Written By: Cole Cow,LPC
My shoulders ached as I pushed the 18 foot board over my head. Balancing on top of ladders, my friends and I carefully maneuvered the wood into position 12 feet above the ground. We were taking the first steps to create the roof of a shed in my backyard. Though I had no personal experience with such a job, I was calling the shots like I knew what I was doing.
My nail-gun´s shots echoed through the neighborhood as the board was secured in place and the day was off to a good start. It would be hours before another board was installed, however, as the technicalities of calculating board length and roof pitch would make me question the legitimacy of my education.
At the end of the day, I was staring at my shed, somewhat in disbelief, as we had only installed 4 more boards. I had called my dad about 20 times throughout the day to troubleshoot various issues that had popped up. My friend, Jacob, had been a trooper all day and had been a patient part of the progress we did make. As the sun was setting on that pretty spring day, I was oscillating from giving myself grace for taking on the unknown challenges and feeling guilt for inconveniencing my friend and dad with my lack of expertise all day. My in-laws had just arrived at our house to celebrate the Easter weekend and I heard my father-in-law approach me as I was considering the day. He asked, ¨When you look at that shed, do you feel angst and dread? Or do you feel accomplished?¨. For me, it snapped me out of my rabbit hole of thoughts and brought my self-awareness to the forefront of my mind. I thought for a second and knew I felt accomplished, despite the day´s frustrations. There was a peace about taking on the project.
Recently, a client and I were discussing knowing when to bail out of situations due to obstacles. Whether it be a relationship, a job, personal growth, or a backyard shed, obstacles are likely and highly necessary. The necessity of obstacles is because they force you to stop and ask, ¨Do I bail or persevere?¨. Dozens of people come in to our office every week with a version of that exact question. The awesome thing is that our people are taking the time to consider that question! I think most people don’t even slow down enough to ask themselves that question, leading to years of complacency, resentment, and low motivation. This is where marriages die, jobs become dead-end, and childhood ambitions wither. Pretty dark stuff, but also very real.
Counselors love freaking metaphors and analogies. I´m no different, so over the hours I spent on my shed I thought of ways this experience could be connected to family recovery. Here are three thoughts that can help answer the ¨Bail or Persevere¨ question.
1. Peace versus Comfort
Peace is not comfort. Comfort is external, peace is internal. Comfort is lying in a hammock while peace is a inner tranquility about one’s direction in life. When my father-in-law asked me about the shed, I was covered in sawdust and sweat, but felt at ease about the decision I had made. Too often, people make a choice to bail due to discomfort or negativity. Though it may take longer to get to, a deeper spiritual evaluation of one’s state of peace is a clearer way to make a tough choice. That brings me to the next point.
Making a ¨deeper spiritual evaluation¨ does not just happen in normal everyday life. It must be pursued consistently and often without obvious answers. I have heard clients tell me the best thing about counseling is not the candy or the counselor´s ¨expertise¨. Rather, it is the pause on life they get in our offices. It allows them to stop the rat race and slow down enough to listen inwardly. The people I know who are the best of listening to their spiritual direction make very purposeful attempts via meditation, praying, walking, or just when they are driving down the road with the radio off. The world is loud and taking consistent moments can unlock answers in time.
3. Check your connections
Sometimes the answers simply aren´t there within yourself, no matter how many strange techniques your counselor makes you try. This is where community and connection come in. The stronger the trust is within your community, the more likely they can help point you in the right direction. My dad, Jacob, and father-in-law all played important parts, whether directly or indirectly, in helping me find the assurance that building this shed was the right decision for me.
Perseverance is defined as ¨steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.¨ For those of you looking to craft more perseverance, my hope is that you slow down enough to consider your own process and methods. Thanks for reading about my handyman struggles!