August 22, 2018

Life is difficult. For everybody.

In a world where people shouldn't have problems, life shouldn't be difficult and mistakes aren't supposed to happen, our expectations become the obstacles to facing the truth. The biggest scam of all is that we keep looking for the reasons people we see, know, love and hear about have problems, make mistakes and face difficulties because we think that in doing so we can avoid their misfortunes. But isn't it really to keep ourselves from accepting reality- that life is difficult by its nature, that humanity is flawed and problems are a normal and regular part of life? Isn't it so we can remain comfortable but blind to the inevitable and the very things that make us human- mistakes, even death?

"Life is difficult" reads the first line of one of my favourite books, The road less travelled by M. Scott Peck. When I hit huge bumps in the road a few years ago, I knew I needed more than the tools I'd been given to navigate the journey ahead. I started to search for information outside the things I'd grown up hearing because the frames for problem solving I'd learned up to that point didn't work in this new place I was in.

Now when I hear "You should be happy" or "You deserve to be happy", I understand that it comes from a good place but I know that not only will I not always be happy as this is unrealistic, happiness isn’t all I need. All the facets of human emotion and experience- loss, death, disappointment- have something to teach. Happiness alone isn’t enough.

Now when I hear a pastor say ‘As you step into the week, this and that will happen’, I don’t jump in that air to claim it. Not to say there is something wrong with the saying or the claiming but I just know life is not always like that. And I can't go back to being na├»ve as I was before I realised I needed new ways to cope when things didn’t go my way not a sense of entitlement that only good things should happen and when they didn’t it was my fault because I didn’t pray enough to ward them off or I wasn’t wise or experienced enough to avert them.
A favourite saying between my mum and I is that the person with the problem is considered stupid by everyone else. By that we refer to people's tendency to offer unsolicited criticism and theoretical advice, burdening a person who's already down. It's the "If to say na me" syndrome which means a person believes what happened to you couldn't happen to them because they'd have done things differently. In theory.  

We like to believe simplistic conclusions that say someone died, lost their marriage, job, home, money, or children because they were careless or made a mistake. And this is not to say people's actions sometimes have no role to play in their problems but to disabuse the harsh notion that a person is solely responsible for causing the difficulties life hands them as if, if the person had any idea that their actions would lead to loss, they'd still take them.

The reality is calamity happens to us all and the reason people die is because people die. The reason people suffer loss is because it's just what people do! We need to not only be kinder to ourselves as human beings but accepting of our common reality so we can show kindness not judgement to ourselves and others when befallen by calamity.

This week I got reconnected to a group of girls I haven't seen in over a decade. It's been such a heart warming thing to happen- finding old friends who've been long loved and lost. A conversation I had with one of them, showed me how much I have shifted from an entitled mind set that things should work my way, people should like, respect or agree with me or my life should not only look great to people, but should feel great for me. All. The. Time. 
She'd asked after my children (unbelievable I have those, lol!). I shared photos. She didn't know I'd been living abroad. I shared that I'd been for a few years. "I'm glad you're doing awesome", she said. And I was.

Except something was niggling in my head as I read the screen. Quickly, before pausing to consider if she would misunderstand, if I would look bad, if she'd think I wasn't doing as well as she imagined, I typed in response- "I'm doing life. Sometimes it's awesome and sometimes its not."

Was is it that I didn't want her to fall for the hype that two bright eyed children and living outside Nigeria meant my life was awesome? No, not only would she not fall for it if it were untrue but there was no hype to fall for. Just this golden truth I'd picked up since she'd been gone. This salvation that life isn't always awesome and that's not a bad thing. Certainly not a thing to leave out of the conversations and the pictures. At least not with her.

In fact, problems are good. There is nothing else like the confidence boost you get from solving your own problems and creating space for yourself to be seen, heard and respected because your opinions, your preferences and the space you occupy in a team, family, group and in the world matters regardless of age, background, ability and gender.

You matter! Don't wait for us to validate or agree or respond as if you do. Make us because you believe it for yourself! Or better still ignore us completely and make space for yourself whether we let you, support you, shift for you or not.

And if all else fails, face those difficulties of life knowing you are not one but legion and you're coming against those problems on the shoulders of everyone you've known- the classmate, the co-worker, the fellow chorister, the old friend, the father, the mother, the brother, the sister, the gone but not forgotten, the Creator of life- and take courage!

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