Off-topic warning: I first started this post draft in May, but it’s been sitting there since. But today is kind of a hard day (I got married 25 years ago today) so I thought it might a good time to dust this off and finish it up. We’ll be back to frugal content tomorrow.
When I moved into this house on Mother’s Day this year, I made an Instagram post, sharing how hard the process was for me. I used the phrase “heart-cracking experience”.
But as I’ve been pondering this since, I’ve started to think maybe that isn’t quite the correct phrase.
I often figure things out by writing about them, so that’s what I’m going to do here…it’s like spitballing, except I’m using a keyboard.
If something can be cracked, then we can presume that thing is hard or brittle. Nobody talks about cracking marshmallows, after all!
And the problem with hard or brittle things is that when pressure is applied, they do actually break, and the damage is often irreparable. Brittle stuff tends to shatter into a million pieces.
There’s something to be said for being tough and hardened; those are protective features, and those features do tend to make things durable.
But I don’t know that “tough and hardened” are really words that I want to use to describe my heart! Maybe I want my heart to be a little more like a trampoline: strong, but flexible and resilient.
How does one keep a soft heart?
That’s a question I’ve been pondering, and I’m not sure I have the answers.
One thing that’s occurred to me is that things like bitterness and cynicism are hallmarks of a hard and brittle heart.
And a helpless attitude might be a feature of a heart that is not very good at bouncing back.
So, perhaps the keys lie in the opposites of these things; maybe in forgiveness rather than bitterness.
Optimism instead of cynicism.
Empowerment instead of helplessness.
Responsibility instead of blame-shifting.
Maybe those things make a strong heart that can weather storms without breaking.
“What CAN I do?”
I sometimes feel discouraged because there is a lot about my trials that is out of my control. It would be pretty easy for me to get into a train of thought that leads to hopelessness.
When I face lots of stuff I truly can’t fix, I’ve found it to be very helpful to ask myself, “Well, what CAN I do?”
For instance, I might not currently be able to have the house I own, but I can:
- settle into my rental
- explore the new neighborhood
- rehab furniture
- decorate my house
- meet the new neighbors
- appreciate all the good things about my rental
I may not be able to fix my marriage, but I can:
- work on my own mental and physical health
- love my kids
- feed my kids and myself
- pursue my nursing education
- volunteer locally
- work on my blog
- spend time with friends and family
- hunt for things to be grateful for
I don’t know if this approach would work for everyone, but this attitude really, really helps me to bounce back when things get hard.
I think it’s mainly because this question puts me in a position of power rather than a position of helplessness. And when I’m in a position of power, I’m much less likely to get stuck in a “Woe is me!” rut for a long time.
When I’m in that more powerful mindset, then I know that I can withstand what comes my way. I know how to handle myself, I know how to be content, and I know how to make the best of a hard situation.
I don’t need life to be perfect; I know how to find beauty even in the midst of the hard.
To me, this feels like such a superpower! I know I’ll be able to find joy even when things are hard, so that means I don’t have to be terrified about how things will turn out in my life. I know I’m going to be ok, regardless of the choices that other people in my life make.
And interestingly, this probably helps me to avoid bitterness. If I think that the hurtful actions of others have doomed me to misery, then I will feel helpless, bitter, and angry, and my heart will not be soft and resilient.
But if I know that I still can always make choices that lead to a beautiful, contented life, then I am much freer to have a forgiving, peaceful heart, not a bitter heart.
If someone else’s choices have less control over me, then I will almost automatically feel less angry and bitter about their choices. And that puts me on a path to soft-hearted freedom.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback on my rambles!
P.S. Please know that I am speaking in reference to my own life here. I’m describing my experience, not prescribing something for you. Your mileage may vary.
P.P.S. I do think it’s fine (and even healthy) to experience a roller coaster of emotions in hard times. I’ve certainly had my fair share of unpleasant emotions during this time! My “What CAN I do?” question does not get rid of the roller coaster entirely, but it helps my roller coaster to have some ups instead of just downs; my roller coaster car isn’t getting completely stuck at a low point.