It would be great to wake up each morning with no preconceptions about what the day may bring, to get through with no past experiences colouring our thoughts, judgements or actions. To have the blissful ignorance granted from a life of peace, kindness and good fortune.
Unfortunately, very few of us can live in ignorance, we all have struggles in life; some with physical health, with mental health, issues with employment, unemployment, bullying, prejudice, bereavement, caring responsibilities, divorce, crime, addiction.
It would be an impossible task to list all the problems that life can throw at us.
In reading, and responding to Bird Flight blog: Making Progress in the School of Hard Knocks (Learning From Challenges), I quoted the following well known saying, which gave me inspiration for this post.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
In my past life working for a large American Corporation we didn’t have problems or issues, we had opportunities and challenges. Opportunities to learn from what had gone wrong and to make changes, or adapt to prevent it occurring again. Challenges, I guess a challenge is a problem to be overcome, an obstacle that needs to be removed to allow operations to continue, to run smoothly.
If we think about the challenges and opportunities life puts in our path, it can be hard to comprehend how we could ever get something positive out of such difficulties. But as, rain can bring rainbows, and darkness, stars, there can be unexpected consequences to be gained from our own personal trials.
I wrote recently, in ‘Shared Adversity‘, about the friendships that can blossom as a result of shared experiences, in my case through infertility/ivf/adoption, breast cancer and mental health. Each subset of adversity provides a connection, a bond, to that group of people, as by living through similar difficulties we develop an understanding and empathy of how others may feel, we can support and advise, be a shoulder to cry on.
As I replied to Bird Flight blog, from my challenges I have gained a deeper level of empathy towards the difficulties of others, but I have also become more compassionate towards myself.
Who are we?
Who we are is determined in part by genetics, but more significantly (in my opinion) by our experiences; our upbringing, family, friends, education. By what clubs or activities we have taken part in, whether we live in a community or if we are isolated, by what resources we have available to us; money, food, green spaces, a car.
Every experience good or bad serves to shape us in some way; every trauma, every relationship, every adversity, every success. On occasion I get a bit philosophical in thinking about my life, and I wonder who I would be if I hadn’t experienced the trauma and adversity that life has given me.
If I hadn’t gone through the heartbreak of being unable to conceive.
If I hadn’t had depression.
If I hadn’t had cancer.
If my cancer treatment had gone more smoothly.
If I hadn’t been living with PTSD for many years.
If all these things and more hadn’t happened who would I be?
Would I rewrite history to erase my traumatic experiences and change who I am? To live in blissful ignorance of life’s challenges?
Or do I learn and adapt from each challenge, each experience, each trauma? As by living through adversity we do indeed become stronger, more able to cope with difficulties, more resilient.
Nietzsche was right “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.