One spring morning, I stood in the pick up/drop off zone outside my apartment building, tapping my foot ever so slightly in growing irritation.
The Uber driver I waited on was delayed, and the window of time to make it to my scheduled appointment was growing slim.
I really needed to get to that appointment; it was the only slot available for weeks and doctors in this region seemed to be high in patients and low in patience…for those running late, anyway.
More often than not, and against my best attempts to accurately calculate when to submit a ride request, my drivers would usually beat me to my pick up location; except on the days I had appointments to make. Go figure.
Finally the car pulled up, and I jumped in the back.
“Hello – yes, I’m Heather.”
He slowly tinkered with his driving app, waiting for the destination address to update.
“It should say Brookline Ave.” I stated quickly.
“Ah yes, here we go!”
He pulled out of the parking lot and turned straight into rush-hour traffic.
I watched the green, left hand turn light come and go three different times at the same intersection as we inched our way up the lane. Peering down at the navigation on my phone, the route was solid red, indicating heavy traffic and an arrival time of three minutes past the hour.
My stomach turned in anxious knots. I hated being late; with a passion. I had to let him know it was time to hustle.
I cleared my throat, “I sure hope we make this next light. I have a 9 o’clock appointment to make, and I really can’t be late.” I added in a nervous giggle at the end to soften the comment.
He glanced back at me in the review mirror, down at the clock, then back at me. “Oh, 9 o’clock? Don’t worry, we’ll try to make it.”
“Okay”, I sighed a bit as I held my gaze at the cars that seemed to putt along in front of us.
The light turned green again and the driver accelerated quickly, kicking his mini van into high gear. I held back my desire to chant “go, GO!”, as we sped through and hurried our way downtown.
According to my navigation, we had just gained back one minute. Sweet. I exhaled, accepting that I could race up the three flights of stairs instead of waiting on the anciet elevator once I got there.
With three more side streets to go, we turned swiftly to the right, only to come to a screeching halt behind an 18 wheeler, inching along, forcing all traffic on that narrow residential road to creep in unison behind it.
“Oh no..” I whimpered; knots flaring up again in my stomach.
My driver glanced compassionately in the mirror, shrugged his shoulders, and in his deep, raspy voice said “sometimes life is just difficult, isn’t it?”
Few words have ever been truer. Sometimes life is difficult, indeed.
The longer we live, the more moments there seem to be that leave us asking, “Why this?” “Why me?”
Why this hardship? Why this grief? Why this loss? Why this wait? Why this stress? Why this circumstance? …Why me?
Life, with all its joyous moments, is vastly imperfect and broken. But you know that. I know that. There’s no need for me to state what’s clearly obvious.
Yet while we know it in theory, that knowledge often isn’t enough to soothe the ache within that sometimes pops up, and leaves “why?” resounding in our mind.
I don’t know all that much. But from what I do know, I know that sometimes the best of intentions go awry.
Sometimes health issues aren’t cured here on earth. Even in the most deserving of people.
Sometimes we work hard and push forward continually, yet we see no pay off in the way we expect.
Sometimes relationships break and crumble right before our eyes, and we’re left wondering how that even happened.
Sometimes life doesn’t measure up to our expectations, and we feel let down. Repeatedly.
Sometimes it seems that others only have like, 2 struggles, and we have…I dunno, 20? On a good day.
Sometimes loss takes from us someone or something incredibly precious, and learning how to live without them/it feels like an impossible, and an unfair, feat.
Sometimes life is just difficult. And answers to it? They don’t always come on this side of heaven.
But I’ve learned that even when the question “why me?” lies unanswered, the question “what of me?” is not nearly as mysterious.
In the thick of difficulty, “what does this now require of me?” and “what will become of me?” is always present. The way I see it, there are a few options: choose nothing, deny it’s existence, or work through it. And the option to be chosen, as with any decision we make in life, is dependent on the outcome one desires.
To choose nothing requires no effort on my behalf, which is nice. After all, I didn’t ask for it. But the problem is that it leaves me sitting and stewing in my frustration, or anger, or disappointment, and all too quickly I’m engulfed in that emotion which follows me like a shadow I can’t get rid of. Everywhere I turn, I see it; I feel it. It taints my experiences and steals away energy and joy that should be freely mine. Not only does this not allow me to grow through it, but it also arguably stunts me. And the byproduct of my inactivity leaves me as little more than a victim of a difficulty I’ve grown far too comfortable in.
Then there’s denial. I can tell myself I’m above the issue, and that it shouldn’t – and won’t – get to me. I can set out to fill my life with positivity, “good vibes” (what even are good vibes, anyway? I mean really.), constant distraction, and goals to work towards, and before long I won’t even remember it was ever a problem. That is… until the noise fades, the people go home, and in a moment of isolation, there’s no longer something to distract my thoughts or numb my emotion. The problem, is that to stay above the difficulty, I am constantly running; I’m on the move without ever being forced to stop and deal with what’s going on within me. Like an addict, I’m forever in need of a something enticing to distract. And while I may have some impressive endurance, the unresolved root issue will always outrun me. Growth is not even an option in this state because I’m exhausted; and before long, I no longer know how to be honest with even myself.
Or, there’s facing it. Facing the difficulty is perhaps the most painful option – upfront – of all three. Whether I’m to blame for my hardship, or have simply been dealt it, this option requires me to acknowledge it, and by effect, to feel it. To not deny it’s existence or take the easy way out with distraction, even when the pain, or the hurt, or the stress feels like it might never let up. Rather at times, to allow the brokenness to wash over you; to allow the tears to roll down your cheeks; to give yourself the space to be…human. To face it, is to remember that I’m faulty and error prone; imperfect and at times, quite weak. But. But.. it is also to say even though reality is “this” for “me” right now, I will not stay in this position. I will work through it, day after day, moment by moment, morning after morning, by the grace of God. I’ll own it. I’ll have the courage to see the other junk in my life it sheds light on, and I’ll have the boldness to pray “Lord, make me more like you through this.” It is to say, I may be weak, but I am sure as hell a lot stronger than I ever thought possible. To face my problems is to grow through them; it’s to be teachable and mold-able, and to come out on the other side a different person than I was before. It’s to look that difficulty square in the face and say “even if this is so…I will use it all for the glory of God.” This difficulty does not own me, and it will not steal my joy nor my effectiveness.
You see, I would argue living intentionally is the only way one should live. In my belief, we’ve got one shot at this life on earth, and time is precious.
So if I can’t escape the brokenness, imperfection, and difficulties life will throw at me while living here, I’ve got a decision to make: what do my circumstances require of me? And what will become of me through it?
I’ve got an outcome in mind.
And it’s one of truth, courage, and strength. To be a woman who bares battle scars because she wasn’t afraid to live, love, and fight for what is right, even when a battle raged around her. To be a woman whose life is both gentle and bold; faithful and daring; uplifting and nonconforming; humble and wise.
There’s not enough of these women or men in this world.
But I can be one. And so can you.
So what decisions will we make when times are trying?
Oh and the appointment I rushed to?
I made it. I was late, but I made it. And it didn’t kill me.