I heard this quote for the first time while on the hiking retreat this past September. She shared this while also expressing gratitude for the hard work of climbing a mountain; climbing a mountain with a heavy pack and an ankle that has been reconstructed. It struck me immediately as a simple phrase with a complex message. We can do hard things AND the after-effect is often gratitude. Sometimes, doing hard things reminds us of our deep strength and our sacred connection to our fellow humans. Thank you for sharing this lesson Jodi!

We can do hard things. I wanted to dig deeper into this idea of hard things. It gnawed at me in a way I can’t quite explain. The question that bubbled up was… How much of my life have I spent avoiding hard things? I have busied, numbed and distracted myself to try and NOT do, feel, or remember hard things. And sometimes, those hard things are buried deep inside just waiting to be acknowledged. There are categories and degrees of hardness for me and yet, some of the hardest things I have done have indeed been the impetus of appreciation, grace, and growth. Unlike a list of accomplishments, the hard things are not things I am especially proud of… in fact there is a slippery layer of shame on many of the hard things on my list.

“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again.” – Pema Chodron

We can do hard things. When I consider hard things, I think about both of my grandmothers. They raised families during the post-depression era and during World War II. They buried children, survived being young widows, and were estranged from grandchildren against their will. They both created a sense of purpose for themselves without a career. They both left a legacy of beauty, generosity and courage. They prayed for mercy and lived long lives. All of this… and I’m certain this doesn’t do justice to the list they might have written themselves.

We can do hard things. I have watched and witnessed my friends and family do hard things too. Friends who are caring for parents at the end of life, and friends who have lost parents and partners; a friend who decided to retire without being sure she was really ready; a friend with an medical condition requiring her to not drive or work for months; family members dealing with chronic illness and disability; a friend in search for housing after living in the same home for more than 30 years; a friend becoming the primary caregiver for her grandchildren while working full-time; friends who lost siblings; friends in recovery; friends who have put others first for so long, they feel invisible; friends who have lost contact with their adult children and live with the heartache. Those who deal with mental illness and dementia in loved ones.

We can do hard things. Without comparing your challenges with those of others, what has been really hard for you? What’s included on YOUR list of hard things? Take some time and create a list without thinking too much about them and then, one hard thing at a time, consider how it has changed you. Is there gratitude somewhere in your heart?

We can do hard things. It’s a simple thing with a complex message. But we can do hard things and doing so makes us more human. Let’s face it, we ALL do hard things every day. We blow the whistle and we speak our truth even when it may not be popular; we watch our aging bodies succumb to illness and injury; we lose investments, we lose people we love and we grieve our losses. We let go even when it’s our nature to keep fighting. We step back into the fire of life day after day knowing we will get burned and covered in soot. We love and forgive and get our hearts broken again and again. We do hard things and it reminds us we are alive. It actually gives rise to a “wanting” to do hard things on occasion.

We can do hard things. This exploration helped me recognize how hard it is to live in the world and conversely how much joy is also there, just around the corner. There is a podcast with the name, “We Can Do Hard Things” hosted by Glennon Doyle, which is worth checking out. If you too are curious, here is the link: http://wecandohardthingspodcast.com/

We can do hard things and when we do them together, it makes all the difference. When the hard times come (and they will) remind yourself that you can do this and you already have. Lean into your friends and family and allow them to lean into you.

My List of Hard Things

  • Kept secrets for others
  • Told the truth, even when it hurt another
  • Went to therapy
  • Left a job with security & benefits
  • Started a job without security & benefits
  • Didn’t tell my children the “whole” truth
  • Walked away from toxic friendships
  • I apologized to friends I hurt
  • Saying NO
  • Set boundaries
  • Had an abortion
  • Started a business
  • Ran marathons (12 actually)
  • Worked remotely (not easy for me)
  • Taught on-line yoga classes
  • Survived sexual assault
  • Gave 3-hour on-line lectures
  • I accepted the blame
  • Quit smoking
  • Left a marriage
  • Got married again
  • Started over
  • Bought a house by myself
  • Moved to Boston as a 22-year-old, alone
  • Forgave my mother; and asked for forgiveness
  • Asked for help- again & again and it is hard EVERY time