We Can Do Hard Things

A few years ago a friend recommended the book Carry on Warrior by Glennon Melton. She (my friend and Glennon) were both moms of young kids, and I remember her telling me that the author’s take on motherhood had her laughing out loud.

I like to laugh and I like kids, so I bought a copy, and what I found between it’s pages was so much more than I ever expected. If you haven’t read it, it’s Glennon’s story of losing herself to alcoholism, bulimia and drugs and coming back to life and wholeness when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant with her son. It’s a story about love and faith, unending second chances, grace and the power of honesty. Most of all it’s about the magic that happens when you are honest and vulnerable about how not together your life is and invite others to be their authentic, messy and beloved selves.

Glennon and Brene Brown are my #allthefeels power duo – full of sage wisdom and nuggets of truth and quotable quotes about how to live a vulnerable, messy, “brutiful” [that’s “brutal” + “beautiful”] life.

One of those wisdom nuggets [not to be confused with chicken McNuggets – wisdom nuggets contain ingredients I can pronounce and are not completely disgusting] is “We Can Do Hard Things.”

One of my coworkers has a “We Can Do Hard Things” sign propped up in their cubicle – every time I walk by it I feel a zing of truth in my soul. Pause, breathe, reset – we can do hard things.

This phrase has been cropping up a lot in my life lately, and is taking on a new depth of meaning. It started a few months ago when I was coaching Girls on the Run.

We were on week 3 of not being able to go outside due to the fires, and I was struggling with how to entertain 12 energizer bunny 8 year olds inside. We were talking about their upcoming 5k race, and many of the girls expressed fear “That is SO far! I can’t run that far! I’m going to die!!” God bless 8 year olds and their flair for the dramatic.

My gut reaction was to assure them “No no it won’t be too hard! It’s only 3 miles, it’s just running, there’s no reason to be scared.” But then I realized two things – one, 3 miles is a lot when you 8-year old sized legs [it’s a lot of running for many grown-ups as well] and two, it didn’t matter if I thought it was hard or not, they did – their fear was real. Their fear was real, so it was worth paying attention to.

I looked at those little faces and I channeled my inner Glennon and I decided some radical truth telling was in order. “Girls, listen, here’s the truth – yes, it might be hard to run that race. But I believe that every single one of you can do it. You know why? You can do hard things. And to prove it, we are going to bear crawl up and down this hallway – because I want us to remember just because something is hard doesn’t mean we can’t do it” So I send those girls up and down the school hallway on a bear crawling relay race. The cheered each other on as they slipped and slid across the floor. Some stopped halfway through and restarted with cheers from their teammates. At the end I looked at them and said “Ok, who thought that was easy?” No hands. “Who did it anyways?” All the hands.

We can do hard things.

My 33-year old fears look slightly different than the fears of those 8 year olds, but the core beliefs are the same.

The reason I don’t want to do hard things isn’t because I’m lazy – it’s because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of pain – of the literal pain of running up a steep hill, my lungs straining against my chest, but more deeply the pain of rejection or disappointment or failure.

I’m afraid of trying and failing, and what that will say about who I am and my worth in this world.

Another Glennon/Brene [Glenne? Brenonon?] power phrase is that quote “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s being afraid and doing it anyways.”

I love that.

There are so many hard things in life – some are obvious and we get lots of credit for doing them. Getting an advanced degree. Public speaking. Giving birth. And then there are smaller, quieter things that are no less hard, and we rarely get recognition for them.

Working to repair a broken relationship. Asking for forgiveness. Choosing hope when circumstances point toward despair. Listening – truly listening – to the story and pain of someone who is different than us, who has experienced this world and life differently because of the color of their skin or who they love. Changing your mind. Choosing love over hate, forgiveness over righteous indignation, hope over cynicism. Loving another person with full awareness of their flaws and foibles – holding them all with love.

The older I get, the more keenly aware I am of how brutiful – brutal and beautiful – life is, and the less interested I am in trying to smooth away the rough edges with an “It’s not that bad, look on the bright side!” minimizing. Instead my rallying cry lately, to myself and to the people I love dearly, has been an acknowledgement that yes, that strained relationship, that tenuous job situation, the pain of that unfulfilled dream, navigating that messy family dynamic – that is damn freaking hard.

That is hard and We Can Do Hard Things.