Pushing Through the Tough Times
Let’s face it. We all go through tough times in our lives. For those of you who say, “I’ve had a great life and nothing really bad has happened to me.” I would say, “Hold on! Your time is coming.”
The one Latin phrase that I really remember from my two years of Latin in high school is: “Vita est Dura.” Life is hard. I have found it true that scattered among the joyous times of life are the tough times.
I have neglected my blog for quite some time, because frankly the tough times have overwhelmed me. It is only by looking back at how God has carried me through other tough times, that I am certain He will carry me now. Both in our personal and “leader” lives we will be faced with tough times. How on earth can we push through?
My first really tough time as an adult was when my first marriage ended. I was opening a brand new middle school in the role of assistant principal and was in the final phase of obtaining a Specialist’s Degree in Educational Leadership. It was a terrible time as I experienced life as a single parent with all of the responsibilities I had. How did I push through? I chose to see an end in sight. I knew that at the end of May the hectic school year in a brand new school would end and I would complete my Specialist’s degree. I can’t tell you how many times that year I told myself, “If I can just make it to Memorial Day, I think I will be ok.” During that year, I learned to trust God and become ok with spending time alone.
Things eventually stabilized until tough times came again seventeen years later. I was overcome with anxiety and sadness because I thought my child was going to self-destruct and not survive. How did I survive? Although there were plenty of negative outcomes possible, I chose hope and reminded myself that positive results were also possible.
Tough times do not relegate themselves only to your personal life. I will never forget in my first year as a principal, someone on my staff sent a list of 34 negative issues to my supervisor at the county office. They had fired off a list of problems they perceived at the school and stated that I was not addressing any of them. Since no one had shared them with me prior to sending them off, I hadn't been able to address them. Fortunately, my supervisor came to me with the list and told me that I could handle the issue as I saw fit. I called a faculty meeting and spoke with my staff about the importance of us working together to resolve all issues in the school. I told them that if they had concerns, I wanted them to bring them to me first and if I truly did nothing, then absolutely they could go to the next level. One by one I read each issue on the paper and responded to it. While that took a good bit of time, it was a powerful day. How did I survive? I chose to press in to the tough time instead of running from it. A funny thing happened, I returned to my office after that intense faculty meeting and found an anonymous note pushed under the door. It said, “Congratulations, you passed the test.”
The reality is that I could have been extremely angry about those events, and initially, I think anger is our first response to tough times. We want to say, “Why me? Why do I have to go through this? Why is my path not paved and trouble free?” While we want trouble free, it is by pushing through these times of trouble that we are refined and we have strengthened our character and our resolve. When those you lead see your character in the tough times, they are able to draw from that as well.
Now I find myself in tough times once again. I have been so fortunate in the fact that I had great parents. Family has always been and is an integral and important piece of my life. My father and I are very close. At sixteen, because of the rules and guidelines he placed on me, I wondered if we would ever like each other. I must say that not only do we like each other, but also are very close. My dad and I have talked on the phone almost daily since I was twenty-one years old. After my mother passed away four years ago, my dad’s health declined. He has been in a wheelchair and fairly immobile for the past year. Two months ago, he suffered a mild heart attack and is now at his home under hospice care. While his mind had always been strong, in the past six weeks, he has taken a roller coaster into the world of dementia. He has gone from doing 500 piece puzzles to puzzles with three pieces. He is confused and on some days, he asks every minute to go to his house from his childhood. We have provided papers for him that he reads aloud to himself to remind him of things. One of those says, “We can’t go to my home, we don’t know anyone there anymore.” He will read it and say ok and within ten seconds say, “OK, let’s go.” My heart is breaking to see my father as a shell and not the man he was. I really don’t understand why he is still here, but am sure that God has a purpose. How do I survive? I choose to find things to be thankful for. I am thankful that my dad recognizes me and knows who I am. I am thankful that the dementia has been a recent event and has not been here for a long period of time. I am thankful that I have the time to make activities for him and to visit him daily. I am thankful to have had him as a part of my life for fifty-eight years. Many others don’t get that much time with their parents.
When tough times come, and they will come, never give up. When tough times come, know that there is an end in sight. Things will get better. When tough times come, choose hope. When tough times come, don’t back down. When tough times come, find things to be thankful for. When you are in tough times, people are watching you. Know that you are impacting them as they see your character develop. You can and will push through the tough times. Move forward, good times are just around the bend – for you and for me.