“We do hard things.”
I still remember these words being spoken by one of the wisest friends I have, while she and I stood together talking in a strange BYU gazebo after a night of wandering. It was very late, and our conversation had turned to some of the hard things that were facing right then. Mine might have been about my first year of grad school, and the love that I had lost, that almost broke me. Hers might have been about her last little bit of time in undergrad, and family issues that felt both painful and personal.
But still she said it, “We do hard things,” in a slow and steady voice, that offered a prescription as much as a description. “We do hard things.” And we do, all of the time. All of us. Those hard things may vary from person to person, as well as from year to year, month to month, week to week to week, day to day, and even sometimes minute to minute.
Some of the hard things we do are things that we know are coming, and sometimes they are not. I was surprised by how many of the things I thought of, intending to write as examples of the first that could just as easily fall into examples of the second. These are things like moves, job changes, and school changes. Some familial or relationship changes may also be purposeful and planned, while others may catch us unaware. (And things can certainly still be hard, even when they’re planned!)
Another thing I realized, is that many of the things I think of as being hard are periods of transition, both beginning periods and ending periods. The particular hard may last a long time or a little, depending on what it is. Yet, all of the time we are doing them. This is true even when the hard we are faced with is not a thing at all, but the absence of a thing, one that we strongly desire.
There is something coming up soon in my life, that I believe will be one of those hard things that I will, and can do: it is giving birth–it is my first time of giving birth.
So often during these last few days and/or weeks of carrying my child within me rather than with-out me, I find myself thinking about what my body and mind and heart will go through soon. I try to add brave thoughts to the mix. I try to reflect on the hard things I have already done. I try to remember how I got through them, how I did them. I also try to think of the love and tenderness that has surrounded me during this time of transition–including from my Exponent sisters, who gave me a lovely and power-filled Blessingway, that I still intend to detail.
For the different hard situations I can think of from my own life (of which I will write just a few–mostly physical examples) the measure and way of coping was different.
- When I did track in high school, I got very, very nervous before my events, and would often dash to the restroom for privacy, so I could say a quiet prayer and repeat over and over to myself the same scripture that April posted about so recently: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” as well as another in Joshua: “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Sometimes I would also read inspirational quotes for 3+ hours the day before my meets, which is admittedly cheesy, but true.
- While running, I would sing songs to myself and look very hard at the bounteous, and beautiful, Oregon trees.
- When my paternal grandfather died, I mourned for a long, long time. As part of that complete mourning, I let myself weep as often and as much as I needed.
- After the worst heart ache of my life I also let myself weep. (I wouldn’t have been able to stop it, really.) I also went deep inside of myself, and when I slowly emerged, it was only through the love and gentleness of female friends who fed me and cared for me. Then afterwards, it was through Pablo Neruda. And talking to a trained therapist. And exercising. And vegetables.
- While in an ambulance the day after I got married (because a semi truck happened to hit us and we happened to roll 3 times), I listened to my husband’s voice, as he sat behind me in a place I could not see, and to a wedding video an inspired friend had made for me so quickly, and felt prompted to send right away. Only then was I able to breathe.
- While cycling across whole countries two weeks later, at a time that I still limped when I walked, I only got up the mountains by drinking massive amounts of water, eating massive amounts of digestives (aka: not very good cookies) that my husband nearly forced into my mouth as he rode beside me, focusing on every individual breath, and listening to my heart songs. I remember writing a facebook post after the very hardest day, “I never knew that there could be such mountains, and I never knew that I could overcome them.”
Others of my hard/brave things include every paper I have ever written, every presentation I have ever given, every other day of my freshman year of college (which is precisely how often I cried during that time–from homesickness, and a depression I was just discovering I had), every day of my mission, every day of not knowing whether I would marry the person I loved (and many, many days after, knowing that I wouldn’t). I have also experienced challenges that are too tricky and lengthy for me to write about here, now, but that remain real all of the same.
In all of this self reflection and self remembering, I wonder about the hard things others do, and particularly how. Please indulge me, if you would be so kind.
How do you do your hard things? How do you overcome them (or perhaps simply bear them)?
Does it depend on whether it is a hard thing that you have planned for, versus a hard thing that you have not?
Are there any rituals, poems, scriptures, or strategies that you can share? (They may pertain to any hard thing that you have done, which hard things and methods I fully expect to be diverse.)
How have others helped?