Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.
— Bernice Johnson Reagon, African American Composer Singer
We have heard it said that it isn’t the big traumas in life that cause the most harm, but its often the little, everyday paper cuts, that when combined, can bleed us to death. Those words have resonated with us. And I’m sure they resonate with you too. Because we all have them–the daily indignities, frustrations, challenges, absurdities. The check engine light comes on unexpectedly in your “reliable” vehicle depleting your savings account which was supposed to be spent as a down payment on a new house. The lawnmower breaks just when you have paid all your taxes and you don’t have the money to get a new one. Your aging dog is becoming increasingly incontinent inside the house. Your son who has autism inexplicably decides to trash the kitchen knocking things off the wall, pushing them off the counters, throwing glass bottles of juice which break all over the floor. People we need to hear from don’t respond as quickly as we need them to leaving us in the dark about things we need to know to do our job. These are just some of the paper cuts we have felt this week. You can certainly add many of your own to our list.
So how do you keep from allowing those ‘paper cuts’ from bleeding you to death? From depleting you of your energy? Your hope? Your enthusiasm for life?
We find that being able to share them and talk them out with each other and others we love and trust who can just listen is essential. In fact, when we first arrived to work together today we spent a significant amount of time sharing the paper cuts we have felt over the last two days since we last spoke. And it helped immensely to talk them out with each other.
We find having a sense of humor—being able to laugh- at the absurdities of it all and not take it all so seriously is essential too. It helped yesterday to take Tom’s children to the zoo watching the monkeys put on a show for their audience. Seeing the delight in his children as they rode on their first train ride reminded him that there is something greater to focus on.
We find that letting it out and holding our rants for a few minutes whether alone or with someone you trust and then choosing to move on is also vital. Perhaps taking a long bike ride, a drive, or a walk to acknowledge those feelings and vent them. To remember that it is okay to be raw-unedited-real because your feelings are real.
Its in those weeks where the paper cuts seem to be piling up—leaving you bleeding all over the place—when we are confronted with the fact that we don’t have things under control as much as we thought—where we discover who we really are. Those paper cuts, no matter how painful, are shaping our character, developing in us perseverance, reminding us to trust and to let go, and that our joy doesn’t depend upon our circumstances.