“Smooth seas do not make a strong sailor”. No truer statement has been made, and this particular statement surrounds a depiction of a large clipper ship amidst raging seas…on the arm of my son. It is a message he holds dear and one that I believe strongly in. “Life” is not most fully experienced through ease alone. I can feel your respective body parts tightening as you read this. Discomfort is actually good for us. Hardship, challenge, pain all good. I hear the argument brewing inside of most of you. So much of what we’ve been told in recent years, by some great spiritual teachers, would seem to indicate that a life lived correctly, should be easy. That ease itself, is proof that you are manifesting correctly, and well connected to Spirit and its abundance. You think happy thoughts, you feel happy feelings, you connect with Spirit and shazam, life is glorious, abundant and easy. It just floooowwws to you. True that. All true. When we’re clear about our intentions, aligned with our Spirit, good things happen.
But what about challenge? Struggle? Trial and error?
Not getting what you want? Where have all the lessons gone?
I remember listening to a podcast where Hay House author Cheryl Richards was interviewing the now late Louise Hay. They’re talking and laughing and talking, about Spirit, vibration, abundance, etc. and then take a turn down memory lane. Louise starts sharing her story of abuse, neglect, illness, financial demise, quitting and starting again, and soon Cheryl with joy in her voice begins to share some of her own life struggles. Neither of them from a place of complaining but simply a place of sharing. Where upon they lead the conversation amidst laughter with a statement about, “When did everyone start believing it was all supposed to be easy?! Where did people start getting the impression that they should rise above struggle?!” and so, another conversation started.
I am privileged to sit, on regular occasion, with amazing women; business women, wives, mothers, well educated, living large incredible lives filled with wonderful things and people. Every time we’re together it’s a celebration of someone’s something, advancement, achievement, big move. In addition, it seems there is sharing about someone who is facing challenge, strife, discomfort and often times its severe. Again, not from a place of “woe is me”, but from a place that is rooted in our love and compassion for one another. We come together to care and support each other, and so we share it all, the good, the bad and the ugly.
“Calm seas to not make a strong Sailor”. Adversity is not a punishment from Spirit. That is an old left-over mentality that I would love to see fall once and for all, to the wayside. Struggle teaches us. challenge shows us who we are, what we want and what we’re willing to do to fight for ourselves. Adversity teaches us resiliency, and without it, we never learn we can. Can what? Anything and everything.
The ego depends on things staying the same, and works to keep us repeating our patterns, thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors over and over again. We’ve had this conversation a thousand times. When we face struggle, fear, and look it in the face, we find a primal part of ourselves that tells us we must survive. That my friends, is where true creativity and resourcefulness get a forward kick in the pants. People work harder, they do things that they wouldn’t normal attempt to do, they batten down and buckle up and move into a place inside of themselves that knows they’ll figure things out or die trying. Its where we play the short version of the “worst case scenario” game.
I’m a bit twisted. By that I mean that I’m totally okay with, and honestly, pride myself on my ability to, make people really, really uncomfortable. So, when the times call for it, I play a game with my clients called “worst case scenario”. It’s where we take their current situation and ask them within that situation what are they afraid of. They tell me and then I ask, if that worst thing happens, then what? And they have to tell me what would then happen, and we play this game all the way to the absolute worst end…and then one step further.
Example: a client of mine hates (and I use a strong word because she has strong emotions) her job. For all intents and purposes, as in on paper, it’s a good job; makes really good money, good benefits, flexible schedule. A good job. The problem? Her boss is a narcissist, inappropriate in many ways, but always on the fringe of staying legal if it would come to a battle of he said/she said. She carries the benefits for her household and is the primary bread winner of her household. She has also job hunted enough to believe she is making more money at her current job than she would if she changed jobs and went somewhere else to work. Moving is not an option. In the middle of all of this stress, she and her husband are struggling in their marriage, as she is getting resentful and he feels like he’s not enough for her. She feels completely stuck. So, we play. What if she quit her job??? Her answer: “We wouldn’t have enough money to pay our bills”. “Okay, then what?” I ask her. Her answer: “We’d have to spend all our saving and retirement to supplement my income”. “Okay, then what?” Answer: “Eventually we’d lose our house and be broke”. “And then?” I ask. She looks at me with a “so, that’s not bad enough for you?!” look on her face. “And then?” I press on. “We’d end up living in a crappy apartment because that’s all we could afford off of my husbands’ income”. “And then what?” “Well, everything!“ She shouts, “Our kids would have to quit activities they’re in. Our friends would be wonder what was wrong with us, my family would be humiliated! We’d have lost everything!!” “Okay, and then?” And here is where the magic happens, she pauses. Stuck for a moment, I can watch her mind reel in confusion as she’s searching for the answer of what comes after her life ends, but right before she faces eminent doom, and it hits her, “I guess we’d start over”. VICTORY!!!! I’ve played this game so many times with so many people around so many situations in people’s lives I can’t even begin to tell you half of them. The result was always the same. “I. GUESS. I’D. START. OVER!”
YES! YES, YOU WOULD! From the place of recognizing that as long as people are alive they’ll figure out a way. From the horrid scary place of fear the phoenix rises into its exultation! ADVERSITY FEEDS US! Challenge forces us into resource, resiliency, “pull yourself up and dust yourself off”. Here’s the thing. Once you recognize you can figure out a way to start over, to keep going, that no matter what YOU WILL BE OK, your mind begins to open up to incredible possibilities. Why? Because your mind knows YOU’RE SAFE, and from a place of safety, anything is possible for your mind, and accordingly, for YOU. By facing bad times, good times mean more. By overcoming obstacles, success is sweeter. By being challenged by life and overcoming those challenges we gain strength, determination and confidence. Once you know you can survive, there is no going back! From the front steps of a good butt kicking, all door are now open! Once you’ve experienced your greatness, nothing in your life can take that experience away from you. It’s yours, and it’s YOU, forever.
I’ve been there too, trust me. When my first husband and I were really struggling in our marriage, I was scared to death. I worked “part-time” as a body worker, and my main focus was my son and our household. I had been raised to believe that my safety and security was in marrying a man who would love and support me, and by support they meant, pay my bills. I was successful in my industry. I was well-respected and well sought after, my schedule was as full as I could handle. But I was told, it wasn’t enough and I was dependent on my husband to be the stability of our household. Our marriage wasn’t great to begin with, and then after 18 months of him being deployed, bad things came back worse. I was depressed and scared. After we separated, I was finally realizing I could do it on my own…then the recession hit, and it hit HARD. I was living along, with a mortgage payment and a son, and my practice was cut by 60% in a year. Holy —t. I’ve always been a prayer, not a conventional type, but talking to God has always been part of me. I developed an entirely new connection with Spirit! I cried, I begged, I was terrified…and what I needed always came. I learned to reach out, to ask for help when I needed things done and couldn’t afford to pay a professional. I taught myself to do lots of things around the house, and was gifted by people who were willing to help and teach what I didn’t know. I took on contracts with business owners for services to keep my schedule intact and money coming in, I taught at a local massage school to supplement my income.
During this time, one of the offices I practiced out of had a fire and within a day I was out of a business location! I moved my practice home, and ended up realizing it was a great thing as it allowed me to be home for my son when he came off the bus AND it allowed me to save money on rent! I got creative! After a couple years, things started to ease. People felt safer spending money on a service professional and we all realized a new financial normal. Now, years later, I look back on those years and shudder. I remember the fear, the grief, the conversations with my son about how we had to spend way less because Mom didn’t have the money. It was NOT easy. And, I am incredibly grateful. I am so thankful for that experience and what it taught me.
Through that time of hardship, I learned that I was the person who had been keeping me safe and secure they entire time. I was the one who had been successful, built a business back up and better than ever, developed an ability to be truly capable and competent (something many people in my family still don’t quite know what to do with), and to keep growing. I have totally re-created my practice the last several years, have 15 good ideas a day about what I’d love to do with my “spare time” (when I have some, I’ll do some of those things) and continue to grow and spread the words of Spirit, which I love, every day. I am blessed, and God blessed me with perseverance, gumption, and stubbornness (my Mom credits that trait of mind to my Dad). “The Lord helps those who help themselves”. It’s so true. Spirit will meet and match us with every stride we take. It is our constant support, our greatest cheerleader, our truest core strength. When life is handing us our ass, Spirit whispers into the depth of us, “Get up. You can do this, you’re strong.”
As a side note, My ex-husband who was keeping me “safe”, because “you’ll ( meaning me) never make it on your own”, lost his job, three of them as a matter of fact, buried himself in debt, got a few DWI’s, moved in with his girlfriend and has had her supporting him for several years until he’s recently started getting back on his feet. And HE was the strong one? I’m not saying that to be mean, I’m saying that because I want you to realize the incredible lies our mind will persuade us to believe are true, until we meet something that challenges them.
Liberation is amazing.
The woman in the story who used to have that job she hated; they sold their house and moved into a smaller one that they could afford on her husbands income (it’s much more than a crappy apartment), she took a job at a landscaping company to let herself get away from her previous job and employer, and started her own company. Is she making tons of money right now??? No, it’s still new, but it’s growing like crazy, people love her and her work, and she is HAPPY and CONFIDENT, and gets up every morning and loves her life! Her husband feels great about himself and his ability to shelter her and their kids during the time she’s growing her business and their marriage is flourishing along side her new business…ain’t life grand. (insert romantic sigh, here)
My fellow sailors, you are loved, you are supported, you have everything you need inside of you.
My job is to connect you to all of it, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Challenge, adversity, struggle, call it what you will, is a gift.
Sometimes we have to get way far away in time and distance to see that gift, but it really does make us stronger, resilient and more confident. When we connect to the greatest parts of ourselves, the ones we often hide from because they’re buried in our fears, we meet ourselves on a level that allows us unlimited possibilities, our greatest potential and for every storm we conquer we build our ability to sail further.
Enjoy the calm, but do not avoid the storm.
You, are a strong sailor.