For me, struggle is struggle. It doesn't matter if you are dealing with an autoimmune disease, broken heart, cancer diagnosis, betrayal or grief. All of those scenarios can cause a person to ask themselves the same questions or make observations that may include: why is this happening, how can I stop feeling this way, why is there suffering in the world, why does life seems so unfair? For me, when my husband and I split 3 years ago, this happened. We lived in our super modern dream house on 50 acres. Surrounded by a fantastic community and loads of friends, I truly thought we would be together forever. Then "disaster" struck. He abruptly left, moved in with another woman he had been with for some unknown amount of time and suddenly we could not keep the house while separated due to the mortgage payment being too high. I was suddenly incapacitated from heartbreak, was losing my dream home, was scrambling to understand what was happening, had a bewildered and sad six year old I sudden was taking care of most of the time, and not a clue how to deal with any of it. This was not the plan I had signed up for. Or so I believed then. I thought my had life crumbled in an instant. Overnight I started comparing myself to others. I looked at happy families, happy marriages in beautiful homes and deemed them successful at life, and me unsuccessful. I know the same happens with illness. As I listen to my clients stories of ill-health (mostly autoimmune disease) a lot of conclusions that the world is a hostile place come forward. What I did not know then, was that this was the magic ticket to loving myself, having compassion for my struggles and learning the power of forgiveness.
How many of you have had a heartbreaking or traumatic event? You get a diagnosis, accident, divorce, death, loss of some kind. Life changes. A lot of "why is this happening to me" comes up. So I allowed myself to ask that question. A lot. I let myself feel sad for a very long time. I dedicated days and months to crying. And in those days and months of sadness, I suffered from waves of regret, bitterness, fear, humility and finally peace. Out of this ordeal came the conclusion that life is never broken, life is never off track, blessings are cleverly disguised as tragedies and every human being is privy to the riches of life.
In this process I was able to learn some valuable lessons that I have incorporated into my daily life as best I can. They were pivotal moments that changed my life, molecules, energy and beliefs in an instant, and provided fertile ground to use my "disaster" to be my blessing of untold measure. It had nothing to do with my diet, my supplements, my surroundings, my lifestyle. It had to do with how I framed up my situation. It became a change in my personal mantra for life. It is a practice however, and like all humans, I am prone to the occasional pitfalls of negative self-talk. Through my experience, I awoke to the possibility that the universe was conspiring towards my wholeness. I began to let go more often of judging my disaster as bad, and began to re-label it as my own personal blessing the universe created for my upliftment. It is hard to say the diagnosis of a disease or life as you know it falling apart could be a blessing, but perhaps this re-framing of your thoughts could be a valuable exercise to consider.
3 Ways to Re-Frame Difficulty
1. How You Approach Your Difficulty Is The Medicine. Here is an example of this: ask yourself how you feel about your difficulty. I am going to fight this disease. I am going to make that person pay for the pain they caused me. I am going to survive this. I am a survivor. I am a victim. Everyone has their personal answer.
Now try an exercise to re-frame your attachment to your circumstances. I like to sit quietly and do this. Take a few breaths to relax and then pretend there was no good or bad about your situation. Pretend that there was a gift-giving universe behind your difficulty. Pretend for a moment that there is something about your difficulty that is a tailor-made blessing that at its very core is upliftment. See if you get a sense of what yours may be. It may look like this
old thought: "I am so unlucky that I have Multiple Sclerosis. Life sucks. I am in pain a lot and feel like life is unfair"
new thought: "I am able to meet all my challenges as they come with humor and grace. I feel thankful for discovering how strong my heart is through this experience. I thankful for how much more gentle I am with myself now"
old thought: "I am so pissed I can't eat the way I used to. It is so hard to spend money on all this food for this stupid new diet. I hate being sick"
new thought: "I am incredibly lucky this healing diet came forward in my life. I am a more loving and compassionate person now that I have to focus more on myself and my health. I am amazed at how quickly my body is healing with this new approach to wellness"
I have done these exercises and taped them on my mirror in the bathroom. I am a believer in 'fake it until you make it'. And when I imagine myself whole, being pulled forward in life by grace and abundance, I feel better. My constant re-framing of my belief that it is grace and abundance pulling me forward, and not suffering and heartbreak means that the universe is meeting me with just that that. This takes practice. I am vigilant about this practice, as I consider it to be my most important aspect of my health.
2. Appreciating What Is Present. Recently I was feeling competitive toward someone. I felt the old pull of "why can't I just be accepted". So when I feel that lack of being accepted, I find that the universe keeps creating scenarios of being accepted over and over again until I start re-framing my belief to include: I am enough already, and I can love and bless the person I feel competitive towards. I change my relationship to the difficulty and let it become my medicine. Heath and healing are truly a multi-layered approach. All the things that manifest in my life get equal billing. Rejection, pain, suffering, euphoria, joy, healing...all of it is coming forward so that I can being loving towards it. I have stopped pushing difficulty away as I see its potential to change how loving I can be in a matter of an instant. Last week I had to meet with lawyers about my divorce. I was so sad. I went to work sad and crying. For a moment I felt weak. Then I re-framed it. My clients may appreciate how open-hearted I was that day. How compassionate I am to myself when I struggle. How thankful I am to having a friendship now with my ex. I spent the day appreciating how tender I was. I appreciated the lawyer having a box of tissues in his office. I appreciated how well my ex and I get along now. I appreciated the crockpot dinner I had made in anticipation of me being sad and not wanting to cook after meeting with the lawyer.
3. Gentle and Loving to Myself. This perhaps may be the most difficult of them all. How many of you find it easier to be loving and gentle to others more than yourself? When I am gentle and loving to myself, then I am more able to be gentle and loving to others. Here is an example. You go to the grocery store and forget something important on your list. You go back home and realize you forgot it.
old thought: "I am SO mad at myself. That was so stupid of me. I really am upset. I needed that ingredient to make dinner. Now everyone will be disappointed. I hate that my brain does not work well with my illness"
new thought: "Well, good thing I have frozen soup in the freezer to heat up tonight! Look how well that worked out! Must not have been the night for baked chicken. I feel upset at myself, but everyone messes up. This is a good reminder to start leaving that pad of paper in my purse so I can remember my grocery list instead of depending on my brain which occasionally takes a break from its duties"
My good friends and family know that that my biggest "disaster" has really been the most beautiful experience I have had. The very experience I thought would destroy me has allowed me to be a more loving person towards myself and my circumstances. It has taught me to re-frame my circumstances and my struggles and transform my life into an adventure of my heart.