Difficult Times – Exercise #20

I am guessing some might call it a cheap way out to just point at the poem I wrote earlier today and declare that to be the answer to today’s exercise. Oh, by the way, that exercise is “a difficult time in your life”. Problem is that I think so many of us define ourselves by adversity that the difficult times in our lives are about all we see when we look back. We often over look the good times, and totally and completely ignore the periods of just calm complacency.

Mardi Gras in the Ninth WardThere have been lots of those over the course of my years -both good times and times of calm complacency. There have also been some absolutely fantastic times. Yup, overboard, over the top, joyous occasions. But, for some reason, the creator of this series of exercises would like to hear about a difficult time – not the time I met my boyhood idol, or vacationed in the UK, or danced down the streets of Savannah in the Marching Kazoo band. So those stories will wait for another day.

Difficult times in my life seem to be many, at least they are able to form a rather well attended convention in my head, so I need to relate one that won’t leave me crawling around on my mental knees, like the sudden death of my mother, or tell you too much about my inner frailties, such as buying a motorcycle when I turned forty; and then spending a decent amount of time in the hospital because of the stupid decision. And I will leave my children out of this since some of you seem averse to “kid stories”, and others just don’t care. And my kids hate it when I talk about them.

No, how about I tell you about difficult time of working for myself? From  2008 to the end of 2012 I was self-employed. Self employed in the sense that I was totally responsible for my own income, I had no health insurance, I had no benefits, I had not parachute. It was hard not know if we would be able to pay the bills at the end of the month, and many times we weren’t able to. It was also a time of great self-doubt, wondering if I was good enough, if I could make it, if the world would just unceremoniously grind me under and then keep on moving while I, my life, and my family just washed on down the gutter.

But I will tell you this, that difficult time was also one of the most rewarding times in my life. I was much more in control of my own destiny, I got to make my own decisions about what would be happening each day, week and month, and I made some fantastic friends. Some of those folks are clients who became friends along the way, and others were just great folk I met and formed bonds with. A great number were out on their own like me while others were, and still are, working for “the man.” It was during this time that I really came to know my former business partner, Amanda. Simply none better. It was also here that I met other great folk like Andra Watkins and her husband “King-of-Gray” Michael, Cheryl and Bill Smithem, Heather Solos, Tina Arnoldi, Jared W. Smith, Eugene Mah, Ian May and his Kathy, James and Katy Moffitt, Adrian “LabThug” Nida, Karl Philips, and so many more. These folks formed not only a bond of friendship, but a web of support and feedback. The were, and to this day remain, invaluable.

I guess what I am saying then, is that some of the most rewarding experiences I have had have actually come out of the difficult times. We go through difficulties because things are changing and becoming uncomfortable for us. Those things may be truly bad things like death, separation, or illness, but they may also be the discomforts brought on by growth and expansion. When we are young and our adult teeth come in it hurts. It is “difficult”. But in the end it is the dreaded growth experience (man I hate being offered those at work) and we are better off for having gone through it. Marriages can be difficult. So can graduations and new jobs. Each of these events can bring obstacles and roadblocks and challenges that test our resolve, but they also bring about the chance to change into something greater and grander.

I am sure it is difficult for a chick to hatch out of an egg. It is probably equally difficult for a butterfly to work its way out of that pupa, spread its new formed wings, and  for the first time. But those difficult times bring about a better future. It is through adversity that we learn, we grow, we discover, and we become.

Picture: By the way, the picture accompanying this blog post is from one of my best friends, the late Pat Stuckart. He passed away a year ago this past week. He took this picture in New Orleans while visiting his family there in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. He was an expert on difficult times, but he never let them get him down. Even in the last few months of his battle with cancer he remained in good spirits and remained a good friend. He still is.