hurricane genevieve

Are you done with suffering?

Covid, racial tensions, political unrest, opioid crisis, and hurricanes. What a great year huh? 2020 has certainly given us enough reasons to ask why bad things happen to good people. As I write this, Hurricane Genevieve is swirling wind and rain around our home. As I have written before, into every life a little rain must fall. I imagine this year we have been hit with more than our fair share of challenges, leading many of us to ask why this is all happening.

I have been asking this too, on a global and personal level. As I researched suffering, the same answers came back to me through religious and non-religious sources. The bad things that come into our lives, our struggles and challenges are not punishment, they are there to help us evolve and be the best people we can be. It appears we need pain, suffering and hardship to transform and become our best selves.

Hurricane Genevieve from Windy.com

I know this is true for me. Every challenge I have had has resulted in me releasing a bit more ego, letting go of my rigid unhelpful thinking, and has made me more aware of how my actions and reactions affect others. These challenges took me out of my routine and made me look at life differently. Illness, loss, and natural disasters disrupt my normal and force me to look at what I believe and how I am living. Without these challenges, I would not have chosen to really look at how I was living my life. Without challenges, I would have never chosen to shed my armor so I could become vulnerable and honest with myself and others. Without this suffering, I would not have chosen to fully examine my life. That is how suffering is a gift.

In the past, I shared the story of a pinecone and how a seemingly horrible event like a forest fire, is actually the birthplace of new life. And so it is with us I believe. We don’t grow, we don’t evolve until our old self – our old beliefs, habits, and knee-jerk reactions – are ripped away. It is through the shedding of what doesn’t serve us that we can uncover, accept, and embrace what is better for us.  Instead of living every day on autopilot, just going along one day after another doing what we have always done before and hiding from the realities of life, we can face our fears and embrace change. None of us want to be challenged, and yet, I believe, we all become better when we do.

The next time you are faced with a challenge instead of asking why me, ask what am I being asked to learn? How can this opportunity help me grow? What belief and way of being is no longer serving me and needs to be shed?  When any living things stops changing and growing, it dies. Instead of fighting reality, refusing to change, and withering on the vine, step up to your challenge and learn how you can become better on the other side. And remember to be kind and considerate of others as our path to enlightenment often has to reveal our worst selves before we can shed them and become better. Hang in there!

Stress is . . . oh, wait, I don’t remember

For years I was caught in the trap of overdoing everything. I took on more and more work because I felt I had to prove myself. I couldn’t let go of my responsibilities because I felt I would no longer be of value. I made myself feel more important than others because I did more than they did. I was not only creating an unhappy life; truth is I was also hurting my brain.

According to recent research based on The Framingham Heart Study, high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, leads to reductions in brain volume, memory, and visual perception. This agrees with that I have found in my life. When I am too busy, when I am overextending myself, when I have intense stress, I don’t think, remember, or see well.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

During my recent visit to the States, I had to prepare a property for a new renter. The last renter left a lot of surprises. Almost every day we found something new to repair, a utility bill that was not paid, or some other twist that now needed untwisting. I was stressed. I was under a deadline. Much of what had to be done was outside of my abilities which made me feel powerless. Plus, I was trying to do this while still working and attempting to visit with people I had not seen in a year.  Every day I was at the rental house, I felt distracted. I was unclear as to what to do or what I intended to do next. I didn’t see things the first time I looked at them. Basically, I was not working on all cylinders.

Stuff happens and we need to deal with it. This is part of life. But there are a few ways we can minimize the effects of stress on our lives and our brains.

Stick to Your Routine

This is my current challenge. I know, believe, and see proof that when we keep healthy daily practices, we are better able to deal with the challenges of life. However when life becomes too stressful or busy, I find myself more times than not saying I don’t have time for all of my practices or I am not doing them thoroughly. Our daily practices are our foundation of our sanity and serenity. Hold true to your practices as much as possible even when things go sideways.

Phone a Friend

Whether you ask a friend for help or just have a kind, compassionate ear to share with, making connections with others can lower our cortisol level. We go from stress and victimhood, to feeling heard and supported. This can make a difference in our physiological response, our ability to handle situations, and our experience of the challenges. Remember to reach out to the right person for the support you need. Brené Brown has some good advice about this; she talks about sharing shame but it applies to sharing our challenges as well.

Don’t Make More

Life is terrific at taking a left turn. Part of life is dealing with challenges. And there can be a lot of them. That is why it is important to not create more. Are you making mountains out of molehills? Are you currently in a good spot and therefore feel a need to create an issue to deal with? Do you feel naked and exposed without something to complain about? Life is better the less we have to be stressed about. Be aware of when you are adding on instead of removing stress from your life.

Be kind to your brain. Reduce your stress.

Overcoming Challenges with a Fighting Spirit – Paul Delger

Sometimes our challenges seem insurmountable.  Between a tyrannical boss, needy children, and inattentive spouse we feel like we have daily battles to fight.  However these are all external battles.  What if our battle was with our own body?

Paul Delger
Paul Delger

Imagine being born with cerebral palsy and being restricted in the use of the right side of your body.  Imagine the physical challenges that would come from that ailment.  Then imagine the social stigma, especially as a child, you would receive.  Imagine the challenge of finding a job and being able to function in your position. 

These are all challenges Paul Delger faced and overcame.  Paul has battled these difficulties with a strong faith in God, a strong will and a sense of humor.  Paul now speaks to groups to motivate people to face their challenges with a fighting spirit.  Listen below to learn about Paul’s “fighting spirit” and how you can awaken your own.  Everything can be overcome.