HOW TO FIND INNER STRENGTH IN TWO OF LIFE’S HARDEST MOMENTS
Your life, with all its ups and downs, unexpected twists and turns, has brought you to this moment. It took each and every intricate, confusing, and painful situation you have encountered to bring you to right here, right now. And if you have the courage to admit that you’re a little scared, and have the ability to smile even as you cry, the nerve to ask for help when you need it, and the wisdom to take it when it’s offered, then you have everything you need. You just have to believe it so you can take the next step.
Marc and I have guided hundreds of our course students and Think Better, Live Better conference attendees through this process of perspective change. And that’s what I want to highlight for you today. We’re going to take a quick look at two ways to find sincere inner strength and gratitude, even as everything seems to be going wrong.
1. Coping with Health Problems
Everyone is down on the pain inflicted by health problems, and when we experience this kind of pain we usually say we have nothing to be grateful for because we forget something important about what we’re going through: The pain of a health problem is for the living ONLY—for those of us who still have the chance of a lifetime.
A couple of short years ago, on the second to last day of her life, a close friend of mine told me her only regret was that she didn’t appreciate every year with the same passion and purpose that she had in the last two years of her life after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. ‘I’ve accomplished so much recently, and truly appreciated every step,” she said. “If I had only known, I would have started sooner.’”
Her words made me cry and smile at the same time. What was truly miraculous was seeing the genuine gratitude and inner strength in her eyes at that moment. She was sincerely passionate and grateful for actually being able to accomplish everything she had accomplished in her final two years. And her sentiment has always remained with me. So, while I agree that health problems are never fun, and can often be very painful and debilitating, the pain can still be mediated by a sense of gratitude for being alive. Of still having a chance to move forward. Of still having a life worth living, from moment to precious moment.
2. When Someone You Love Dies
One of the absolute hardest realities to cope with is death. A person who gave meaning to our life is now no longer in our life (at least not in the flesh), and we are not the same person without them. We have to change who we are—we are now a best friend who sits alone, a widow instead of a wife, a dad without a daughter, or a next-door neighbor to someone new. We want life to be the way it was, before death, and yet it never will be.
But, can we still be grateful we had the gift of this person in our lives? Can their memory empower us from the inside out? Yes and yes…
Marc and I have dealt with the loss of siblings and best friends to illness and suicide, so we know from experience that when you lose someone you can’t imagine living without, your heart breaks wide open. And the bad news is you never completely get over the loss—you will never forget them. However, in a backward way, we gradually learned that this is also good news.
Ultimately, we grew to appreciate that, although death is an ending, it is also a necessary part of living. And even though endings like this often seem ugly, they are necessary for beauty too—otherwise, it’s impossible to appreciate someone or something, because they are unlimited. Limits illuminate beauty, and death is the ultimate limit—a reminder that we need to be aware of this beautiful person, and appreciate this beautiful thing called life. Death is also a beginning, because while we have lost someone special, this ending, like the loss of any wonderful life situation, is a moment of reinvention. Although deeply sad, their passing forces us to gradually reinvent our lives, and in this reinvention is an opportunity to experience beauty in new, unseen ways and places. And finally, death is an opportunity to celebrate a person’s life, and to be grateful for the beauty they showed us.
We all need good reminders like these sometimes…
We so easily forget how important it is to face the unexpected losses and painful life changes we’re going to encounter (no matter how much we try to avoid them). We forget to face down our pain and negative thinking and leverage it to get back up and take the next step.
Yes, we need to be reminded to actually get up and DO the hard things we need to do to be happy again. The things that frighten us. The things others can’t do for us. The things that make the difference between existing and living—between knowing the path and walking the path—between a life of empty promises and defeat and one filled with renewed happiness, possibility, and peace.