Vicki Hinze © 2002-2011
By now, I’m considering it an established fact that I don’t edit this weblog. To me (and for me) it’s like sitting at the kitchen table over coffee, chatting with good friends…
Today, I received an email from a woman whose soul, I swear, was crying. She asked, “How do you overcome the challenges of everyday and the people who suffer around you?”
I think I’ve mentioned that I’m an empath, if not, well, the secret’s out here. I felt her pain. It was so deep and so strong, I couldn’t believe her body could hold it all. I felt her emotions: the turmoil, the devastation, the hopelessness. And above all these, I felt her fear. Fear that things would get worse.
This is a complex problem that can’t be fixed with the waving of a hand–at least not the hand of this mere mortal. And I won’t sit here and say that I know all the answers; I don’t. What I will do is share from my experience and pray hard that something I say helps.
First of all, when someone around me is suffering, I suffer. If it’s someone I love, then that suffering is immense. If it’s someone I’ve somehow connected to emotionally, that suffering is immense. We’ll get to dealing with that in a moment, because the ability to cope is effected in a big way by your everyday challenges, and your everyday challenges effect in a big way your ability to cope with someone suffering.
The everyday challenges are easier to handle, easier to resolve, so it’s important to get them dealt with and out of the way. Then your resources aren’t spread so thin. Your tolerance isn’t being divided into sections.
I’m no expert, but here’s my very best advice on coping with everyday challenges:
1. As soon as you’ve got a firm fix on the challenge, switch your focus to finding a solution. There’s no sense in rehashing the problem, complaining, or griping about it for hours. That does nothing to solve the problem. So identify the challenge, wrap your mind around it, and then get focused on a solution.
Focusing on a solution takes brain power but it’s constructive, not destructive. Constructive makes you feel empowered, skilled, and capable. Even if you haven’t yet figured it out. If you look for a way, you’ll find it. Destructive is what brings all those negative, dark emotions out, like despair, hopelessness, the “I just can’t deal with one more thing today!
Well, guess what? You can. You can because you must. It’s how you deal with it that makes a difference in how you feel about it. You do get to choose. You get to choose destructive (focusing on the problem) or constructive (focusing on the solution). Focus on the solution.
2. Understand that every challenge isn’t a crisis. If all we were comfortable with was the easy stuff, we’d never stretch, never try new things, never grow or change in any way. Now that would be a serious challenge!
To me, the key here is to write stuff down. (It’s the author in me. When I write it down, it’s real. Yet another flaw; what can I say?) I write a prioritized list. That way, if I have 15 items on the list and I only get to 4, at least I’ve gotten the most important 4 done. Five through 15 are less apt to be crises.
So make a list and deal with the most important things on it first. Fewer crises make for fewer challenges.
3. Accept what cannot be changed. We put a lot of acid and a lot of knots in our stomachs worrying about what COULD happen and about things we cannot change. This one is tough because by and large we’re “I can fix it” people. But sometimes we just can’t. And that’s when many question God, by whatever name, and even faith itself.
But I believe there’s a bigger picture in these things we can’t change. Sometimes we must accept that prevailing wisdom sees more, knows more, and that small challenges prepare us for the inevitable bigger ones. It’s like training wheels on bikes. We need them to stabilize us, to assist until we gain our balance. Then the wheels come off, we’re ready for the big stuff. And then we fall. It helps knowing that we all do fall. That we all have disappointments, heartaches, rough days, and rougher nights.
All challenges seem bigger at night. I’ve decided it’s the absence of light. We feel as though we’re in a cave and it’s harder to find your way out in the dark. But then morning comes, we see more clearly and easily, and we endure and survive. Sometimes painlessly, and sometimes with hurts that run deep.
Here’s the thing. No one gets past puberty without being hurt, and no one gets to it without being challenged. We often can’t control that. What we can control is our reaction to those challenges.
Whether it’s destructive or constructive. Whether we allow the challenge to take us down or we lift the solution up–even if that solution is to accept what you can’t change. We choose.
So my advice on coping with everyday problems is this: choose wisely.
Watching those around you suffer is a very difficult thing. I watched my father die. It took a year of hard labor. I watched my mother die after six straight months beside her in the hospital. Day and night, night and day, seeing all the pain and agony and setbacks and codes and this complicating that, and that complicating something else.
It was hell.
Being at that hospital so much, I saw a lot of people come and go, a lot of families torn up about the loss of a loved one, a lot joyful that their loved one had been yanked back from the jaws of death.
The thing is it was hell for all of them. Some were blessed with happy outcomes, and so on the other side of hell, they felt joy. And just an observation here, but that joy was stronger, sweeter, more intense because they’d trudged through hell. When you REALLY slog through the lows, man the highs are REALLY high.
My mother and I were extremely close. In the 9 years prior to her death, we’d had that role reversal and I’d mothered her. Watching her suffer hurt. There’s no way of avoiding that. Love demands it. But being there for her, doing what I could do to make things easier for her, made me feel better. She knew she wasn’t going through hell alone. She knew I would do anything I could for her at any time.
She knew she was loved.
I guess I’m going about this in a long-winded way. I don’t mean to, it’s just that sometimes I don’t think in straight paths. I have to meander around until it all makes sense to me. And now it does.
I loved her through the suffering.
With my whole heart, I gave all I could give. And just before her suffering ended, she told me the nine years she’d lived with me had been the best years of her life. For the first time, she hadn’t had to worry about anything, she’d been happy, and she’d been loved.
And I realized that she had loved me through the suffering, too. And given back tenfold.