Adversity comes in many shapes and sizes. It does not discriminate nor does it care if we are prepared for it. Most adversity happens unexpectedly and usually at the worst possible moment. If you are among the lucky few who have never faced any challenges in life, you can stop reading now. What follows will not be of any interest.
My message for those who are dealing with adverse situations is simple. You have got this. I promise. Before you begin to shake your head in disbelief, hear me out. In my experience, there is a direct relationship between how we react to challenges and our ability to have peace in life. When adverse situations arise it can feel like a bucket of ice water being dumped from above on to our heads. Our reactions may fall anywhere on the emotional continuum. Cold water will awaken some and cripple others.
What makes some better able to deal with pain or struggle than others? Our response to any events we may face is determined by a number of factors, including our background, experience, and personality. Even the most spirited and motivated among us have moments when we feel like crawling under a rock and giving up.
Fortitude is defined as courage in pain or adversity. It is a skill we seldom think about when circumstances in our lives are spiraling out of control. If we can get past this swirling we will be privy to one of the most valuable lessons any of us can hope to learn. The simple truth is we can handle anything that comes our way, if we believe that we can. Without this belief, we are left powerless in our circumstances.
There were many difficult and ugly days after I came out. Ugly may be an understatement. How was I supposed to brave this storm when I could not stop throwing up or crying about what I had done to my family? I was a wreck. The adversity which was born during that time was of my creation and affected others. This added extra layers of guilt, sadness, and provided more questions than answers in the very beginning.
Only after I had worn myself out from the ugly, was I able to find the courage to begin putting one foot in front of the other. There is no time frame for getting past adversity. Our perception of what brave looks like does not always match what we have been taught or shown. Firemen and police officers are heroic and brave. Their work requires great courage and this type of bravery is often what we expect the successful handling adversity should look like. Our heroism usually looks like nothing like running in to a burning building or a high speed chase.
Courage is possible in silence and in our thoughts. Responding to and rising up, despite the presence adversity, allows us to grow confident in our decisions and comfortable with our emotions. Every situation we face in life is an opportunity to call upon the strength, courage, and bravery that we all have innately within ourselves. Being able to move past our fears and see past the immediate shit storm is something that takes practice, but is not impossible.
The most courageous became so because life tossed situations at them which forced them to become fortuitous. As with many things, practice makes perfect. We are all born with an equal amount of bravery and courage. This is the truth. Remembering this when in the center of a storm is the problem.
How? Good question. The answer is found within ourselves. Sorry. Not my favorite answer either. Bravery often looks like controlled chaos and requires letting go of fear and choosing the not so popular act of doing things afraid. It means stepping back and remembering that our will is stronger than any fear.
Why is it easier to see and celebrate the courage in others but still feel completely paralyzed when we are in similar situations? This is a question for the ages. There is nothing more powerful than watching someone rise above their pain or adversity. However, the lesson is not complete until we learn how to push past our own obstacles. The examples are all around us. Learning to draw strength from others will jack up our fortitude muscles.
This exercise includes putting our faith in something other than how we may be feeling in our most vulnerable moments and being able to defer to the big picture. Most importantly, it means believing that we are capable of overcoming anything and trusting in our ability to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances.
Courage does not always look like barging in to a closed door meeting to quit your job. More often it is a quiet determination, sometimes accompanied by tears or stomach pains. The little gestures, thoughts, or movements can be the most powerful means of facing adversity or pain. The learning curve is generous when it comes to fearlessness.
This week I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and to review the inventory in your fortitude shop. If your stock is low, restock. Breathe and remember to reach out for support if the journey feels long and lonely. You will be amazed by the avalanche of strength and courage that will roll down whatever mountain you may be climbing.