I have always been the sort of person who prefers the easy route. I remember when my high school English class was studying the works of the Romantic poets, and our teacher asked us each to write a poem that incorporated nature, human suffering, and religion as our homework assignment. While others in the class complained about having to write a poem, I whipped out my pen and paper and immediately wrote mine:
Looking out my window,
I see the rain has gone;
In the sky, there’s a rainbow,
And it’s time to mow the lawn!
I often wonder as I mow,
straining over the sod,
“why don’t we just let it grow?”
It was put there, you know, by God!
I don’t remember the rest of it, but it went on along those lines for at least another two stanzas. I thought it was funny, and even read it out loud to the rest of the class. So I was shocked when one of my friends in the class after mine told me that the teacher had said that if I turned that poem in, I would receive a “D.” Not about to let the teacher get the best of me, I went home and spent a couple of hours writing a poem about a drug addict dying of an overdose in a weed-strewn alley. I got an “A” on that poem, and that same friend reported that the teacher actually read it to their class, even crying a little at the end. (Served her right, I thought.)
I’m still not sure that my first poem deserved a “D” (hadn’t the teacher ever heard of satire?), or that my second poem deserved an “A” (it was deliberately melodramatic). But I do know that I put a lot more effort into the second one, and that I wouldn’t have bothered to write it if my friend hadn’t told me the teacher hated my first one. Which is a pattern that I have repeated throughout my life.
I may prefer it when my life is easy, when things are going along just fine with minimal effort on my part, but those are rarely the times when I accomplish anything worth doing. It’s almost always during the hard times in my life when I discover just exactly what I am capable of doing, and that’s often a lot more than I thought.
I spent most of my life fainting at the sight of blood, and thought that meant I would always be useless in any kind of medical emergency. But the first time my daughter fell off her bike and came running to me, dripping blood, I managed to wipe away her tears and clean and bandage her wounds without getting the slightest bit dizzy. I tend to be impatient and a little claustrophobic, but the time our plane sat on the runway for six hours waiting for permission to take off taught me that I really do have the ability to sit patiently in tight quarters for as long as I need to. And the succession of “fixer-uppers” that my husband and I have bought and lived in has taught me that I can work harder and longer than I had ever thought possible. If we had been able to afford a “move-in ready” house, I would probably still believe I could never acquire any rehabbing skills.
So while I will probably always prefer the easy life, I think it is also a good thing that the easy life is not always the life I lead. Life’s hardships, both big and small, push me to test my limits and discover strengths that I never knew I had. And in the end, that makes the hard times worth it.