The Obstacle is the Way, or is it? Lessons on Life’s Trials and Tribulations.

snow covered mountain during sunrise

In February this year I broke my leg badly, and was forced into what I now call ‘leg lockdown’. After having major surgery I still couldn’t weight bear for 8 weeks, and even after that it’s called ‘protective weight bearing with crutches’ so basically for 3-4 months, I will have been unable to live my normal life, to walk, to drive, easily get out of the house; the list is never ending. Unless you have had a leg injury and have been unable to walk, you don’t realize how limiting it is, and what you can no longer do – it’s a lot!

Having a life changing experience like this can pull you in all sorts of directions. I have felt elated at being able to have the time to read and start my new business course (which was timed perfectly) but I have also felt extremely low and frustrated at my life too. A few times I’ve had to pull myself out of a dark mental health hole, grateful for the personal development I have undertaken over past years which has given me the resources to help with this, but even so, it really hasn’t been a walk in the park.

But I have also found myself feeling incredibly grateful for the opportunities this has given me. Time to reflect on many things, think to think, to read voraciously, and time to sit in stillness and silence and to watch the ever-changing world outside the window. I have still managed to work, grateful for the fact that I work from home and concentrating on the positives this has given me, as often when something big comes along to upset the apple cart, a natural reaction can be to focus on the negatives. This has no benefit in the long term however, we need to build on our positive mental attitude instead. I know this isn’t easy, like I said, I have had to work at this myself these last few months confined to the house. So I wanted to share what I have gleaned from this experience so far, and how this has affected my life, as I passionately believe when the ‘big stuff’ comes up, it’s almost certainly time to review things.

The first thing that I became very aware of was I no longer had the ability to just ‘do’. I couldn’t even make myself a drink (on crutches both arms and legs are out of action!) never mind the one million jobs that we all seem to have each day, but you know what, I soon started to see that this was actually ok. I released my hold on all the things that I had once thought so important to do, understanding in the process that I no longer had any control over them (did I ever?), but again this was OK. This attachment to things was something I had learned on a deeper level within the School of Philosophy, and I found it’s teachings surfacing again. Acceptance was the one word that seemed to shout itself out to me daily. I remember having surgery many years ago and struggling to accept the things I could no longer do, getting irritable and frustrated, but this time around there it was, acceptance in big bold capital letters. If we can learn to accept the things that come our way, rather than fighting them, we really do stand a chance at a happier life than constantly trying to control everything. I had a certain kind of acceptance beforehand, but this experience had solidified that for me, and I believe I’m going to go on to have a better life because of it.

The second thing that made itself very aware to me was the fact that I was watching the changing seasons. I saw trees sprout blossom, saw the blossom grown into beautiful colours, and I was watching this daily. I just ‘was’. I’ve always relished trying to live in the present moment, especially through my study of practical philosophy and meditation, but this enforced it even more, and I really took stock of everything that was changing. I saw birds collecting the dog’s hairs from the lawn and carrying them off to their nests (I know where they are now!). I got to know which birds were coming into the garden to feed, watched couples coming together, even watched the shadows flitting across the grass as the day lengthened. I’ve always tried to make room for these kind of things in my life, nature is a huge part of my mental well-being, but I found myself appreciating it even more. When we are having our breakfast or a cuppa, it’s so good to gaze out of the window rather than at a phone screen. It’s so refreshing to just sit and be, we rush around from one thing to another ( I have been so guilty of this) almost wearing it like a badge of honour, and I think we need to reframe this, and start wearing as our badge of honour a more peaceful way of living.

The third thing I noticed was that this experience was changing me again. I am constantly reading, doing self-study and personal development. For instance, whilst doing my Mother-Daughter Coach training, my entire world was shaken upside down as I started to come to terms with many new things I was learning; which were having a huge effect on me. But during my ‘leg lockdown’, I often found myself just staring into space and thinking. This would have been something that I would’ve felt I didn’t have the time for beforehand, but actually it was incredible. We need to sit down and just let our thoughts take us away occasionally. This is when great thoughts and ideas come to us, and it’s so good to reflect and see what is coming up for you. We are always so busy ‘doing’ that we rarely give ourselves time to just ‘being’ –  often seeing it as a waste of time, or not believing we have the time for it, when actually, in our fast paced world, it’s the very thing I believe our souls are searching for. We need to slow down, it’s good for our mental and physical health. We need to daydream and stare into space; we need to relax.

The fourth thing that really resonated with me was how much as humans we take for granted. I have real respect for people that live with debilitating conditions. I live with them too, so I do understand, but it made me realize how much people have to go through living life. say without a limb for instance. It really broadened my view on such things. I guess we have all been guilty of moaning about things that are really not all that important! We really do take so many things for granted, and this has helped me to really remember this. I hope to continue being grateful daily. I was extremely grateful for the people that messaged me, sent gifts, and those that came to visit me, brightening up my earlier ‘Groundhog’ days.

The last thing I realized was that this obstacle had become the way for me to rethink and reframe. I knew I could start to change some unhealthy conditioned habits like having to hoover before I could start work! (we have lots of animals so lots of hair!) When I could no longer hoover and had to rely on others to pretty much do everything, (especially in the early days), it helped me to accept this, and also the fact that it didn’t really matter that much what time of day I did it! I just needed to break that habit I had got myself into. I could see by doing that, it would start to take the stress out of it for me, and anything that takes the stress out is a good thing, as that ‘stress’ creeps into other areas of our lives! I bought the book ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday from an amazon gift card I had been thoughtfully sent after my operation (thanks Annie!) It’s an amazing book, cementing all I was realizing and learning, with applied wisdom from The Stoics (a favourite of mine) I would highly recommend this book, if you too, find yourself with a big obstacle in your life.

As Holiday says on page 145, ‘It doesn’t always feel that way but constraints in life are a good thing. Especially if we can accept them and let them direct us. They push us to places and to develop skills that we’d otherwise never pursued.’

I’m reminded at this point by something Helen Keller once said – ‘Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved’.

 I don’t think there is a truer saying. Having gone through some major tribulations in the last 3-4 years, which at one point I thought would break me, I can now see even clearer that they have ‘made me’ more than ever. Of course, it’s never nice having to go through any trial, obstacle, or tribulation but I guess the lesson we take away from it serves us better than any other. There will always be more and more trials coming our way, but if we can remember that ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ I believe we stand a better chance at succeeding in life, and flourishing and growing from it.

If you have reached here, thank you so much for reading! If you feel that coaching would benefit you then please drop me a line and we can have a chat.

Leave a Reply