I was having lunch with my friend, Marty. He’s kind enough to read my Sunday Letters every week and almost always responds with a kind word. I’m grateful for his support and very much appreciate his loyal heart and friendship.
Marty was my playwriting teacher at Cal Arts—27 years ago now. Back then, I set him up with my brother, (whose name’s also Marty) and they dated for a little while. Ever since then, my family has endearingly called him Marty2.
Marty2 was always someone I cared deeply about and when I moved to New York, we reconnected.
He invited me to a few of his Broadway musical readings and I cried with joy to be included in his creative process. I’ve always wanted to act in Broadway—ever since I was a fifth grader.
At lunch, Marty2 was telling me stories—as he likes to do—of people he knows that he cares about.
Like the great playwright he is, his stories always have a similar theme: How someone meets adversity and how they learn (or don’t learn) to overcome.
He shared with me about several friends who had experienced tremendous loss, difficulty and struggle and spoke about there being two different kinds of people:
Those that make their lives better from a difficult situation, and those who don’t.
I agreed with him.
It’s never the issue that’s the issue but how we respond to it that’s the issue.
Every difficult situation in our lives—even ones that bring great pain, labor, loss and devastation with them—are our greatest teachers.
We can use these times to become stronger, closer to our hearts, increase our abilities, give more, love others (and ourselves) better, grow and learn OR we can shut down, close ourselves off and become a victim to our circumstances.
There are clues to use when we might not be aware we’re falling into self-pity. When these words arise in our head we have little red flags for opportunity:
It’s too hard
It’s too much to handle
I’m too overwhelmed
I’m too tired
It’s the “TOO” that’s the clue here. “TOO” is our signal.
I would never like to think of myself as someone who feels sorry for myself. But I fall prey to it like anyone else.
I like to think of myself as a woman who can handle whatever comes my way with strength and courage. But there are days where I sink into self-referencing, selfishness, and loss of empowerment.
And dammit if I didn’t catch myself whining through my 4pm exercise class after having lunch with Marty2.
I’m too tired to work out. I’m too full. I’m too frustrated. It’s too hot. I can’t do this right now.
I watched the inner workings of my brain try to convince me to leave class because lying on the couch eating chips and watching the Real Housewives seemed SO much better—and then I reminded myself of the conversation I’d had with Marty2 at lunch.
Once I became aware . . . I had a choice:
Get the most out of my workout and feel better about myself OR whine my way through, fighting, suffering and hating it.
And although an exercise class in the middle of New York’s July thick heat and humidity, with poor air conditioning and only a measly fan for air, after a long day and a big lunch may be something to bitch about, I switched gears:
I can. I will. It’s all okay. No more victim. Get it in gear. Work it out. Push through. You’ve got this. You’ll feel better in the end.
And of course, when class ended I felt great.
Obviously, it’s not an exercise class I’m getting at here.
It’s certainly not that trite—just a small glimpse into the reminder of my patterns. I can react this way in many situations—big and small— in my life.
When we approach our issues focused on how we RESPOND to them, rather than what they are or seem to be, we can continue on, become more capable, and conquer.
As we meet and move through daily challenges, we gain more strength to meet the really difficult situations when they come. And they will for all of us.
Wouldn’t we rather be the person who takes responsibility for how we respond to adversity?
Who directs our life to be great, no matter what comes our way?
Who wants to write the story of our life as one who gallantly overcomes?
Thank you Marty2 for reminding me not to be Lynn “too”.
Wishing us all strength and empowerment!