An Opportunity for Growth

I’m of the belief that the Universe sends us experiences, in the form of hardships and particular life events, to teach us, and remind us of our immense human strength and resilience. 

I don’t always (ever?) like these challenges, many of which have been painful and felt like they might actually break me instead of helping me to thrive, but still, I choose to recognize them as opportunities for growth. (Note: this is really the only way I know to make sense of the hard stuff — the experiences that clobber us and make us sob and scream.)

We all struggle. This is simply part of the human experience — this is a commonality that, no matter how different from one another we may seem, truly unites us all. 

We all experience loss, illness, pain, suffering, worry, sadness, loneliness, etc. But, though painful as these experiences may be, these are also the very conditions that propel us forward — that prevent us from remaining stagnant in unhealthy and unhappy situations that no longer suit us. 

These conditions indicate to us that it’s time to move on — even if moving on to something new and different feels scary. Just because something is unfamiliar doesn’t make it bad — rather, we should test ourselves often in new scenarios. This is where our confidence, faith in ourselves and resiliency grows exponentially. 

And if we fail? So what?! In fact… great! Because failure offers us a chance to try again — to try it differently — and yeah, perhaps fail again… but to fail better. And we will keep failing better until we reach the point at which we SUCCEED. And truly — it was a success all along. Trying is doing — it’s growing, and learning and moving forward — and the refusal to give up, even when things are hard? Well, to me, that’s success defined.   

Things feel hard sometimes. Frankly, things feel hard a lot of the time (especially recently… ). But what if, instead of letting those hardships take us totally down, we USE them as motivators to become better, stronger, smarter and more capable humans? 

I was inspired to jot this down today because I have been feeling the pangs of despair and self-pity. Life has thrown its fair share of challenges at me recently, and I’ve been struggling to stay afloat. I’m wedged squarely in the middle of the generational sandwich right now (you know, the “sandwich generation”), and it’s been all the things: sad, stressful, overwhelming, frustrating, mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, and so much more. I feel like I’ve been unable to give my full attention and care to all the multitude of things and people who need it most — my elder loved one, my small children, my spouse, my work… me.

I am the keeper of all the schedules, the maker of all the appointments, the organizer of all the household items, the buyer of all the groceries, the maker of all the meals, the constant worrier, the driver to all the places and the communicator with all the healthcare providers and incredible childcare helpers. I try to stay on top of ALL the things, but… it’s impossible.

I fall into bed at night frustrated that I didn’t get more done, that I wasn’t able to complete all the tasks, and that I didn’t have more meaningful interactions with those I love the most. I also often feel frustrated that I wasn’t able to carve out even 5 minutes for me… not because I am selfish, but because I believe firmly in the importance of self-care, and I’m a highly sensitive introvert who recharges by spending time alone and going inward (writing, reading, physical movement, deep breathing and pondering the meaning of life — kidding, but not really). 

I can feel my edges fraying into tatters, as the angst, resentment and overwhelm has been mounting for too long now.

And then, today, it occurred to me, just as I’ve written here: these experiences — while at times debilitating — are meant to teach me; to help me grow, develop and become; to prove to myself my incredible resilience and capability. But ALSO to teach myself my limitations… and that having (and acknowledging) those limitations is healthy and OK

As humans, we simply cannot do it all. Some of us can do more than others, and that’s great, but none of us are capable of doing ALL the things and doing them well

I am going to use this moment as a chance to re-evaluate. To scale back, and determine where I can ask for some help. To figure out how I can streamline certain tasks, and which aren’t really even necessary. One by one, I’m going to cut things on my plate in half, hand some over to others who have more room on theirs, and clear off some items altogether. 

Will it change my situation? No. I’m still going to be smack dab in the middle, caring for someone older who isn’t able to care as well for herself anymore, while also caring for my littles, but I’m going to learn to do so more efficiently (yet with the same amount of love and concern) and to try respect my own boundaries and limitations.

Will I fail at first? Maybe. Probably. I’m a type-A control freak who doesn’t like handing off tasks to anyone. But I won’t give up. I’ll keep trying to do this, because it’s too important. If I burn out, then I won’t be able to take care of anybody or anything (well, or at all). I could drown under the heavy weight of this struggle, or I could use it as an opportunity for learning and growth… and that’s exactly what I’m going to choose to do.

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