I’ve been bouncing a post around in my head about why it’s important to admit it when life is hard. So many women are afraid to speak their struggles, for fear of being perceived as grouchy or even shameful.
They feel their life is easy, relatively speaking: they have no cause for complaint, not really. Not compared to what others suffer. Or they’re afraid that if they speak up about the hard in their lives, they’ll deny the good that comes with it.
I’ve been mulling this over for a few weeks now, ever since I read this post from Grace. I wanted to tell you why we need to own that it’s hard. I thought I’d share about when my firstborn son was learning to tie his shoelaces four or five years ago. He just couldn’t get it, and a caregiver, meaning to encourage him, said, “Of course you can do it–it’s easy!”
And my son burst into tears, saying, “It’s easy, and I’ll never be able to do it!”
As long as he thought tying his shoes was hard, he was fine. But once he found out it was supposed to be easy, he was devastated that he couldn’t do it. Because if it’s easy, but he’s struggling, what does that say about him?
And so it goes with adulthood or motherhood or singlehood or any other stage of life you want to lay on the table.
I wanted to talk with you about denying the hard and faking the easy. I wanted to see what you’d say–I imagined you’d have a lot to say about all that mess.
But I couldn’t figure out how to end it.
We’d made plans a month ago to get together with Will’s family in August down by the waterfront, but Will hopped on twitter yesterday morning and realized that the Ironman (all 140.6 miles of it) was in progress.
We should have known this–we had friends participating–but we hadn’t put two and two together, and realized how Ironman traffic closures were going to interfere with our plans.
We re-worked and re-routed, and ended up picnicking half a mile from our original destination, in a shady spot smack dab on the race’s route, a quarter mile from the bike-to-run transition.
A full Ironman–2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run–is really freaking hard. And because it’s hard, everybody–participants, helpers, cheerers-on, passers-by–accepts it as such, and behaves accordingly.
It’s a thing of beauty, people.
See that guy on the bike? The people lining the sidewalk don’t know him, but they burst into applause when he came around the corner. They know he’s been on the bike for 112 miles, and before that he swam over two miles in the river, and he’s got a marathon ahead of him, and he needs all the support he can get.
Also, he’s on an incline: it gets harder before it gets easier.
See that bump? No, you probably don’t. It’s big, but not so big a cyclist would notice–especially not after she’s near delirious from 5 hours on the bike–so there’s a guy stationed there whose sole job is to yell “watch out for the bump!” to the riders coming down the stretch. Because it would be criminal to let them wipe out so close to their racing milestone.
The Ironman is the ultimate endurance event, so if your loved one is in it, they need your support. I wish I could show you how many families we saw decked out in matching lime green, neon orange, or hot pink tshirts (the better to attract your loved one’s attention with), sporting the words Team Thompson or Fulton Family. Toddlers, teens, and great-grandmas were lining the route with cowbells and posters and powerbars to support their family’s athlete.
The bike-to-run transition is brutal. After 112 miles on a bike, the participants are supposed to hop off and walk. It’s awkward and awful, so–what else?–all the strangers clap and cheer while the racers fight to get their legs.
running solo down the chute, with 9 hours of physical turmoil behind you but a marathon between you and the finish line
Strangers are yelling: You can do it! Get your legs! Get your legs! You’re doing great! They don’t know her, but they know the Ironman, and they know it is hard. You just can’t watch her struggle without tossing out a little encouragement.
Those racers yesterday were participating in “the world’s toughest endurance challenge.” 140.6 miles is a big deal, and nobody, but nobody, denies it. But real life–even the ordinary, everyday kind that’s free of neon lycra and worries about chapped nipples–is no joke, either.
Watching the Ironman reminded me that it’s okay for it to be hard.
There’s no shame in the struggle: the struggle is what makes it great. The struggle is what makes it glorious.
So struggle on, friends. We’re clapping for you from the sidelines. Some of us are proudly sporting your team apparel; others of us don’t know you but will stand and applaud to encourage the stranger who needs it.
Raise a hand in response, would you? Just send a little nod our way. We care about your endurance event, and we like to know you heard us.
Tell us all about the hard and the easy in comments.