When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Or the weak implode. Either way, when life gets bumpy there’s an opportunity to find out what we’re really made of.
A few years ago I took up rowing. I miss those days. The early, frost-bitten starts where training on the river was completed in near total darkness. The gym sessions, the 2k tests … oh the pain! Legs screaming; lungs bursting. OK, so perhaps I don’t miss everything about it.
Yet the camaraderie was unparalleled, and the opportunity to see what exactly I could endure was invaluable. To know that you can be pushed to the limit, and then a little bit more, is powerful self-awareness.
Not every painful lesson in life is presented as neatly as a training session followed by hot coffee and a full breakfast. And not every pain is physical. Not every challenge is chosen and not every moment of agony can be walked away from. We don’t always choose what will test us, and we can’t always choose how we respond. Sometimes life smacks us hard and fast and we’re left reeling.
Our lives when jostled, reveal what’s on the inside. Like a glass of water, when knocked; what’s inside comes out. When placed under duress we reveal who we really are. Our niceties, our politeness – all of which require the usual amount of effort to sustain – don’t come to our aid. They can’t. Simply mustering the energy required when all our mental resources are being otherwise drained is impossible. Our refinement fails us.
For most people, the darkest moments come sparingly; for some they’re all too often. But for all of us there’s an opportunity in each moment of agony to see what’s really going on, deep down. Our modern world might provide the perfect assortment of distractions and diversions, allowing us to hide from ourselves and from others, but these all elude us when we’re jostled hard.
Faced with the fact that most of us in our lives will each be individually rocked to our core at one point or another, we have two options: ignore and hope for the best, or hope for the best and prepare.
Not that we can prepare totally of course. The once-in-a-lifetime flood devastates even the best defences, indiscriminately knocking down valuable and worthless things alike. But we can prepare for the search and rescue. We can reconcile that the things we’ve built will be knocked down, and we can choose today to question what should be rebuilt in its place.