I wrote this a few years ago, but the question resurfaced with a vengeance with the pandemic for myself and others. So, I wanted to share this with you in hopes that it can comfort you in some way.
“Men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
David Henry Thoreau
“It couldn’t be more perfect. The sun was shining just enough to warm my face, with a soft breeze to keep my face cool, and a pause in traffic lead to a rare sound of leaves rustling in the wind and birds chirping. I closed my eyes, and let out a long, long sigh, and tears ran down my weary face as a ghostly voice from a far said, “Why is life so hard?” I opened my eyes and turned my head. There was no one anywhere. I realized I was sitting on a bench mid morning because I had nowhere to go and no one to be with.” Anonymous.
Why is Life So Hard?
I’m sure you’ve thought of this question or even said it out loud at least once in your life.
I’ve been hearing this question more often from various people, including myself. The hardship of the daily grind that seems to never end, physical and emotional issues, duties and responsibilities, people’s expectations, judgments and criticism, and the constant battle with inner demons can wears us down, our lives; our whole existence, and the inevitable question surfaces to reality: Why is life so hard?
Overwhelming sadness, anxiety, fear, loneliness, disappointment, defeat and unhappiness blankets us. What shall we do?
I’ve searched for an answer to this question ardently for a long time, but it bore no clear answer and the results were disappointing at best with clichés, simplistic quotes, and general advice that were usually meaningless, insincere, and even condescending. It did little to ease the monumental pain and inexhaustible burden that made life so unbearable. So, I dug deeper utilizing my academic and psychological background, probed experts from all walks of life, ordinary but extraordinary people, and scoured my own life experience and reached deep into my psyche and soul to find, not so much an ultimate answer, which I’ve discovered doesn’t exist and it’s best not to ask the question in the first place, but rather how I can understand, cope, accept, and keep breathing; keep living this mystery called, life each day. This is what I’ve discovered thus far and I’d like to share it with you and hope they can help you understand your own pain, ease the load, and find strength during hardest of times. It is still a journey and work in progress…
Acknowledge. Yeah, Life is Hard!
Life is a tough business. It’s full of injustice, unfairness, heartbreaks, mistakes, losses, physical aches, emotional turmoil, aging, mean and cruel people, and dreams that just won’t come true. This is part of life. So acknowledge it. Avoiding or disguising what is (at least for now) won’t make things better. Also, acknowledge your feelings. They are real. Take a moment and be with all the emotions that are pouring out of you. Honor your pain, sadness, loneliness, and confusion because this is what is happening to you right now. It’s part of who you are and your life, and it will become part of the healing process soon.
Don’t be in a hurry to solve, get busy, run, keep pushing, figure things out ASAP. Take the pressure off for a bit. Rather than frantically searching for an instant answer, slow your pace to catch your breath and to take a look at what is going on inside and outside of you. This will ultimately help you find some ways to return and regain your life. As a matter of fact, try being still. Close your eyes and empty your thoughts, guilt, worries, etc., as much as you can. Give yourself a physical and emotional break, even for a few minutes. You need this more than ever.
Release your pain and sorrow and grieve in a safe place. Crying, sobbing, and even screaming (in a private place) can be a healthy release; rather than carrying all that baggage around. Some people hold onto them for a lifetime, which can drag them down physically and emotionally.
In a quiet place alone; hand write all that you feel; all that you are going through. Ask yourself, why is my life so hard? What and who is making it hard? Is it myself? If so, why? Then take a good at it. Seeing it on a piece of paper with your naked eye is a different experience, and there could be some insight, clues, and answers from within. Writing is always a good way to release and express oneself.
Lean On Someone
So many of us carry such a burden on our shoulders; be it family, work, or children, all depending and leaning on us for meals, money, solace and comfort. It can be overwhelming and even harmful to our health. So, find someone you trust and lean on them. Ask them for help. It is allowed. It could be a friend, teacher, parents, etc. In desperate and dark times, I reach out to my psychotherapist. It is not only comforting to vent, cry, and find peace in a safe, trusting, and non-judgmental place, but in psychotherapy I can work in answering the questions mentioned above and face my obstacles, as well as seek solutions to help me stay afloat and find strength and meaning a in painful journey. We don’t have to go through hard times alone. It is a choice. Leaning on someone occasionally will keep you strong for yourself and others.
Watch the News Trick
When I have a horrific day and I get beaten up pretty bad by people and life, I watch the news to help remind myself that someone else has it harder than me. This doesn’t necessary make me feel better, but it puts things into perspective and I am humbled. There’s always someone worse off. I’m not minimizing my problems, but I find myself grateful and energized to persevere.
Take a “Roman Holiday”
When life gets hard, I take a “Roman Holiday.” It’s based on a movie by the same name starring Audrey Hepburn. She plays a young princess who has a nervous breakdown from all the diplomatic pressure and duties to be perfect. The doctor tells her that the best remedy is to do just what she wants for awhile. In the movie, it’s one day. The princess ends up chopping off her long hair for a new modern do, eating gelato on the street, riding a moped, having coffee (actually, champagne) on a sidewalk café, and dancing by the pier. So, take a roman holiday and do just whatever you want for one day, one hour, or one moment. It’s a chance to escape, enjoy life, and just be you without any expectations.
Get Away From People For Awhile
People are usually the culprit of much pain and sadness. There’s bound to be conflict of all kinds on a daily basis from small things to global proportions with an array of human emotions involved. There seems to be no shortage of human drama. People also impose various expectations, shoulds and to dos on us, physically, emotionally, financially, etc. So for a little while, get away from people, especially those who are very toxic. It doesn’t matter who or what they are. Don’t answer the phone, email, or see them. As I state in my book, “Happiness to the Rescue,” I consciously work on ways to deal with difficult people. They will never change so I change how I look at them. I have also distanced myself and cut ties from negative people in my life. It was necessary for my survival in many ways.
Don’t Forget Joy & Happiness
Just because you feel your life is hard doesn’t mean there’s no joy or happiness in your life now. It’s never an all or nothing deal. Spend some time and write down the joys and happiness in your life. When life gets hard, we forget about the joys, but we need them more than ever. The laughter of your son, the dog that never tires of loving you, an unfailing friend, a cup of coffee with chocolate cake, a walk in the park, the sun in your face, etc. There are many people who cannot do these things. Joy is there. Choose to see it. You are still ahead and luckier than you realize. I have a list of joys and happiness that I carry around, so when I feel burdened with depression or hardship, I take it out and look at it and it’s an instant reminder that my life and I am still okay. So, inserts simple pleasures in your daily life. It’s good medicine.
Change What You Can
I’ve realized what made part of my life so hard was trying to meet other people’s expectations; their version of a good, successful, and valued individual. I didn’t realize it for a long time because I was conditioned my whole life to think and believe that way. My suffering was also from not validating what is (the present) and wanting or needing more than what I have right now. This doesn’t mean I won’t work to grow and progress, but it means I accept my present life as it is, no matter how unbearable it may seem, but realizing I put some of the suffering upon myself. By looking at my life as NOT hard rather than hard, I remove some of the burden, and life seems possible and doable and I can keep going without such a heavy weight in my heart and soul. If everyone is going to put pressure on me, I need to at least not burden my own self with it.
We may not be able to change the external circumstances of our lives, but we can always create our own perspective about anything and anyone. Change what you can, let go of what you can’t (at least mentally and emotionally), and accept what you cannot as much as possible. Remember, life is a journey and nothing and no one has to be perfect.
Anything Is Still Possible
You know all those sayings, “tomorrow is another day, each day is a new day and a fresh start, you can begin again every day, every month, every year, etc? It’s true. As long as you are alive, anything is possible. Look, you’ve come this far, often with a lot of yahoos and bggages, and you’re still here, and you will most likely keep going. You’ll do a bit of physical and emotional adjusting, shake off the demons, and keep at it because each day brings us possibilities. So don’t lose hope. There’s still a lot of living to do.
Everybody finds themselves in a rough place from time to time. It couldn’t be more normal given the design of life, so don’t get stuck asking repeatedly, “why is life so hard?” It means you’re alive, but you’re tired, you need a rest, while deciding which way to go. You’ve been here before one way or another and you’ve survived it, and you will again; perhaps in a different way. I have discovered through my own unrelenting battles, that life inevitably goes on and we will all survive with bumps, scars, and a patched heart, as we have been all along without even knowing it.
In my journey, I’ve learned to focus on not asking the question or searching for an answer, but rather on what is NOT hard in life; what I have control over, and what is good and positive, like kind people, sunshine, animals, flower, hope, love, music, dance, yummy cookies, and so much more. I’ve given myself permission to be human and make mistakes, trip, get hurt, and be weary from time to time, but eventually, I’ll stand up, dust off the dirt, and keep walking. Life is still worthwhile with all its mystery and magic. So look up and not down, and hang in there. It can only get better. Believe…