We don't like difficult things, do we? Not difficult people, places, chores or recipes. We love things to be easy, right? Is there higher praise for a family get together than the phrase, "It was easy"? Ditto for a shopping trip, good meal or any kind of task we had been dreading. We believe that "easy" makes us happy and "difficult" makes us unhappy. Have a difficult time finding a parking space and you probably get a little tweaked. Having to wait in a long line behind people who still insist on paying by check will undoubtedly make you exasperated. Getting halfway through a complicated recipe only to realize you don't have enough of this or added too much of that can ruin your whole day. Why do things have to be so difficult? If only life were easier, we could all be happy, right? But hold that thought for just a minute...
When you were a kid, was there any greater put down than, "It was easy"? A puzzle, a game, an assignment at school... you know the gesture, the lazy shrug that is a little like the ultimate eye-roll, followed by the phrase, "It was easy" sliding out of one side of your mouth, as if it were not even worth engaging your full set of lips over. Kids are not impressed with "easy." Kids are not satisfied with "easy." "Easy" is BORING, plain and simple, and what in the world is more aggravating to the under-18 set than BEING BORED? Being challenged, accomplishing something that took a little doing, being fully engaged were priorities when we were young. When does that change? Whenever I watch children running through sprinklers or playing with water balloons or doing any activity that involves getting soaked to the skin, I privately shudder and think, "At what point does the hassle of getting wet outstrip the joy of it?" When, exactly, do we fall in love with the idea of having an easy life?
It is "easy" to make the argument that this starts to change once we are paying our own bills and making our own way. And perhaps we can further conclude that the metamorphosis completes when we have children of our own and really learn the definition of the word "difficult." Maybe it is because we allow so many of the unexpected twists and turns along the way to shake our confidence instead of building it. Lack of sleep, lack of support and lack of funds are real buzz killers to be sure, and we experience each of them at one point or another, and sometimes even all three at once. I, for one, am rarely in the right frame of mind for a water balloon fight. Or even for tackling a particularly challenging recipe. And there is nothing I love more than getting a good parking spot at the store, waltzing in and finding everything on my list and then walking right up to the checkout stand, no wait. Woo-hoo! It's exhilarating!
But that temporary high is not a platform to build on. It is transient; it comes and goes with no residual gain. The difficulties I have faced in my life, however... here is where I learned I am a warrior. Here is where I learned to trust myself. Here is where I realized the true meaning of friendship. Here is the solid ground upon which I can build a life. When life challenges you, you have been given a great opportunity to grow. The things you learn in any dark parts of your journey will ultimately be the most valuable, not only to yourself but also to the people whose lives you touch. Pain is inevitable in this world, but as we make our way through it, we learn that we have all the tools we need to survive; and as we survive we teach others about endurance. We begin to understand that the emotional hoops we jump through in our relationships are so often just an exercise in guilt or just plain confusion; we learn to stand our ground and not engage in melodrama. Being present is the most important gift we can give to each other. And although it is in many ways more "difficult" than running around like a chicken without a head, it is also much more rewarding.
In this upcoming new year, I am blessing you with the gift of difficulties. I am bestowing on you the reward of challenges. That is where you truly find yourself and that is how you grow great and strong. Ask any kid, they know. And so do you. When life is difficult, you are at your best. Your best is a marvel to behold and an incomparable fortress. The easy days blow through the windows and flutter the curtains prettily with a breath of fresh air, but the difficult ones provide the foundation and the strength of your walls. And the stronger your fortress, the less the challenging days will bother you. You welcome them as a friend and teacher and you move past them often exhausted but never defeated. They are coming, whether you want them to or not, so why not greet them willingly and be open to the good they have to bring you?