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Playful Self-Discipline: Rethinking Challenges

Here we are, the last day in June. The mania of the solstice is past, and now we’re heading into those hot summer days that gradually creep shorter and shorter until we arrive in Autumn. This month of challenges has been an interesting one. I tackled challenges big and small, tangible and psychic. And I learned that the way I think about challenges changes the way I approach them.

Here’s an example. I know that I am an introvert. I need a certain amount of time alone every week to recharge, think, ruminate, meditate, run, write or just simply sit on the couch and look out the window in silence. As a mother of two young children, this can be a real challenge to me, because hey – four year olds talk A LOT.  Two year olds need a lot of hand-holding.

But why view an innate part of myself as a challenge in the first place? As Sarah Cain argues in this week’s New York Times, there is nothing inherently wrong with being introverted. It’s just the way I am. The problem (and challenge) arises when I think I shouldn’t be that way and schedule a week without any solitude.

The same goes for the challenges that come with homeschooling, self-employment, cooking from scratch, growing my own vegetables or hanging my laundry out to dry on the line. I can look at these things as challenges that need to be conquered or I can see them as simply the choices that suit my life the best. I know from experience which approach feels better.

That said, I’m sure I will have many more moments of struggling with challenges, whether or not they’re due to something I have consciously chosen to have in my life. My playfully self-disciplined approach will be to work with those challenges with grace and humility. Partly because calling out the gods of challenges leads to a whole heaping helping of challenges, and I think I’d prefer to tackle them as they come instead. Also because approaching challenges with grace and humility leaves the door open to the possibility of blessings coming in alongside the challenges.

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I heard on the radio once that the root of the word “blessing” comes from the French word, “blesser,” a verb which means “to wound”. This idea germinated and put out a little root in my mind. All of these challenges, the struggles to cope with the emotional discomfort of having my buttons pushed by my children, or struggling to be on time for an appointment, or struggling to get established as a writer, all these difficulties may be the beginning of blessings in my life. They may be blessings in their very nature as wounds. From that struggle comes growth, from that seed grows a plant that produces fruit. So I will sit with my challenges and work with them, I will work to accept who I am and the choices that I make. Because if I can’t accept that, what else is there?

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