Life is hard. Not all days are good days. Don’t let all the positive posts on social media fool you. No one, and I mean no one, has good days every day. The truth is that life comes with both darkness and light; hills and valleys. There will be days where darkness is all that you feel, and the valleys can feel like hell. There will be days when hope seems bleak, and joy seems near impossible to find. There will be days where you question everything and struggle finding purpose and meaning. There will be days where you are ready to throw in the towel, and you want to quit. I want to tell you that there is a secret weapon to combat these feelings, but in reality, there isn’t. This is where your mindset will either keep you going or fail you miserably.
You may have heard, or even been told, all you need to do is keep a positive mindset. Let’s be honest, that’s not always easy or realistic. As the Dread Pirate Roberts, Wesley, one said, “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something” (Princes Bride, 1987). There is some truth in Wesley’s statement. Life is filled with pain; mental, emotional, physical. But the problem in his statement is the all encompassing statement that ALL of life is pain. Pain is part of life, but life is not encompassed by pain. We all have our moments where mental, emotional, and/or physical pain has encroached on our lives. We may be exhausted, tired, hurt, confused, etc., and these feelings unveil pain. However, these are only snippets in our life.
Maybe you have heard, “Count your blessings.” Again, good advice, but not always the easiest when you feel surrounded by darkness and defeat. Do we have blessings in our life? Yes. Are they always easy to recognize? Not always. I tend to focus on the simple and try to expand outward. Blessing number one – I woke up today, even if I didn’t feel like waking up. Another day is another chance to do something. There are times that our darkness becomes so cold that another day seems impossible. It is during these times that, if we aren’t careful, we will be consumed by the darkness rather than fight our way through it. But how do we fight when the battle feels unwinnable?
Winning a daunting battle is not easy. It takes perseverance, courage, and a growth mindset. And most importantly, it takes us breaking down our walls of selfishness. Darkness gets darker when we focus on ourselves. Whether we are struggling with depression, mental exhaustion, physical exhaustion, or what have you, we tend to focus on ourselves and our “pain”. When we keep this focus, the harder it is to win the battle.
I struggle with depression and with having feelings of “What’s the point?”. My battle comes and goes, and there are days when the battle seems unbeatable; where the day is dark and hope is hard to find. It is easy for me to drift into a mental state of “Me”. My focus and attention begins to erode into negative thoughts. Nothing seems to be going well. I begin to feel stuck, and life’s direction seems pretty bleak. This leads to anxiety and more negative thoughts. To be honest, it is hard to come out of these deep mental valleys. I can put on a good face and trick everyone into thinking all is good, but behind the façade is a struggling human being. And the more I wage war on the inside, the harder it is to keep the façade going. Days are long and very hard to get through. My motivation is gone, and I don’t want to invest energy into anything. Living life this way is brutal, but there are days when this is life.
Not all days are good days, but I refuse to lose the battle. I refuse to give up on the war. Life comes with “pain”, but pain is temporary if we are willing to put in the time. Earlier I talked about “counting your blessings.” When the darkness comes and life’s pain creeps in, I force myself to think beyond myself, especially since I don’t want to at the time. I think about my wife and my children. I think about how they need me, and in the midst of darkness, they are the light that shines hope. I force myself to reflect on who I want to be and the legacy I want to leave behind. I consider what is closest to me first, and how I am needed in the lives that mean the most.
I examine how my choices and actions are showing my children how to persevere, be courageous, and push through hard times. When I begin to consider that which is closest to me, and means the most to me, the “pain” begins to subside.
Not everyone may have a wife, husband, or children in their life, but we all have that one friend that sticks closer than a brother or sister. We all have someone in our life that we respect and feel valued by. When the darkness comes, and it will, remember these people. Remember how they make you feel and the fulfillment they bring to your life. Fight the desire of wanting to hide away. The more we focus on ourselves, the darker things become. Force yourself outside of yourself. Realize that your presence in this world is significant. Out of all of the combinations and chances in the universe, you were the one that beat ALL the odds. Your life is not an accident. You have something to give and share, but if we only focus on ourselves and our “pain”, we miss out on the opportunity to give and share; and we miss out on living this gift we have been given.
No matter what you are going through, please know that you are not alone. Not all days are good days, and I am one that understands that clearly. Keep fighting the battle, and look for that small glimmer of hope that is shining in the darkness – it’s there. I promise. You are not here by accident. You have purpose and meaning. There may be times that you don’t think your life has purpose and meaning, but I assure you, it does. Just because we are not doing what the world considers to be “great” doesn’t mean that your interactions, words of encouragement, and service to others aren’t great. Greatness comes from the heart and in the choices we make. No battle is greater than you. No war is unbeatable. Focus on what you can do for others. Focus on how one interaction with someone might be the hope they are needing to win their battle. You just don’t know which interaction that might be.
As always, stay humble, serve well, and keep fighting!