I’d be the most awful candidate for Miss America.
I know it already.
I don’t believe my ballerina talents would sustain me, stage lights themselves make me run for the wings to get sick, and I’d surely crack and sizzle during the question and answer part of the program.
“What is your single wish for generations that will come after you?” The announcer’s voice amplifies the auditorium.
I stand in perfect Miss America stature, knowing my answer already, “My greatest wish is they will get the life socked out of them…”
Gasp. Hush. The crowd will stare. The cameras will narrow in before shutting off, the producers ripping me off the stage.
“We never rehearsed that! You cannot just say that!” They’ll say as they kick me out onto the curb, sash falling from my shoulder, hair slightly disheveled from the jilting.
“But I mean it!” I yell, “It’s my greatest wish!”
“It’s something that I think everyone need to go through once or twice in life!” I’ll start telling random people on the street. “You should feel it, and you, and you, and you….” Train Wreck Miss America on the Side of the Road.
But really, seriously. You. Yes, you. I want that for you. For you to get the life socked out of you. Because only after you’ve had the life knocked from your lungs, and your knees are on the floor, and you are pretty sure you cannot take much more, will you learn the strength it requires to pick yourself up. And nothing– absolutely nothing– feels more glorious than that moment when you discover your own two feet again and you find yourself standing for the first time in what seems like a very long time.
Hardship isn’t glamorous, not by any means, but I would say we didn’t come here for the glam or the glitz anyway. That the stories that actually live on in books and the raspy voices of our fathers are the ones that left a protagonist with no choice but to scavenge the ground for courage and strength to make it through when the night rolled in.
Hardship teaches us the beauty of a song or a poem, it hatches for the first time within our souls as we curl and wait for the pain to go away. Something bigger is happening as the experience mends us stronger and more complete than we ever knew we could be.
And at the end of it all, after our feet grow tired and our lives grow long, we won’t sit and talk about the way the door slammed as much as we’ll talk about how it felt to finally walk away. We won’t talk so much about pain and failure as much as the day we realized we were no longer choking back tears. Hot, sticky tears. We won’t talk of falling to bits and pieces and much as we’ll marvel over the delicate process of putting ourselves back together after the break.
We’ll chat about the victory. We’ll chat about rebuilding. We’ll chat about learning to stand again.
Even with all the purpose embedded into Hard Stuff, I am still constantly amazed to see how relentlessly we tear ourselves apart for feeling weak, for feeling kicked down when life has in fact kicked us down. We want to ignore the stuff that shakes our core and just keep pushing onward. I should be stronger. I shouldn’t be crying. This should not be so hard.
No, you really shouldn’t be stronger. If you are on the ground and you cannot get up, stay there for a while and learn the world from that viewpoint. If you don’t have the strength to stitch a single sentence more then stop stitching for a while, be amazed by the way someone picks up the needle and takes over for you.
And maybe we have this all wrong. Perhaps we are not weak, maybe we’ve just been strong for far too long. And we were due for it anyway, a time to relearn the art of standing, the art of covering ourselves in new kinds of Strength after the storm.
Learn the truth in all the hardship: You will be o.k. again. Whole again. Ready again. All you have is grey on your paint palette? Well something beautiful can be painted from grey.
Better we learn early that it is o.k. to reach the end of our rope. It is o.k. to curl into a ball and let the pillowcase take our tears for a while. It’s o.k. to be sucked dry of inspiration, to lift our hands up in exasperation and ask for a saving grace or just a little help.
If Loneliness needs to visit, then pull up its chair. If Sadness wants to dance today, get on those ballet shoes. If Tire and Exhaustion are demanding that they sit beside you on the train, let one take the window seat and the other the aisle.
They’ll be leaving soon. They’ll make their way out. They won’t stay forever, though it may seem that way right now. But you, you just keep on going, knowing that all you are doing is absolutely enough.
You are doing just fine. You are doing just fine. And one day soon, you’ll stand.