through robotic pep talks to myself (of the “cut that self-pitying shit out” sort), bouts of bone-weary blues, and the momentary relief of a quart of mocha almond fudge.
Problem-Solving Is a Team Event
I once believed I was capable of accomplishing anything, and solo at that. I took pride in my resourcefulness and independence. “As long as you put your mind to it” I used to tell myself… “Put your problems into perspective, find an upside, and get down to the business of breaking it all into smaller, more manageable pieces.”
With the years, experience broadened my understanding.
“Enlist support in your problem-solving. Try to make it fun.”
That’s all still good advice, of course, but oh… the idealism of youth! And the energy!
I will say this. During trying times — and we all face them — I remain delighted and inspired by my boys, though they help from afar; by the kindness of strangers and more specifically, one very dear old friend and one relatively new one; and by a small and strong army of my sons’ pals. This troupe of youthful souls? They’re lending their good spirits and strong backs to smash through walls.
About that kindness of strangers — one such remarkable person is doing her damnedest to help me dismantle an enormous wall, brick by brick if necessary. Once again, I am amazed and awed by those who dive in to help someone they don’t even know.
What You See Is What You Get? Not Always. Sometimes, It’s What You Don’t See.
As for the nature of my brick walls, well… let’s just say this isn’t something I choose to write about. Suffice it to say that I will write when I’m ready, and for now, I’m clear on this: As I work to move myself forward in directions that are calling, I am immeasurably grateful for the individuals who have stepped in to cheer me on; change is both exciting and difficult — psychologically and sometimes physically; and we should remember that what appears simple from the outside looking in may, in fact, be more complex when you are actually living it. (Spoonies in particular will grasp these last mentions.)
Hardly news, but these are reminders for all of us to consider:
Life is about overcoming challenges, and becoming stronger as a result. Life is about new adventures that we choose, and those we don’t expect. Life is about approaching adversity with all the instruments in our arsenal, including understanding our advantages, and knowing that hardship is not tragedy.
Life is often about compromise — judicious compromise — in order to achieve longer-term goals, or at the very least, to continue fighting the good fight.
And I believe in fighting the good fight.
But I’m tired. I’m so tired. And I can’t reach the damn key to wind myself back up.
Becoming Who We Are
Here is what I also know.
I know I am resilient. I know I am disciplined. I know I possess the ability to see the big picture — first to visualize it, then to plan for it — and likewise, I am skilled at dealing in the details to bring a vision to fruition.
I know I am a problem-solver, but none of us gets through this life alone; we all benefit from community, from creating and nurturing a support network, from graciously accepting a helping hand, from extending a helping hand whenever we can do so.
Some days you feel beaten and maybe that’s okay. Because there are other days when you can stand up and shout: Fuck that wall! And you refuse to let adversity win.
So whether it’s a wrecking crew to smash the wall so you can climb over, a dimly lit path pointing out even the most daunting detour, a ladder built with the help of new friends and old, or small hands wrapped around a tool to tunnel beneath that bullying brick… Do. Not. Give. Up.
Face this wall, and the next, and the next. And eventually, there will be a clear view in front of you, and then you can say… “Wall? What wall?”
I am not so naïve as to think there won’t always be hard choices, much less challenges to overcome. Yet I hope I won’t feel quite so “up against it” in the years ahead. Consequently, I insist on picturing my future as light and open and filled with possibilities. And every chance I get, I will pay it forward. After all, isn’t that what the good fight is all about?
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