Have you ever carried something that was so heavy that you thought you couldn’t take one more step? Something that strained every muscle in your body and totally distracted your mind from anything else? I have, it was my 5 year old daughter. And no, she wasn’t a big kid.
It was mother’s day and I made my family go for a hike in the Sourland Mountains, a small “mountain” in NJ that was named by Dutch settlers for its inability to be farmed due to huge boulders and extremely rocky terrain. It was a beautiful day and we decided to bring the kids and do the fairly easy 3 mile loop. Everything was great for the first mile, aside from the constant arguing as to who would lead the way, the path was narrow and we had to walk in a single file. For some reason, unfathomable to a normal human being, the kids were obsessed with being the one in front. By mile 3 this was getting a little old and somehow we missed the turn to go back down the mountain, no parking lot in sight. No big deal, the outside loop is 5 miles so we kept going, the kids still pushing every few minutes to get in front of the other one. So adorable.
So we get close to mile five and the trail starts trending down as it widens a little. We are picking our way over the rocks when my daughter sees her opportunity and takes off at a full run to overtake my son, the current leader of the hike. Well her legs can’t keep up with the momentum she has gained going down hill and she goes airborne, flying what seemed to be 6 feet in the air, landing on the rocky path, smashing her kneecap on the pointiest rock I have ever seen. The sound was disgusting but shortly overcome by her wailing as she held her instantly swollen, purple knee. So I did what any reasonable person would do and yelled at everyone for running and trying to be first. Then I tried to calm her down a little, scooped her up and put her on my back to get to the parking lot.
Only the parking lot wasn’t there.
And so we continued on the path, obviously not a very well marked path, all of us exhausted. Everytime we put her down she couldn’t walk on the leg and we would trade off who was carrying her and who was carrying the bag with the snacks/waters/etc. She got heavier and heavier and the terrain didn’t get any easier. Sometime after mile 7 the parking lot appeared. My back was screaming, my arms were screaming, my brain was crying. But we carried her for that last 2.5 miles. What was the option?
What’s the point of this beautifully uplifting story? Sometimes life is really discouraging. It starts out as something that you think will be fun, or purposeful, but not horrible. And then something discouraging happens, maybe really discouraging like losing a job or maybe moderately discouraging like eating right and gaining weight. It’s easy at that time to fill up the empty feeling of discouragement with things to make you feel better, food, social media, shopping, games on your phone. But the feeling of discouragement is still there, just squashed down by these distractions and no progress is made because really, you are aware of it under the surface.
The truth is, some things in life are discouraging. Ultimately maybe we can reframe things to the positive ie: maybe this will open you up for a better job or eating right this week made you feel better physically, but sometimes initially we want to feel bad about things.
That being said, none of us wants to take steps backwards. If we are going to feel discouraged we don’t want to stall out or stop making progress toward our goals. We don’t want to just sit at mile 5 with a screaming child and wait it out and we certainly don’t want to walk back to mile 3 and see if we can find a different path.
So I offer a third solution. What if we acknowledged the disappointment and discouragement and scooped it up, carrying it for the next few miles as we continue to move forward? What if we let our backs scream and our brains cry and we carry the weight and keep going anyway? What if we didn’t wish it away or hide from it but rather brought it along for the ride? What if we could be that person? The person who can get to the parking lot and have the satisfaction that she made it, even though it sucked?
There are times that it is true that the joy is in the journey. Then there are times that the joy is in making it through the journey in one piece, carrying some really heavy feelings along the way. That feeling of pride will smash the discouragement, guaranteed.
Feeling discouraged now? Have a story about something you have overcome in the past with this approach? Let me know, I would love to hear from you #dealingwithdiscouragement
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