Early October 2019, my friend, Cayla, and I were catching up a few months after our stand-up comedy class. She had been going to a lot of open mics and I was impressed; I had been having a lot of resistance. How did she make herself do things she didn’t want to do? Stand up appealed to me because I could write jokes and make people laugh for a living. Beyond that, everything was a terrible inconvenience to me and I resented it.
“Smush, I’m going to tell you something [a friend] told me and you might not like it,” said Cayla, gently. “You have to put in the work. You’re just gonna have to do it. There’s no other way around it. It sucks and it takes effort but it’s just what you have to do.” She was right.
My family had told me to work harder, in the past. Advice, coming from them, made me feel criticized and I would shut down and stop listening. Cayla wasn’t being harsh or judgemental, I felt her heart. She was being a friend, delivering tough love with a generous serving of empathy. She was looking out for me.
Reasons Vs Excuses
Things I onced called, ‘reasons,’ were really just excuses I made to myself in an attempt to stay ‘safe’ from all things scary and overwhelming. The only person I was fooling was me. White-knuckling my pride, I had been telling myself I was doing everything I could but something beyond me was keeping me stuck. I was in denial.
>>> Photo of me, being grumpy I can’t rely on my excuses anymore.
As Brian Tracey wrote in his book, No Excuses!, “Do it or don’t do it –– but don’t make excuses.” My excuses were hurting me; they weren’t making me better –– they only made me feel worse. I was making myself miserable. I could lament all I wanted but lamenting only prolongs problems. If I really wanted to perform stand up, I would need to accept all the aspects I disliked and roll with the punches or move TF on. My attitude toward my situation wasn’t going to actually change the situation, but it was sure as shit making my situation worse.
Our perception of reality is like waving your hand in front of your face. Other people can see there’s a hand in your face. However, you can’t see the hand clearly, it’s too close to you. Other people could see past my excuses. To them, I was complaining and unwilling to do the work it takes to get where I wanted to be. It’s not a matter of caring what others think of me, as a result. I don’t want to be the last to know my own reality.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could go through all of life’s challenges via musical montage, a la Rocky? We’d get to sit out the heartaches, sleepless nights, racing, intrusive thoughts, etc. Yet, it is the pain that forces us to grow and evolve. Pain is what gives us tools to handle the next challenge.
Pain: Life’s Teacher
Dr. Reverend Michael Beckwith, founder of Agape International Spiritual Center, says, “pain pushes until vision pulls.” Pain is meant to bring discomfort, which is meant to propel you out of your comfort zone. Pain cannot do its job as a teacher if we stop showing up to class. If we stay stagnant, where we’re comfortable, that is when growth ends and death begins.
Look for a throughline in your life; you will find lessons that make your suffering and experience worthwhile. You may currently be stuck in the pain period and unable to see an end to suffering. Yet, holes are never truly bottomless, you will not fall forever. If you can change the way you perceive life’s challenges, you will stop yourself from falling further into despair.
No matter the outcome of a problem, we will find a way to overcome. You are smart enough to solve any problem in front of you. We must trust we will be okay. After a break up, the future feels bleak, until you stop grieving the loss of that support and remember that you are your own person. You were okay before that person entered your life and you will be okay if they’re gone. That’s not to say break ups aren’t devastating, they are. Still, we can choose how we want to view the end of that relationship. For example, “I lost someone I loved and it’s tragic” vs “that relationship stopped serving the both of us in a way that promoted our mutual growth as individuals, therefore, we could not continue our relationship without compromising fundamental parts of ourselves.”
Complaining about my lack of control was sigNIFicantly easier than doing anything about it. To “do” something would mean I would have to become a person who could do something about it. That meant I needed to change how I thought about myself, build and strengthen the skills I already had, and confront the ways in which I held myself back.
There is truly nothing we cannot handle. We may need to learn to lean on friends for support, we may need to find more supportive friends, we may need to work on letting others see us as vulnerable, we may need to google solutions to our problems (guilty!), we may need to spend a day or three crying, but there is nothing we can’t overcome.