But my Life is so Hard!: Committing to Real Change

It’s been one of those weeks. I’ve had person after person in my office, angry that their life is not what they wanted. The answer? If only I could snap my fingers and give them what they want their lives would be “fixed.” Although everyone knows this is unrealistic, there is still often a belief that we are supposed to have everything we want and need without sacrifice, hard work or suffering.

I met Martha in a transitional housing facility. She had been a prostitute for the past 10 years, supporting herself and her daughter. Her grandfather began sexually abusing her when she was 4 years old and stopped when she ran away from home, at 13 years old. She moved in with her 26 year old boyfriend (the only person she knew who would take her in), who started beating her, and eventually kicked her out onto the streets.

Through this program, Martha had a safe place to live. Her daughter started attending school on a regular basis and they both learned self-care (which is easier with a consistent supply of soap, shampoo, hot water, and clean clothes). Martha earned her GED and was soon excelling at a local community college, saving money for her own apartment, and mentoring other mothers in the program.

Martha had an unbelievably challenging start to her life. Martha could have decided, because she suffered so much, that she shouldn’t have to work hard or make changes. But she chose to create a different life for her and her daughter. Not because it was easy (try writing a resume when you’ve been a prostitute for most of your life), or because it offered immediate rewards (it was several years before Martha was earning enough income to completely support herself and her daughter), but because she decided it was worth it. Even on days she didn’t feel like it, she stayed committed and followed through.

Life, a complicated blend of positives and negatives, is a lot of work. It can be tempting to stop trying, permanently move onto the couch, and complain about the hand we’ve been dealt. This week, take some time to gently notice an area of your life it might be time to “fix” yourself, with some hard work, patience and support.