When we moved into this house nearly twelve years ago, the oak tree in my front yard was just a sapling being propped up by a stake and a string.
Eventually, the stake string started cutting into the tree’s expanding diameter. No sooner than I’d cut off the string, a heavy storm blew the tree over a little bit.
I worried, but the tree survived.
It even went on to weather more storms including Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Harvey, droughts and record cold temperatures.
Ten years later, I noticed something while on a leisurely stroll.
Not just my oak tree, but all the other trees, too. Standing tall all around me with big branches reaching across the landscape of my neighborhood.
It seemed sudden. Like one day they were saplings and the next they were trees. But, I knew that wasn’t the case.
It was in that moment I realized life is a lot like ten-year-old trees.
Change isn’t always obvious.
Growth happens slowly over time as we go through trials and storms. Then one day all the hard work, focus, dedication, and determination pays off.
This week, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing lots of hard-earned pay offs: my writing career is finally heading in the right direction after starting over four years ago, I’m starting to enjoy my marriage after several years of fighting for it, my daughter is thriving in California, I’m becoming more of who I’m meant to be and in that, I’m expressing myself in ways that feel genuine and authentic.
Then there’s today.
This is the day Matt wrapped up his work as a commercial lighting and electrical salesman and stepped into his counseling career full-time. After six long years of his time and attention being divided between work and school, then work and an internship, and eventually work and building a practice, he’s done.
The sacrifice was real.
But after all that, I can tell you this with absolute certainty.
The other side is worth it.
Keep pressing on, friend.
5 Proven Ways to Get Through the Hard Times in Life
1. Know that guilt and shame have no place in your circumstances.
These feelings often stem from the belief that your worth is tied to “success”, embarrassment over your life behind closed doors, or worry that others will think less of you.
In the words of Dwight Shrute, “False.”
When guilt and shame arise, tell yourself a truth, and have compassion for where you are. Oh my gosh, this is a big one. And something I’m still working on.
Here’s an example from my own life.
I was mortified when I realized just how dysfunctional my marriage was, especially the part I played in it. I suddenly felt like a very weak woman.
But, here’s the truth. I was living to the best of my ability and as authentically as I possibly could. That’s all I ever ask of myself.
2. Be willing to get vulnerable.
Sometimes vulnerability looks like apologizing. I’m not good at this yet.
It may mean asking for help. In my own life, there was a time when my health was so crippling I couldn’t function. So, I swallowed my pride and asked my small group at church for help. They cleaned my house. They cooked for us. One of them even spent her Friday night taking down and putting away all my Christmas decorations, including the tree.
Other times, and probably the hardest to accept, vulnerability often requires change. Remember, lasting-change happens from the inside out. You’ll set yourself up for a perpetual cycle of hope and disappointment if you only work on outward behavior. It’s kind of like treating the symptoms and not the illness. Instead, let the behaviors guide you to the deeper, within work.
3. Give yourself space.
Sometimes your circumstances are so big, everything else stops. Be okay with pressing pause on anything you need to in order to be present in your circumstances.
This blog was on pause for about two years while I grieved everything from my Dad suffering a massive stroke, to my daughter moving away, to what I thought was the loss of my marriage. That’s all I had the capacity for.
Difficulty comes with a range of emotions. This is a good thing. Allow yourself space to process any and all emotions that come up during the hard times. Go to a counselor if you need to. I certainly did. In fact, I still do.
4. Remember, you’re not alone.
It can certainly seem like you’re all alone, especially if you feel like you can’t tell anyone what you’re going through. For years, I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone about my marital problems. Man, was I selling my friends and family short. They were smart enough to separate the circumstances from the person and love us both well as they journeyed through the hardest times with us.
Their support gave me the strength I needed. They were the stake and string holding me up when I needed it most.
5. Realize the power in your story.
Every time you share your story, you give someone hope. They get to see how the story ends. It’s kind of like fast forwarding through time and getting to see all the trees.
Other people’s stories has helped me through many hard times, and even helped me decide what I’m willing to struggle for.