Last night, a distraught friend lamented, "I had finally gotten to the point in life where things were supposed to get easy."
There is no point in life where things are supposed to get easy. I've said it a thousand times: "Just when you think it's going to get easy, it's going to get harder." But, the more you persevere, the stronger you get.
I know a woman who has always had money, a great husband, wonderful children, (multiple) beautiful homes, endless travel and everything that a life of ease could offer. We've been friends for more than 20 years and I've never seen her forced to confront the lowest lows that many of us have facedI used to admire what she'd landed in life, imagining her existence as such a comfortable way to live -- right there on Easy Street. But, time has taught me plenty.
Without the lows, you don't experience the highs. Without obstacles, you don't appreciate victories. Without challenge, there is boredom. Without being tested, we can't experience the true exhilaration of triumph.
I have made no secret of the fact that my first book was rejected by every major publisher in the United States. The process was humiliating and demoralizing and I was so depressed that I skipped my cousin's wedding because I couldn't face the well-meaning relatives who would certainly have asked how the book was coming along. Despite my overwhelming sadness and disappointment, I did not quit. I re-wrote my book in a different format, got a different agent and finally the seas parted. I had multiple offers from publishers.
The first copy arrived after three years of struggle. It was the day before 9/11. In the resulting chaos, my book tour was canceled. Again, I didn't quit. I pushed so hard and my friends rallied and bought so many copies that it became a best-seller. I wrote my 29 letters to Oprah's producers and something worked. She endorsed my book for the world and then, my speaking career skyrocketed.
If success had come easy to me, it would have meant nothing. The thrill of victory would have passed in a short time. But my obstacles defined me. My battles were so hard-fought that I still feel gratitude every single day for the success that ultimately came.
As a cyclist, I learned long ago that the map of the terrain rarely matches the challenge of the moment. There are storms and detours and flat tires and so many unforeseen obstacles. One time, I was doing a pretty horrendous 230-mile, 19-hour ride endurance challenge in the Rocky Mountains. I knew that I only had to make it to mile 120, where the map told me I would get the reward of a 60-mile gradual descent to help my body recover. That expectation of the easier ride propelled me up so many mountains. But, when I started down the other side of the summit at mile 120, I ran straight into the worst headwind I had ever experienced. It was so bad that I had to pedal -- hard -- instead of coasting as I'd expected. I slowly moved myself ahead, one mile at a time. I found an inner reserve that I never knew existed.
This tough economy is just like that bike ride. If you are beleaguered by your struggles, remember these five things:
1. You will get to the other side of your difficulties.You just will. Bad times don't last forever.
2. Take it one day at a time. Sooner or later, the world that appears in black and white will suddenly bloom with color.
3. Remember that your attitude controls your outcome. If you focus on the negative, you'll attract the negative. If you give yourself one inch to fail, failure becomes a viable option.
4. Always count your blessings, because as bad as it seems to you, you've got it better than 99 percent of the people in this world.
5. Never, never, never give up on yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, others won't believe in you.
We do find our strength when we need it most. Just when you expect it to get easy, it's going to get harder. That's life. But when you understand that your challenges are building your inner strength, your realize that life is beautiful.
Follow Fawn Germer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FawnGermer