Being thankful for my own struggles

During this season of gratitude, I join the masses in taking stock of all the blessings in my life. There are many–my sons, my husband, my work, my extended family, my friends, our home, time spent with loved ones, my dog, my feral cats (wait, scratch that, they are still very mean to me), this list could go on and on.

In my effort to squeeze every bit of joy and appreciation out of life, I began to think about all the things that have gone wrong. I have a sense of duty to learn from the struggles and to appreciate them because…well, why not? Here are some of the challenges in my life that I am very grateful for:

My own self-doubt...

I am plagued with self-doubt and I am so hard on myself. I even had a dream this week that one of my beloved staff members told me that I was doing a terrible job and suffering from hallucinations. I woke up so grateful that it was just a dream, but wondering what it meant. Have I been hallucinating? In the end, I determined that it means that I still have lots of self-doubt, even though I have grown so much in accepting myself for who I am, flaws and all.

Why am I thankful for this? I am thankful that I have the same self-doubt as so many people I work with. It allows me to understand how hard they are on themselves. So, instead of contributing to their self-doubt, I try to raise them up with a focus on strengths. Then, we determine our next step toward continuous improvement together. I treat them how I want to be treated.

My sons’ struggles…

My boys are amazing young men, each in their own different way. They are smart and strong-willed and funny and sensitive and I love being their mom. They face challenges in the classroom, in relationships, in understanding how humans work, and they don’t like to do their chores or their homework. I love helping them work through their challenges, and I appreciate the perspective they give me. I am such a better educator because of all the lessons their struggles have taught me. Oh, yeah, and they could throw some amazing tantrums as toddlers. They taught me great lessons in humility back then. The blessings they bring me go way beyond their warm hugs and the pride I have in watching their successes.

Losing my mom…

I did not know the beauty of life until I lost my best friend…my mom. The journey to her death was the most difficult thing I have ever gone through and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever gone through. Her death taught me that life is so precious, even the most challenging days, and not a single second should be wasted. She died four and a half years ago and still tears rush to my eyes when I think of her. I miss her every day and I hope I always will. I cherish that pain.

Oh boy, don’t get me started on all my husband has taught me…

When we took our vows for better or for worse, I did not think the worse would really happen. Oh, it happens. The ups and downs of a marriage are like the ups and downs of a marathon. Every marriage has them, every relationship has them, we just have to decide if the ups are worth the downs. Living with someone for nearly 18 years can teach you a lot. 

One of the best lessons I learned through my relationship with Jim is this:  we each have different needs and we must not take offense at each other’s attempt to meet his/her needs. For instance, Jim has a high need for freedom and a low need for belonging. I have a high need for belonging and a low need for freedom. See the conflict there? We have learned that Jim’s need to go off and snowmobile, or golf, or bowl, does not mean that he doesn’t want to be with me. My need to hear affirmations, to get hugs, to say “I love you” one hundred times a day does not mean I want to smother him. We have to support each other in our attempts to meet our needs and understand what each other needs. 

Beautiful people do not just happen…

I aspire to have the kind of beauty that radiates from within. Years ago a parent of some of my students gave me the quote below and I have shared it with many people over the years, especially as they are working through their own struggles. I may have extra gray hair and wrinkles because of my challenges, but I also hope that I have an extra depth in my eyes and an empathy that comes out as a “deep loving concern”. Because I do. Love you.

A podcast of this blogpost can be found here:

3 thoughts on “Being thankful for my own struggles”

  1. Allyson…I so appreciate your honest reflections. I still struggle with turning that magnifying glass upon myself at times. I, like you, are often hard on myself but still struggle to improve each day. Thanks for sharing a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

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