I have a friend who just went through a very hard time. One of those hard times that we’ve all had at some point or another. The kind that feels endless and byzantine and wholly unwarranted. We were talking the other day and she said something profound. “Looking back, I can see that it all makes sense. It all led me here. And, while I’m not sure I can say I’m grateful for it, I’m also not sure I can say I would trade my path if given the chance.”
There is a cherished verse of Scripture in the Qur’an that makes me think of my friend’s epiphany.
This doesn’t just apply to the big hard times in life. It is just as meaningful a lens through which to see little setbacks and disappointments.
A rainy day at the beach.
A setback on your yoga mat.
A summer day too hot and humid to be outside.
Suddenly finding yourself home alone on a Saturday night.
At first glance any of these may feel more like burdens than blessings. After all, you want to be out on the beach as much as possible during your time there. You want to practice your yoga without pain or limitation. You want to enjoy summer’s long, lazy days at the pool or the zoo or in the woods. And Saturday nights are meant for fun with friends at a restaurant, a party or a movie. Right?
And these little occurrences will feel like burdens when met with the resistance and disappointment that – quite frankly – would be perfectly natural.
But we have another option. Surrender and acceptance. While these responses are somewhat less natural, they are the secret to turning perceived burdens into blessings.
When I surrendered to a rainy day at the beach last week, I spent a few, precious hours curled up on the sofa reading my book. When the day stayed gloomy and wet, my daughters and their friends, who I hadn’t seen much of on our vacation, joined me. It was lovely.
Over the years, I’ve had aches and pains that have prevented me doing from certain yoga postures. Every single time (Truly. Every. Single. Time.) backing off has allowed me to re-learn the posture with more finesse or better alignment. In the end, when I’ve healed and done the hard work to make my way back to the posture, my pose has been better – safer, sturdier and stronger.
When we had one of those classic August-in-Philadelphia days complete with sticky, sweltering heat that makes it nearly impossible to be outside, we had to change our plans. Instead of heading to the pool and out for a hike, my daughters and I seized the moment to attack their closets. We gave mounds of outgrown clothing to charity and they are thrilled with their newly neatened wardrobes.
I had planned a girls’ night with my oldest for this Saturday night when we’ll be home alone. However, one of her favorite babysitting clients called and she took the job. Initially, I was disappointed. That didn’t last long, though. We’ve planned a day out on the town, and I’m supremely content to snuggle with my puppies while being in charge of the remote all night – a rare and wonderful treat at my house.
While I probably wouldn’t have chosen any of these blessings, in hindsight, like my friend after her long time of struggle, I would deny none of them either.
I’m not delusional. I know for sure that it will not be super easy to receive my next disappointment as a blessing. It may take me a breath or two or a week or two. In fact, it’s not impossible to imagine a challenge that would take me even longer to see as a gift. But I also know for sure that this practice of seeking the blessing in every burden will change the course of my struggle … providing me with hope and faith that life is full of blessings in disguise.
“Which of life’s blessings would you deny?”