Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Hard is What Makes it Great

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great." Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) in A League of Their Own.

During my long run last weekend I was thinking of this quote, one of my all-time favorite quotes from a fantastic movie.  I was doing a long run in a snowstorm, taking hits in the face from a biting single digit temperature wind, yet I had a smile on my face. The run wasn't just hard; it was brutal. And all the while I was thinking that it is the hard that makes it great.

Life is hard. (I'll qualify that by saying that it's as hard as it can get living in a first world country with family, friends, a good job, and being relatively healthy.) But I mean to be a self-actualized human in this scenario, life gets hard.  We expect so much out of life, and it doesn't always cooperate.  It's what you do with the blows when they come that determine your character. Do you let them keep you down, or do you stand up and punch back?

When I think about the things in life that are important to me - my husband, my family, my friends, my career, how I spend time away from work (running, traveling) - they're all hard. Hard in a good way, but to live my life at the level I expect is difficult. It can be exhausting. Yet at the end of the hard it's always worth it.

Relationships are hard. Falling in love is the easy part; making a marriage last is what's hard. Learning to deal with the quirks of another person and make them work into the way you think things should go. That's hard. Waiting four and a half years to have a child while it's so easy for everyone around you. That's hard. But looking at the person you've married, the one who makes you laugh every day, and knowing that this person, THIS is the one you can see beside you when you're 80. That's what makes it great.

Family is hard. Every family has its own level of dysfunction, and I think mine is relatively normal compared to many. But we have our challenges and our drama, and it can be pretty exhausting. I am so grateful, however, to have two amazing parents who have always supported all of my crazy dreams, my wild ambition and have let me be the independent person they know I need to be. I have siblings (and siblings-in-law) who are amazing people. They are the link to my past, and the people who will reminisce with me when we're old and gray. I can't imagine my life without them even though there are days that I want to throttle them. Surviving various levels of family dysfunction can be hard, but that's what makes it great. 

Friendships are hard. I have amazing, amazing friends, and maintaining those relationships takes work. I've had break ups with friends that were so painful, and yet it's important to know in life when a friendship has run its course. It's important to recognize that sometimes when you grow your friends don't grow with you, and that's okay.  Even making sure the goods ones grow with you is hard. But those friends - the ones who don't judge you, who are constants in your lives, who share a bottle of wine with you - they are what make friendship so great. 

Work is hard (by definition). I love what I do. I love communities. I love the challenge of the legislative process. But it's hard. There are some days when I look at legislation we're trying to get passed or trying to stop, and it feels like no matter what I do it is a losing battle. And then I go to visit great communities like Marquette and Detroit and Traverse City, and I know THIS is why I do this. Despite the challenges and the uphill battles they keep being creative. We're creating vibrant communities despite state disinvestment, not because of it. It challenges me to keep pushing and to keep fighting. That is inspiring, and that's what makes it great.

And running...life's most fickle mistress. Running is hard and amazing and terrible and gratifying all at once. Some days I feel like running ten miles is the easiest thing I've ever done, and the next day I struggle with running one or two. I've never, however, finished a run and regretted it. For all of the hard stuff mentioned above, running is my sanity. It clears my head and helps me focus. Every single run is a challenge, and it is the hard that makes it great.

Now that I think about it, easy is boring and pedestrian. Easy is for quitters. Even though hard is relative for all of us, I'm going to embrace the hard. Jimmy Dugan was right: if it was easy everyone would do it.  

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