You, like me, probably know that good things take work and that work is often hard. That sounds a little like the opening line to a book titled "Life 101" but knowingsomething doesn't always make it easier to accept. That knowledge can't negate the way we feel.
For instance, I knew how unlikely it was that the ghostly thud in the attic the other night was the sounds of a serial killer who'd been hiding upstairs, waiting until the dog and I went to sleep to make his move. I knew this was almost certainly untrue and yet I still felt a little fear. Logic could help me talk back to those feelings and understand them, but it couldn't erase them.
Even though we posses the knowledge that not everything is meant to be easy, it can still be confusing when good things are hard. We often see people in their ease, whether it's real or not. We watch movies, read autobiographies, and like Instagram photos of people at the end of their journeys. We see them smiling and triumphant. They have something to show for the work. They are telling their stories once they've already gotten to the "good" part. "How is it?," we ask. "Great!," they say... and even when they tell us about the struggle, we weren't there to see it happen. Seeing may not be believing but it sure does give us something so focus on. Those success stories can take us down memory lane to the hard part, but at the end of day we know where they end up and it's where we want to be: the good part. The problem is when we assume that "good" is synonymous with "ease."
That thud from the attic wasn't a murderer. I knew it and yet I still felt scared. I considered getting out of bed and grabbing the bread knife that sat on the counter. I considered dialing 9-1-1, just in case. I considered feeding into my feelings of fear and creating ways to comfort myself but I new that wouldn't get me any closer to the sleep that I desperately craved. So I sat, feeling slightly uncomfortable and foolishly fearful, and persisted.
Better isn't always a direct path to easier.
Sometimes the best things we can do is embrace the feelings of hardship and keep moving froward. You've probably heard this, right? Maybe in Chapter Two of "Life 101"? I think this is something that's often discussed with business but not often enough when it comes to our personal lives and, most importantly, our mental health.
In some ways, life felt easier when I had an eating disorder.
Easier. .But not better. The cycle of disordered eating feels all encompassing. I still lived life. I went to work, had friends, read books, took trips, etc. But it was all secondary, whether I liked it or not. Even if I wanted something else to matter more, my priority one was always the food, the body, and the control. Looking back, life seemed simple because it was sorrowfully singular.
Now life feels complicated, messy, and terribly meaningful. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't overwhelming on some days. It's like walking back into the light after being stuck in a dark room: there's a lot too see but it takes some adjusting. My future had always mattered to me but its like everything else, came secondary to the immediacy of my obsession and my anxieties. I wanted and worked for success but that work was hindered by the constant nagging of what had yet to be healed. All of those things that I wanted to matter more finally can.
Working on your mental health is worth it, but it's not always going to feel easy-good. Good doesn't have to be limited to ease, however. There are levels and layers of good. There's that tired, proud kind of good that comes with moving your entire house on a sticky summer day. There's that soft, nostalgic good that comes with saying goodbye to your friend as they move town to chase their dreams. There are so many more interesting and rewarding styles of good than "easy" good.
Living with food freedom, self-love, and managed anxiety is great, just like everyone has said it would be, but it's also exhausting and overwhelming.
It is an exhausting, overwhelming, incredibly grateful brand of good.
And it is unquestionably better.
What feels hard for you right now? Work, love, your mental health? Is it a productive hard? Is there maybe a brand of good hiding in that hard?