Sometimes I have meltdowns.
The stresses of life seem to pile on top of me, and occasionally life feels too hard.
I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. Challenges are just part of life, right?
But instead of responding in our heads with questions like, “Why do I have to go through this?” or “Why am I the only one struggling here?” I’d like to start a collective movement where we consistently ask ourselves a better question:
What does this challenge make possible?
This idea came from one of my favorite leadership bloggers, and as I’ve been applying it to my life, my eyes have opened to a whole new perspective.
Here are a few examples:
About a year ago, my then-eighth grader, Alia, never knew where to sit at lunch. Her friends were scattered all over the school campus in a variety of groups, and she never felt quite comfortable sitting in one place. She would hop from bench to bench during lunch–which was fine, but I kept worrying about her and hoping she could find “that group” of close-knit friends, like I had in junior high.
Well, it turns out that because she wasn’t beholden to a single group of friends, she was able to meet up with a darling 7th grader named Lia who had been adopted from China one year earlier. Lia was just learning English, and because of her cerebral palsy, she was in a wheelchair and sat near her class of other children with special needs.
Alia and Lia hit it off. They spent each lunch period talking, laughing, and coloring. And every day Alia would come home with pictures of flowers or hearts Lia had drawn for her–along with the words, “Alia I love.”
Before long, several of Alia’s other friends started joining her and Lia as they ate, and as I watched their relationships grow and observed the impact it had on all the girls, I realized that Alia “not knowing where to sit at lunch” was one of the best things that could have happened to her.
It was difficult to walk. I didn’t have the energy to clean the house. I couldn’t live the active lifestyle I felt my children deserved.
Now I can see that my time in recovery made dozens of amazing things possible.
My children learned to help vacuum, cook, and clean bathrooms. Our family quiet times weren’t an option, so they became a habit we continue today. We learned that we could have a lot of fun–even if we didn’t sign up for a bunch of extracurricular activities.
I owe the beauty of our current simple lifestyle to the principles we learned during those hard years.
This final story is one that I think of every day.
For the past couple of years, I have been making weekly trips to Long Beach to care for my mom, who is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s.
These visits are difficult physically, because it’s an hour drive each way, I take all four of my children with me, and caring for my mom’s basic needs (and those of my children) requires quite a bit of stamina.
But it’s the emotional part that’s the hardest for me. Some weeks she’s stable, but other weeks I see steep declines.
Although she hasn’t been able to walk or drive for several years, we used to be able to assist her into her wheelchair and go on little excursions.
Now, although her spirits are great and her smile is still beautiful, she’s in bed full time.
I wish I could adequately explain how much I love her, and I wish I could say I’ve always been strong through this, but it often feels like a long, painful, heart-wrenching process of losing my best friend.
A recent experience with my daughter, however, reminded me to look at this challenge carefully and think about what it makes possible.
I was really sick one Sunday and couldn’t get out of bed. My children (especially my 11-year-old, Grace) took such good care of me. Grace made muffins, cleaned the whole downstairs, and waited on me hand and foot. Seriously, she wouldn’t let me do anything.
Later that night, while she and I were loading the dishwasher, I said, “Thanks for helping me so much today. You were amazing.”
She responded by saying simply this: “If you get old and lose your memory, I want you to know you can trust me.”
I guess I should have realized all along that any time spent caring for another person has a greater impact than we can see.
This includes everything that you and I are doing today as deliberate mothers.
And doesn’t it make life easier when we recognize a purpose in the times that are tough and step back for a moment to look at the bigger picture?
We may just realize that the situations we desperately hope will go away are the very experiences we need in order to reach our potential.
Our day-to-day struggles might still overwhelm us, at times, but we are not alone.
There’s a deeper meaning to all this heartache.
There are beautiful rewards behind these frustrations.
And if we can adjust our perspectives for just a moment and look at what’s really happening, I have absolutely no doubt that incredible things are possible.
QUESTION: Have you gone through a difficult time–and then later recognized a greater purpose in it?
CHALLENGE: If you’re currently going through something that you “wish would go away,” take a moment to ask, “What does this challenge make possible?”