I won’t go into a description of my challenges, other than to say that the first few months of my marriage were tough, not from the wife, but the job. You can read more about it here.
I’m writing to point out a few lessons learned from my predicament. What good is going through tough times if you can’t learn a few lessons along the way to make them a little less tough in the future.
- First up, find something to stand on, anything. Imagine you are on a cliff, and the only way to get off is up, but for whatever reason the cliff seems to be getting 2 feet taller for every one foot you make it up. At this point you have to think not about the height of the wall, but the steps you’ve taken and the progress made. If you think about how much the height of the wall has grown your fatigue will overtake you. This is what I felt when working 12 hour days and leaving the office with a longer to do list than when I had started the day. I was working as hard and as fast as I could and it wasn’t good enough. I shut that out of my mind, I had to in order to show up the next day ready to attack a challenge much bigger than myself. Instead, I forced myself to focus at the end of each day on what I had accomplished that day, now matter how small. This small sense of accomplishment became motivation to hit the next day running head first.
- Exercise. This wasn’t something that was easy to do. Anytime there was an opportunity my mind was telling me to hop on the bus that would drop me conveniently a few blocks from my front door. Maybe I wasn’t up for my normal CrossFit workout of the day, however I could make the two mile partially uphill trek home when the sun was out. This not only gave me some much needed exercise, but also time to reflect on the day, what I hadn’t been able to get done, what was added to my list, and more importantly what I had gotten done and my plan of attack for the next day.
- See the sun above the clouds. There are dark times ahead, life will not always be rosy. Typically the darkest times will hit at the worst possible moment, and there is nothing you can do about this. You can, however, change the way you work your way through the dark times. Just as I can predict that there will be stormy skies in store, there will also be days where things seem just too good to be true. In order to get through one set of days to the next you have to persevere, and to be able to persevere you have to know, not hope, that soon the clouds will part and the sun will shine through. In my case this was a project deadline, when the majority, not all, of the work would be done and the long days and weekends at the office away from my new wife would end. Sure enough they did, I’m back to enjoying my weekends, and working my way back into the gym. Of course there are still some thorns in my side at work, but I’m also getting to enjoy a some time away.
- Have some confidence in yourself. Not too much though, that can bring about a whole other set of problems. The confidence comes from believing in you abilities. I ran into trouble with this when my abilities weren’t making the cut, and I felt I was throwing everything I had in the fire to get over the line. At this point I knew I had only one thing I could fall back on, and that was my ability to persevere. Everyday I was going to show up, on time or early, and give it my best. If the day took a turn for the worst, and many were seeming to turn that way, I would still show up the next day ready to go at it again. I had this belief in myself that if I could knock out my problems, then I could wear them down. Somehow, slowly but surely, I did.
- “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.” This thought has always struck me with it’s powerful truth. If I know anything about myself, I can sometimes convince myself that the fate of the world rests on my shoulders. While you and I both know this isn’t true, it can sure feel like it sometimes. Other times I can feel utterly powerless. Finding a middle ground is a constant struggle, but admitting my limitations to myself is a start. Each time I go through a trial, I’m also granted a bit more wisdom to better know the difference in the future.