Who are you? A scrapper? A volcano? A House of Mirrors? Let me tell you how you can find out.

In my English classes, we have a unit called “Dealing with Difficulty.” One of the things we have found as educators is that students, from a very young age, don’t like to “deal” with the difficulty they confront in life. And it starts with the small stuff: the words they don’t know, concepts they don’t understand, allusions they have no frame of reference difficultyfor. When they hit these parts of a text, they skip over them. They try to make sense of the piece using just the easy parts–and so their understanding is fundamentally flawed. They miss the big picture, the purpose, the ah, ha moment.

All because they didn’t want to deal with the difficulty.

We so often are just like my students. We skip over, hide, ignore the difficult pieces, so we never learn. We never grow.

We just keep making the same mistakes over and over again–because we skip the middle.

One of my favorite Ted Talks is by a lady named Caroline McHugh, and she puts it this way. Many of us claim to have years of experience, let’s say 20 years of experience, but in reality, we only have one year of experience 20 times–in other words, if we are not learning from that experience, we have gained nothing and are just repeating the same mistakes 20 years later, that we made at the very beginning.

Many people live life in this way, and it all comes down to difficulty: loss, failure, adversity.

Adversity seems to be the theme of my adult life. I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of it. Perhaps that is why I seem to have a heightened awareness of its impact–often wildly different–on people.

Adversity is a given–not a possibility, but rather an inevitability. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when.

Perhaps this is why adversity doesn’t really scare me. You can’t run from it, you can’t hide from it, and you can’t wish it away. It simply is–pretending any differently is just a waste of breath, time, and energy.

fake-life-make-mistakes-Favim.com-2596418And yet it is what so many of us try to do.

We Americans like to photoshop our lives. We like things to be pretty. Wrapped up with a bow. Perfect and pristine.

But life is simply not like that. It is often ugly. And hard. And painful. It often isn’t fair. It’s often unjust. The good guys, quite frequently, lose.

Or at least in the traditional sense that is.

I don’t believe adversity, failure, loss, grief–difficulty in whatever form it takes, is loss.

I believe it is opportunity.

magic in the middleIn the words of Brene Brown “the magic happens in the middle.”

But we so often want to skip the middle.

What does she mean? What’s the middle? Well let me explain it using an analogy that is very personally applicable for me right now. Divorce.

As I mentioned in a previous blog,  everybody tends to react differently to a divorce. Many people want to jump very quickly from their former relationship, into a new one. They want to skip the middle. They want to move from brokenness straight into wholeness–but it doesn’t work that way.

The middle is hard. The middle is painful. It’s often lonely and it tastes a lot like failure. It is the place where our questions often don’t have answers and our fears loom large. It is where we question our worth and our value.

But it’s here in the middle where we learn. We learn what we did right and what we did wrong. We learn our areas of weakness and our areas of strength. We wrestle with our worth and come to realize that it does not come from another person, a talent, a career, or anything else outside of ourselves. Worthiness is a God given gift and it comes from who we are–or more aptly–whose we are.

wrestling in mudThe middle is like wrestling in the mud. You are going to get dirty. You will get beaten up. You’re going to feel every bruise, every scratch, every dagger to the heart.

And so most of us don’t want to go there. We like the safe, the easy, the pristine–and the middle is none of these things–so we will do anything in our power to avoid it.

Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal said this about adversity: “I don’t even know who a character is until I’ve seen how they handle adversity. Onscreen and offscreen, that’s how you know who someone is.”

Who are you?

Who am I?

In the face of adversity, how do we measure up?

The truth of that statement really zinged me, and it got me thinking about the different approaches I have seen to adversity. I know which one I am, which one are you?

ostrich-head-in-sandThe Ostrich: Do you have your head in the sand? Do you ignore your problems, pretending that, if I don’t acknowledge them, they’ll just go away?

The Coward: Do you run and hide from your problems? Do you leave a wake of broken relationships behind you, cutting people, jobs, connections off as the going gets tough?

house of mirrorsThe House of Mirrors (aka transference): Do you project your problems onto someone (anyone) else as a means of ignoring your problems? Is it always a case of the blame game? It’s his fault because…. It’s her fault because….

The Volcano: Do you avoid dealing with the real issues by hiding in anger? Does anger seem to be the the only emotion you’re feeling these days? Then you’re probably a volcano, using anger as a shield for your real problems.

female-ec-the-damsel-in-distressThe Damsel in Distress: Do you tend to expect a white knight to come riding up to “fix it?” Do you tend to wait for someone to come and save you from your problems? Do you think that if only…(x), then all of these problems will go away? Then you probably fall into this category.

The Peacock: Do you tend to magnify your strengths, your talents, your looks in an effort to minimize your failures? Do you puff your ego so you don’t notice the hits you’ve taken? Well, then you’re just going to keep taking those hits and you’re going to start looking like a weight lifter with chicken legs, developed in some areas, and tragically weak in others…

hermit.pngThe Hermit: Do you cut off from everyone and everything? Avoiding life in an effort to ignore your problems? Do you hide in video games, tv shows, even books, in an effort to live in a different world to escape from your own? This category can often include those suffering from depression, in that depression, that completely disconnect.

The Scrapper: Are you a fighter? Are you willing to get down and dirty in your effort to overcome? Do you look failure in the eyes and determine to triumph? Then you are probably a scrapper and are in a pretty good place, learning from your set backs and overcoming difficulty. Congratulations–there aren’t too many of you out there!

No matter which role you tend to play, it doesn’t define you. The great part is knowledge–self awareness–is the first step in being different. You get to choose your role.

Don’t want to be a hermit?

Then choose to be a scrapper!

You can choose the role you get to play at any time, in every situation. It is all up to you.

Don’t know how? That’s okay! Check out my blog next week for the first installment on how to change the role you’re currently playing!




Gosh, darn it! Once again, I’m a schmuck. Queen of the Schmucks, sitting right here!

open mouthSo, I did it again. Open mouth, insert foot.

I didn’t mean it that way, but I’m sure I came off tacky.



Down-right bitchy.

Gosh, I hate it when I do that!

And, as if screwing up isn’t bad enough, I must then think about it.

Over and over.

Replaying the scene, the dialogue, the moment–on endless loop.

Gosh. I really was a schmuck.

Ouch, there it is again, playing in my head, here it comes, here it comes . . . and that’s where I say it, “No! Don’t say it this time . . . !”

Damn. Said it. Again.

Well, not really, but in my head. Re-living it, in all its cringeworthiness.

hiding under the blanketIt’s like a movie that’s stuck replaying that one scene, the “pull the blanket over your head” moment. You know the moment I’m talking about. You know it’s going to happen–the girl is going to run up the stairs and get hacked to pieces by whatever ghoul is lying in wait–but there is not one thing you can do to stop it. You see it coming, but you sit there helpless to change. one. single. thing.

Yep, that’s my brain. And I get to see it over and over again. Lovely.

Oh, the endless ways I can be a fool, on repeat . . . until a new idiot moment replaces this one, and I get to watch that one on endless loop instead. :S

If only I could not think about it, no, let’s be honest, obsess about it!

stupid meI was stupid here, an idiot there. I made this mistake and that mistake. I wonder what he thinks of me . . . what she thinks of me . . . what they think of me . . . (what’s really crazy about this is the self absorption that is evident in the very stream of these thoughts! After all, why would they be spending their time thinking about me at all?!)

I know I’m not alone in this. Come on, admit it. You do it too. We all do, though maybe not all to the pathological extremes of my overly analytic mind.

Don’t get me wrong, reflection is good. Normal. Healthy even. It’s a life skill our young people are sadly lacking in, which is a soap box for another day.

Obsessing is not.

Similarly, when bad things happen, we tend to obsess about the whys.

negative-self-talk1We spend our mental energy asking ourselves over and over again. “Why did it happen? Why me? Could I have prevented this? Is it my fault? Do I deserve it? What is wrong with me?!”

The questions repeat on endless loop.

So often, as with so many of the difficulties of life, the events are random, inexplicable, unavoidable. So, no matter how many times we ask ourselves the questions, we will never get any answers.

So, what do we gain for our mental efforts? We obsess to our own destruction.

Even when there is something that could have been done differently, we can’t go back and change what actually happened. Reflecting on it, to avoid the same error in the future is healthy.

Beating ourselves up for what happened, that serves no purpose except to flagellate ourselves, to punish ourselves for being, well–for being,in fact, human.

There is a psychologist named Tim Wilson from the University of Virginia who talks about this human tendency, to replay what went wrong–our failures, our fears, tragic life events–over and over again. When the cycle becomes obsessive, self-defeating, he encourages individuals to use a technique called “story-editing.” What this basically means is that, as your story begins to replay once again in your mind, you change it. You re-write the ending. Instead of saying the wrong thing, when it starts to play again, this time, you say the right thing. Instead of re-living how you failed, create the scenario in which you succeed, and play that in your head instead. Instead of the tragedy happening, you avert the tragedy. You get the idea. Through this process, your brain gains a sense of closure. It lets go of the endless loop. You learn from the experience and, hopefully, go on to do better next time.

I love this idea. I practice this idea. And I combine it with an idea that is probably as old as time itself. I replace the negative obsession by consciously putting a positive one in its place.

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are admirable–if there be any virtue, if there be any praise–think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

In modern times, the psychological community calls it “self-talk” or “inner dialogue.” They like to look at this as a new idea, one that is newly discovered, but it’s not. People have understood this concept for thousands of years, but, as is so common in the western world, until we have the data, the science to back it up, it doesn’t really count. Now that we have the data to support the concept–even if we don’t understand why it’s so, we recognize that it is so–so we can fully embrace what it means (Why is it we can never admit that our forbears knew a whole lot, even if they didn’t know much about science??).

The Mayo clinic, one of the most respected medical communities in the world acknowledges these ideas on their website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950 The following is an excerpt from this site:

The health benefits of positive thinking

Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.

postiveOur thoughts have a huge impact on our physical and mental bodies. What we think about matters. When we beat ourselves up mentally, we are beating ourselves up physically also.

I might not be able to go back and unsay the truly stupid thing I said. I can’t go back and fix what I screwed up. What I can do is reflect on the mistakes I made, reflect on how I might do better next time, ask forgiveness from anyone I might have offended, and forgive myself for my humanity.

I can let it go.

I can think of the way I wish I had handled the situation.

And I can let it go.

I can think of all the times I said the right thing, and not torture myself for that one time I said the wrong thing.

And I can let it go.

I can dwell on the things I do right.

And not beat myself up for being nothing more than human.

I can let it go.