“Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth. Tame the dragon and the gift is yours.” ~ Noela Evans
One of my favourite quotes about the human spirit was written by French writer and philosopher Albert Camus: “In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” I love these words, so full of hope and wisdom. When we go through our own dark winters we learn not only that we can survive, but that we are strong. We meet our highest selves and discover we can do more than we ever imagined.
We all run into adversity multiple times in life and in most cases we can deal with it without too much pain and suffering. But when it slams into us and completely changes our lives, that’s another story. These are the adversities that swing through like a wrecking ball. They throw us into a process of transition in which we must leave behind what has been lost and chart a course into an unknown future. The challenge is enormous, but so are the power and resilience of the human spirit.
The adversity that changed my life was an illness and disability. You might have gone through something completely different like the death of someone close to you, a divorce or an act of violence. It takes on a multitude of forms, but the feelings and responses it evokes are common to us all. The most typical first reactions are:
• An overwhelming sense of chaos.
• A sense of loss of control.
• A surreal sense of disbelief.
• Feelings of fear.
• Feelings of anger.
• An impulse to fight back (or could be an impulse to withdraw).
When life comes tumbling down we are not mentally or psychologically equipped to process such massive change all at once. It takes time and conscious effort to assimilate it all in a healthy, life affirming way. Your circumstances can change dramatically in the blink of an eye but your mind and heart cannot switch over that fast. They need time to adjust and catch up. This is why a traumatic event so often feels surreal. It seems as though it’s not part of your “real” world, the one you know. As you recover and rebuild your life, you will go from disbelief and rejection of what has happened to belief and acceptance of what is. In that process you will find renewal.
In the beginning adversity seems like this:
It shows up uninvited.
It takes control.
It changes your life in ways you don’t want.
It takes what you want away from you.
It forces you into situations you don’t want to be in.
It stops you from doing what you want to do.
It’s ruthless and cruel.
After working through it, it can mean something like this to you (yes, it really can!):
It helps you become a better person.
It makes you achieve more than you ever thought you could.
It makes your relationships deeper and more meaningful.
It shows you what’s most important in life.
It helps you become more compassionate and understanding.
It makes you appreciate life much more.
It leads to the discovery of true joy.
It gives you wisdom.
Between these two perceptions there is a long road to travel. There is no map; the route you take will be uniquely yours. Along the way you will encounter deep rooted issues of loss, control, justice and meaning that can make you question your most fundamental beliefs and perspectives about life. It is a demanding journey, no doubt about it, but if you accept responsibility for your healing and commit to travelling a healing path you will move out of the darkness and confusion and go as far as your dreams want to take you.
There is a pure, radiant light in the eye of the storm of adversity. Your inner resilience, intuitive nature and innate wisdom reside in this calm centre. This is where hope comes to life. As author Martha Beck poignantly says, “Any deep crisis is an opportunity to make your life extraordinary in some way.”
That is the gift hidden in adversity. Healing is what helps you find it.