I find myself sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks as I watch some of the pre-pre-game stories before the Superbowl this afternoon. I’m not a huge football fan but I try to keep up so I can have conversations with those who are passionate about it, and I do usually watch this particular game every year. I hope my kids don’t see me because it’ll be hard to explain it to them. Oh trust me, I let them see me cry, just not this time.
I can hardly see the screen from my blurred and teary vision. What on earth has gotten to my emotions over something as simple as football? That’s just it. It’s not about football at all. It’s about the tragedy and triumph of lives lived – both on and off – the field. A coach with leukemia, a teenager who lost both of his parents within a 3 year span, a coaching family (all 4 adult children coach football or athletics of some sort) whose mom took her life a few years ago.
It makes me think about how hard life can be. We all face challenges, bad things happen. It’s life. I don’t subscribe to the idea that God ‘makes’ them happen to teach us anything. I do believe we live in an imperfect world and we are going to face difficulty at some point. I do believe that we can choose to learn from circumstances and crappy situations.
My heart is heavy for those who are hurting, those going through major trauma or tragedy. I have a friend whose dad has a form of bone cancer. I have another friend whose step-dad is dealing with prostate cancer. There are no guarantees that we’ll sail through life unscathed. It could be as simple as being denied a raise, or looking for a job. Those things are no fun either. Through it all, we need to find ways to survive these circumstances. Everyone handles their experiences differently.
I don’t usually write these kinds of posts but I have to go with what’s in my heart. Today, I would like to offer hope to the hurting. Words are not always the answer, but if something I share can help even a little, it’s worth posting this. So if you’re feeling fairly hopeless, how the heck do you cultivate said hope? It’s not necessarily an easy concept to ingest when things are rough, is it?
In some of my more trying circumstances, I haven’t wanted to acknowledge that hope is a choice, but the truth of the matter is, that it is. If we’re willing to learn from our losses, we can choose hope. Flicker that flame, let it turn into a raging fire of hope. This isn’t a false sense of optimism, it’s having faith that we can make things better. Courage required? No question!
When life sucks it’s hard to hear, “The main trouble with despair is that it is self-fulfilling.” ~ Norman Cousins. I’m reading John Maxwell’s Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn right now, and I just came across this paragraph: “The question I pose in this book is this: Why does it ever have to be over…? When did it become okay to give up, lay down, roll over, and attempt to sleep away our problems, losing our energy and enthusiasm for life? Who made quitting an option?”
There is definitely an element of allowing ourselves to feel, to hurt to grieve, but we can’t stay stuck there. We can’t. One of the steps that helps me immensely is giving myself a time frame. It may sound kind of regimented, and exactly how do you put boundaries on hopelessness? I think what it does (for me at least) is it gives me time to process, but it also gives me a sense of urgency, a sense of, “okay, it’s time to get back up and get back at it.” When I do that, I find it makes a monumental difference in my ability to move forward.
The next step is to recognize and acknowledge the smallest of victories. If for a few days you write down each moment of success regardless of how small, it shifts your mental state, even just a little. And we all know it’s usually little by little that we win our battles, right?
The thing about hope is that it keeps us going. Without it, our hearts despair and giving up seems inevitable. I don’t think anyone reading this wants to be the giver-upper. I truly don’t. There’s a fine line though, between reaching out to someone who will feed our misery or someone who will support and encourage us to find that place of hope. We need to feel heard, understood and supported, but as the saying goes, misery loves company…but please realize that there’s no hope for change in cultivating that mentality…you and I both know it. It is definitely crucial to find a safe place, aka person, to lean on but choose carefully, for your own sake.
As I watch these stories of utter tragedy and the hope that sprang from despair, and as I reflect on my own story of life’s setbacks, I can only encourage you to not give up. Feel it, grieve it, then figure out how hope will propel you to continue, to find new successes, to soar to new heights.
It’s in you. It’s in me.