What We Learned…Don’t Be Afraid To Suffer

BEFORE: The rusty, dated bathroom lighting and wallpaper

My strange relationship with exercise (by this I mean how I went to the gym for two years to work on my computer instead of working out) nicely illustrates how I’m afraid to suffer.
I went to the gym’s café every day and watched hundreds of people post-exercise. A brave person could look at these athletes and think, “Look at their adrenaline! I want to feel that rush!” or “You can SEE the endorphins on that runner’s beaming face!” or “Wow. That size-16 woman is now more like a size 8! I could do that.”
I would look at the sweaty, red-faced athletes and think, “What they’re doing looks SO HARD. And I am afraid of suffering.”
I didn’t think that exactly. But I told myself lies like, “Exercise is easier for these people than it is for me.” or “If I stay comfortable, I’ll say happy.”
Then something happens, like I attend a Pilates class. Or fifty. And it’s so hard, and I suffer so much, and I feel so hot/sweaty/exhausted/ exasperated/desperate. And I realize why I’m afraid of suffering. Because it SUCKS.
And during those Pilates classes, when I work my abs within an inch of their flabby lives, I feel like I’m going to die from the suffering. Fear tells me it was all too much. I overdid it. I will never recover. Fear tells me suffering is bad.
But, the next day when I wake up, I have a little more energy than I did the day before. My belly jiggles a little less. I can lift my kids a little easier.
This is, of course, all bad news. All this means I shouldn’t be afraid of suffering because it’s worth it.
Bad news all around because the more I suffer, the more it’s worth it. Giving up sugar last year is a good example. It wasn’t until I thought I would DIE without ice cream that I really got over the cravings.
Reading finally clicked for the twins after I sat on their bedroom floors, listening to them try to sound out “cat” until I thought my ears would bleed. Much suffering, much pay-off.  A motto I should tattoo on my eyelids so I can finally learn it.
Nothing, nothing, taught me the lesson better than renovating the beach house. The place was in sad shape, and we gave ourselves six weeks to get it rental-worthy. Making that deadline would mean sacrificing sleep, idle hours on Facebook, and just about everything else. Making that deadline would mean suffering.
Because I’m a coward, I was afraid of that suffering. So, I told myself the project wasn’t worth it. When I was so tired I couldn’t move, I told myself, “There’s a reason everyone doesn’t sign up for stupid stuff like this.” Really, really hard work on a short timeline is suffering. I HATED that suffering. The suffering hurt and rocked my world.
But now the beach house has been rented out to happy families for a month with another month of families already booked. I didn’t die from missing a few nights of sleep. No permanent damage was done from all the stress of those six weeks.
But you know what did happen? The seed of confidence was planted inside me. That little seed hopes to drive out the ugly fear that’s been living there for years.
Just like after a Pilates class, I’m glistening with endorphins (and sweat), I’m brimming with adrenaline, and I already feel stronger.
For the millionth time, suffering wins.


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