"What if they don't gel? I want his teacher to 'get' his active personality! I'm concerned he'll be misunderstood," a young mother voiced of her son's eventual school experience. Concern about potential difficulties strikes a common chord in all of us. Parents especially wish to place a bubble of perfection around children. Our love for them makes us want to naturally protect them and keep them from harm or hardship, even though we know that life is never perfect and everyone faces trials.
Perhaps this month of thanksgiving has found you in challenging places. Maybe you are finding it hard to be thankful; adversity has landed on your doorstep and welcomed itself inside. Perchance, you are less than thankful.
Be encouraged; it happens to all who have ever lived. You are not alone in finding life difficult. Understandably, these places bring stress, discomfort and pain. Some would argue that if the challenges never came, we would never grow stronger. Just as a challenging hill builds a runner's leg muscles, so life's challenges strengthen and grow internal fortitude.
Many hold that thankfulness in adversity is a powerful antidote to the trial. Sarah Ban Breathnach, in Simple Abundance, says, "If you give thanks for five gifts every day, in two months you will look at life differently." Ann Voskamp, in One Thousand Gifts (A Dare to Live Fully Where You Are), recounts that the writing down of one thousand things she was thankful for became a vehicle of healing in her tragic life.
"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues."- Cicero
Just how does one find thankfulness when circumstances are hard?
Try looking beyond trials. Focus on good around you instead of the difficult: a roof, life, sunrise/sunset, loved ones, etc. This borders on simplistic and may grate on your unthankful nerves, but it is often the simple that becomes profound. Placing focus off of problems and onto blessings reframes the picture. Hardships come and go, but they do not nullify the good.
Boldly face the difficulty. Come up with a plan of attack and work it. It will be work, but exercise your internal strength and rise to the challenge. Remember, everyone in the human race has shared a similar experience. You can let it consume you, or you can overcome it. You control the outcome.
Remind yourself: you are not alone; this is part of life, not the whole of life. Name potential advantages this trial will add to your personal strength and life skills. Think of those to come who will gain an advantage from your experience — perhaps, the ones you love most.
In the end, a bubble life of perfection sounds like Utopia; yet it would lead to an entitled, egocentric, inexperienced life. It is through the trials and adversities of life that resilience and strength of character are formed. On the shards of difficulties, we build the capacity for empathy, sympathy and the will to overcome.
Choose wisely how your inner spirit responds to life situations. Your attitude will frame and determine life ahead. Choose to find good and be thankful; even when,you feel less than thankful.
Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania.