“It’s gonna be hard, you’ll just have to suck it up,” my boyfriend warned me.
“Can you do that?” he asked, leading me out to the backyard where he was building our dog house.
It felt as if the grassy path from the back door to the dog house was a plank and I was being led to the end of it, where I’d agree to be pushed off to fend for myself in the shark infested waters.
I was so warm moments ago. Quiet cozy nestled in my bed, my Mac on my lap, writing. And now I’m outside, the chilled wind biting at my skin, creating a whipping frenzy of unruly hair in my eyes. I’m sensitive to hair in my face so I gather it together, taming it in a bun at the back of my head.
He looked me earnestly in the eyes, waiting for my acknowledgement and agreement, first, that it was going to be hard, and second, that I’d “suck it up.”
What did he mean by “suck it up”?
He meant no complaining, no whining, just do it. Cry through the pain if you must but hang in there until the job’s done.
He wanted me to hold the rafters up while he nailed them in. He’d been building the house all morning by himself, and now, to continue, he needed help. He needed someone to stand on the ladder, hoist the rafters over their head and hold it completely still while he nailed one end in, then walk across the 2 inch top of the 8 foot walls and nail the other side in.
Sounded easy enough.
There were only 3 rafters.
Except they were about 70 pounds each.
I took my time deciding, inspected the rafters lying on their side on the ground and lifted one slightly at the peak, from the comfort of the solid earth. Not so bad, I thought.
Then I looked up at the top of the dog house, 8 feet high, where the rafters would have to be lifted, held upright and stabilized, not from the flat ground, but from the rinky upper steps of the metal folding ladder. At 5’5” on a good day, with a 6’ ladder, I estimated that I’d have to balance on the top 2 steps while hoisting a 70 pound rafter above my head, holding it steady near the center peak while my boyfriend rushed to nail both sides in before my arms give out.
He felt my hesitation and asked me again, “can you do that?”
He wasn’t talking about my physical ability, he was asking if I would agree to go the distance with him and see it through, no matter how hard it got.
While it was harder than anticipated and at one point during the 2nd rafter, my arms felt like they were on fire as I struggled to hold it higher over my head than my arms could reach, balancing on my tiptoes on the ladder to get it high up where it needed to be, I hung in there and “sucked it up” without complaint, pushing through the burn.
As my boyfriend quickly nailed one end in and rushed around the ledge to the other side, I focused on my breathing instead of the pain, and repeated this mantra to myself:
Just keep going, just keep breathing. It’ll be over soon.
We finished the last rafter and my arms and shoulders thanked me for dropping them, letting them hang in the natural weight of gravity and begged me not to lift another thing for the rest of the day.
Knowing it was going to be difficult, agreeing to go in with that knowledge and committing to go the distance despite the difficulties somehow felt brave and right. In a way, it made it less difficult and the struggle more tolerable. When we finished, I felt stronger than when we started. I felt accomplished. I felt expanded. I felt more…. ME.
While in my bed writing before, I hadn’t particularly felt less me, yet, after finishing this challenge, I somehow felt like I had reclaimed a part of me that had been floating around unclaimed, unacknowledged.
I didn’t avoid the challenge, I stepped into it willingly.
I didn’t give up, I showed up.
For my boyfriend. For our dogs. For me.
Have you caught on that this is not merely a story about building a dog house?
On one level, I just helped my boyfriend hold up some rafters. Big whoop.
On a deeper level, I learned a valuable life lesson.
Before we got here, on this earth, in this body, in this human life… why didn’t anyone just say to us:
“It’s gonna be hard, you’ll just have to suck it up.”
Why didn’t they, whoever they are, tell me that life’s gonna be hard and all I have to do is “cry through the pain if I must but hang in there until it’s done.”
I think had someone told me that and I agreed to go in anyway, it actually wouldn’t be so hard.
While I love Abraham-Hicks and their teaching, I disagree with their “life is supposed to be easy” philosophy. Maybe that’s a worthy aim for a different life, in a different time. But there’s never been a time throughout history, for humans or animals or even our earth, when life was easy.
Our earth is constantly being hit by asteroids and meteors, leaving scars as wide as 250 feet long and more than a mile deep beyond its surface. It’s constantly adjusting and readjusting to the fireballs that life literally throws at it.
To tell a child born without limbs that life is supposed to be easy is irresponsible and unrealistic.
To tell a person suffering from clinical depression that life is supposed to be easy is outright cruel when merely sitting up on the edge of the bed in the morning and putting not one, but two feet into shoes is a monumental victory of dinosaur proportions.
I don’t think life is supposed to be easy any more than it’s supposed to be hard. It’s not supposed to be anything other than what it is.
Life simply is.
Life can be made easier by changing our perceptions, beliefs and mindsets. By learning tools and techniques to help us navigate through it and taking incremental actions every day to mold, shape and form the life we want, our experience of it becomes easier.
But is it easy on its own?
Was it easy on my mom while she was kneeling on the bathroom floor, heaving into the toilet after chemotherapy treatment for her stage 2 breast cancer? Should I have stroked her bald head and told her, “mom, don’t you know life is supposed to be easy?”
I think she would’ve appreciated a much more realistic statement such as, “just keep going, just keep breathing. It’ll be over soon.”
Acknowledging that sometimes life is pretty damn hard and agreeing to go all in despite knowing the difficulty can be the exact mindset formula for creating an easier experience of life.
It creates resilience to get you through the difficult times.
Life is supposed to be nothing more or less than what it is.
It’s the judgments and labels we put on it and our willingness or unwillingness to accept what is that makes it feel easier or harder.
LIfe itself may not always be easy, but we can create a sense of ease by accepting the difficulties and knowing that , through each challenge we face, if we “just keep going, just keep breathing,” the difficulty will be over soon.
After we emerge on the other side of the challenge, bodies exhausted from lifting the weight, relieved to have made it through, we just might recognize a part of ourselves we long forgot. A strong, capable and powerful part of ourselves that could only be uncovered by facing our challenges head on, boldly, possibly fearfully, but stepping in, nevertheless.
If you’re currently facing a difficult struggle:
Just keep going, just keep breathing, it’ll be over soon.