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hard things are hard

Credit: Pete Souza

This is one my favourite Pete Souza photos. I have it saved on my Instagram as an important reminder that hard things are, indeed, hard. My dad used to say, “if it was easy, everyone would do it”. And he was right. If getting a graduate degree was easy, lots of people would have one. If being married was easy, fewer people would get divorced or separated. If raising children were easy, more kids would be well adjusted. Hard things are hard. Even President Obama knew it when he was in the White House and I have to remind myself of this when I have those days when I feel like stuff should be easier.

Should is a shitty word. Should is a word that I wish I hadn’t used so much in my life. My mom should still be alive. My childhood should have been easier. My work should be less stressful. My parenting should be perfect. I should be perfect. Life should be fair for everyone. You get the picture. It’s a word that causes enormous pain, albeit I think, for many people, in ways that are less obvious. On days when I use have those thoughts that have should in them, I get so upset. I get angry and resentful and anxious. I start to look around for ways to right-size my anxiety. I want the upsetness to go away. News flash: it normally doesn’t work unless I use the tools I’ve learned in therapy.

We hear so much about how to manage anxiety or worry or negative thoughts through a variety of means and let me tell you, I’m sure I’ve tried them all: medication, positive self talk, therapy, journaling, inspirational quotes hanging on my office wall, you name it. Much of it is crap. Junk science. Junk non-science. So when I started cognitive behavioural therapy in 2015, I was skeptical. After about six months, when I started to feel less anxious and have fewer negative thoughts each day, I started to believe it was something that could work for me longer term.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have those days, like yesterday for example. Lots of anxiety and negative thoughts. But I’m learning to breathe and calm my central nervous system. I’m learning to be less hard on myself. I remember that life is meant to be challenging. When you get into that space when you’re “shoulding” on yourself, remember: even President Obama needed a reminder from David Axelrod that hard things are hard. xo Janet

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