Hard Isn't Bad. It's Just Hard
If there was one “secret” to my own waking up, it would be the ability to accept this very simple reality - hard is not a bad thing. I can't help but think about all those years I ignored the signals, all those times I had the option of making a different choice but didn’t. In all honesty, I didn’t just ignore those signals in my personal relationship. It was like falling asleep in one part of my life made it impossible to stay awake at all. I look back now and see that my life wasn’t nearly as compartmentalized as I thought. All of my relationships with friends and family were suffering from my neglect. And even though my job paid well and the benefits were good, I knew for at least two years before my job was eliminated that it was no longer a good fit for me. And yet I did nothing different. Why? Because it was simply easier to stay asleep.
Let’s face it. Most of us don’t like hard. We stay in relationships that are no longer life-giving or healthy because it is just easier than leaving. We stay in jobs we hate because we cannot find the gumption, as my dad would say, to do something different. We don’t write our novel, ask for a raise, try out for community theatre, take piano lessons, try yoga, say no, put needed boundaries around our children – all because it just feels too hard.
When did hard become a bad thing?
Maybe it is in our nature to avoid things that don’t come easily. Maybe our “everyone gets a trophy for participating” culture has led us to believe we shouldn’t have to work hard for what we want. Certainly the layers of expectation we put on ourselves and each other don’t help. There are so many messages telling us to just shut up and keep sleep walking. What kind of crazy person leaves a great paying job with benefits to start up their own company? Who walks away from a beautiful house, cars, vacations, a life of privilege? If you’re surrounded with all of those things and not happy there must be something wrong with you. Everyone hates their job. Realistic people don’t cash in their retirement so they can travel the world. Grow up, no one gets what they want, we have responsibilities. Who do you think you are? Where I was raised, these ideas would be met with the warning to not get “too big for my britches”. The voices are clear. Stay small. Stay safe. Do not take risks. Don’t make any big moves. It could all fall apart at any moment.
I think we live our lives so deeply within the boundaries of expectation because stepping outside of them is simply too scary. Maybe we fail to create the life we want because it feels so hard to do something different. For at least two years -maybe more, I knew that my job was no longer life-giving to me. Over 18 years I had gained an excellent reputation, made good money and had a lot of autonomy. What’s not to love? Yet, in spite of all appearances, my soul was starving. The work gave me less and less meaning as time went on. I no longer felt like a good match for the organization. I was no longer being challenged. I was simply coasting. But there was just enough good in my work, just enough financial reward, to keep me asleep. Recognition from my peers, well-completed projects and excellent evaluations were like Ambien to my soul. Don’t rock the boat, I thought. Look how good you have it I would say to myself. Just a one more year, I mused.
The funny thing is, as you know from last week’s blog, I ended up leaving – only not of my own accord. Hearing that my position was being eliminated was like having someone throw open the darkening shades on my soul’s windows. Even amid all of the uncertainty of that time, all of the questions about what would come next, I could hear my soul whispering to me. “This is soooo good!”
Waking up is hard but the soul will not settle for anything other than our most authentic, real, abundant selves. We can cover it, bury it, and lock it away, but our soul will not be denied. Ever. Time after time the soul comes knocking, inviting us out into the light. Sometimes that knock is subtle. Sometimes it jerks us awake, taking our breath, screaming into our ear. In its quest to bring life, abundance, and joy, the soul will do whatever it takes to get our attention.
The day I walked out of the CEO’s office with that separation packet in my hand, I was determined to find my courage – you know that thing that exists when we move not away from fear, but in spite of it. In the months that followed it became clear to me that I had been dying on the inside from years of my own neglect. So I made a small step - a made a hard but conscious decision to open my eyes and my heart regardless of what I would find. That decision did not guarantee that what was to follow would be easy or certain. But that one, small step of consciously deciding to courageously see what was really there ultimately changed the course of my life. And without question, it changed it for the better.