Facing Adversity

Shit Happens.

Sorry, Mom! 

But seriously. Life is full of hardships, and undeserved obstacles that can come without explanation. Sometimes there is no rhyme and reason. And it's really, really not fair. But no question about it- it's not a matter of "if" they'll happen to you. It's "when."

And guys? It's going to be okay.

We tend to get so caught up in trying to evade hardship, hurt, sadness, disappointments, and failures, that we do ourselves the disservice of not learning how to equip ourselves with the tools on how to deal with them. And by doing so, we strip ourselves of the opportunity to discover how strong and capable we truly are.

So why do we do this? 

We're scared of what happens after. Scared of the unknown. Scared of all the difficult and unpleasant feelings that come with facing adversity. Which is totally human, and 100% allowed to happen. 

But then you're presented with a choice.

You don't get to choose what happens to you sometimes, but you DO get to choose how you react to them.

I'm not saying, oh choose to not be sad about this horrible thing in your life that happened, so stuff your feelings down about it. Not even close. I'm saying, let yourself feel everything that this situation in your life is making you feel- rage, injustice, sadness, shock, whatever it is. Then ask yourself, how will I choose to see this situation in my life? How will I let this affect me and my heart? And most importantly, how do I choose to move forward from here?

It's like someone's first time in the ocean. Are they going to run away screaming because they see the giant waves coming? They could. Or will they choose to stand there bravely, and feel what it's like when a wave so big like that washes over you. How cold and harsh it can feel, but also soft. And most importantly, the person who chose to stand there bravely, sees they they've survived. They now know what life is like after a wave. 

My dad just died. I don't mean for the bluntness of that statement to sound offhand or cavalier, but it is simply the reality of my life at the moment. 

A tragic event happened that chipped off a bit of my heart. Months of anticipatory grief, so many trying moments, and unimaginable challenges to the spirit; every time I think about the fact that my dad won't get to see me getting engaged, married, succeeding in my career, or starting a family, tears spring into my eyes and I feel a fresh stab of sadness in my heart. Sometimes I want to scream that it isn't fair. And it isn't. It happened anyway.

Life unfortunately isn't fair and free from adversity.
Everyone experiences varying doses of this truth throughout their lives.

Life is swell and it's easy to be a positive and kind person when things are going well for you, but what are you like in the face of adversity? How do you choose to move forward and proceed?

Do you take it out on others? Do you retreat and shut down? Do you try to blame circumstances and people for your feelings? Do you run away from the scary emotions? Do you beat yourself up mercilessly for things that are out of your control? What is it that YOU do?

Character is defined not in those everyday easy moments; Character is defined by who you are in the face of adversity. It is defined by how you react and the perspective you choose to have. 

I saved this bit of Sheryl Sandberg's Berkeley Commencement speech, for moments like these. She spoke about her husband's death, her experience, and most importantly, addressed what most people don't talk about in times of grief or adversity- the act of moving forward:

"But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.
I learned that in the face of the void—or in the face of any challenge—you can choose joy and meaning...
The question is not if some of these things will happen to you. They will.
Today I want to talk about what happens next.
About the things you can do to overcome adversity, no matter what form it takes or when it hits you.
The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days—the times that challenge you to your very core—that will determine who you are.
You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive."

Next time a wave of adversity comes your way, whether it be a smaller thing like things not working the way they're supposed to, or a bigger matter affecting your family and loved ones, how will you choose to proceed? How will you let it determine who you are?