The Harder Thing is the Easier Thing

medium_3312329984 I love it when blogs and online articles build on one another. Sarah Spath, a career and life coach, recently wrote about an old blog post of mine, in which I reflected on one of my parenting mantras: the harder thing is the easier thing. Sarah summarizes it like this:

MaryAnn tells the story of being exhausted and trying to run errands when one of her three kids asks from the backseat, “Mommy, can we pretend we’re in a spaceship?” Irritable MaryAnn, out of creative energy, initially just wants to say No—to be left alone. But something in her said Yes instead, so fighting traffic and running errands while in the Minivan Spaceship became a fun adventure that averted cranky kid syndrome when bedtime finally rolled around. The harder thing in the moment—to give her kids creative energy—turned out to be the easier thing over the course of the entire evening.

Robert shared another example with me just yesterday morning: instead of trying to coax and fight our reluctant children to get out of bed, he made them a big yummy breakfast. The harder thing (scrambling eggs, slicing fresh strawberries, making toast, on a busy weekday morning) became the easier one because they sprang readily out of bed and threw on their clothes.

Sarah compares my idea to another meaningful idea she picked up along the way:

Acute pain is often better than chronic pain.

She describes her experience with repetitive stress injuries that came from being at the computer for 8-12 hours a day for her work. These injuries meant she wasn't writing regularly:

Dealing with it required embracing some treatments that brought acute pain—the sore tearing up of knots in massage therapy, the angry abrasive friction of gua sha in acupuncture, and the terror of letting a chiropractor crack my neckbones. I’m now past the point of needing any of these treatments regularly, but they were critical both for healing and for understanding how my body works and what it needs.  And then a physical therapist told me that simply moving around more and getting exercise would help my healing.

So now I prevent and manage the chronic pain with regular exercise, something I never imagined myself doing because it seemed like such a chore. But the acute “pain” of going out for a walk, getting on a yoga mat, or lifting weights always paid off tenfold in the way it loosened me up (both physically AND mentally, it turns out) so that I could have a real writing life again.

This reminded me of the old Anne Lamott story from Bird by Bird about getting her tonsils removed. Her throat was in vicious pain afterwards, and the nurse recommended getting a pack of chewing gum and going at it. When we're wounded, the nurse explained, our muscles clamp around the wound in an attempt to protect it.

The mere idea of chewing gum made Anne clutch at her throat. And sure enough, the first few seconds brought excruciatingly acute pain, a "ripping sensation" in her throat. But within minutes, the "chronic" pain was gone for good.

My current mantra relates to this stuff. In the midst of lots of big things coming up in my life--General Assembly being just one of them--my task has been to "hold it all lightly." That's a hard thing for me--I'm an excellent manager *cough*controlfreak*cough*.

But it will be the easier thing in the long run, as I'm able to be more flexible and gracious to embrace whatever comes.

Do you have a phrase or other wisdom that's helping you through these days?


photo credit: Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick) via photopin cc This is one of the pictures that came up when I searched PhotoPin for "chronic pain" and I couldn't resist.