I’m currently doing a manuscript review for my friend Stephany, whom I met at a conference last fall. She’s a sheep shearer, and in describing her first forays into shearing, she says: “I start to laugh a little, a deranged, half-crying laugh, in pain, out of relief that I am done and the sheep is not dead, and at the full force of knowing, so immediately, that nothing I have ever done has been hard.”
When I read that, I stopped and sat still, like I’d been given a profound revelation. What if I were to challenge myself with this thought? What if nothing in my life, thus far, has ever been hard?
When I am faced with something difficult, with a shock to my system, with a hard slog, I tell myself a little story about how I am resilient. How I have grit. How I’ve faced this challenge before, or something similar, and I’ve gotten through, and I will get through again. What if all of that is just the story I tell myself, because I have no resiliency, no grit, because nothing I have ever done, up to now, has been hard?
What I considered “hard” things: my school closing down, a cross-country move with no guarantees, breakups with people I adored, constant dealing with people’s ignorance, bias, and thoughtlessness every time I leave my house alone, bleak years of unemployment, crippling student loan and credit card debt, directionlessness, inability to do what I want for lack of funds, loneliness. Not hard. None of it hard.
What could I do with my life if I suspended all belief that what I’ve been given has been hard, and what I face will always be hard? What free, unincumbered space would open up in my mind if I could let go of all that hard?
That space could be for new creation, for love, for more hand-holding and laughing and ice cream and intense conversations where we all figure it out, and more acceptance for each of us, particular and beautiful and human.