Everyone is struggling with some kind of situations in life. I know it feels so hard. But you know what? In the struggles that feel so hard, there are also opportunities. So I want to share with you some things to think about and maybe give you some of the tools for the journey you’re on now.
The first thing is the idea of getting familiar with the feelings of the struggle. Don’t ignore the feelings because they are the signal that you have a chance to grow.
Do you know about quicksand? It’s sand that is mixed with water. It can look like normal dirt with some water from the outside but it can’t hold weight so once a person steps into it, he can begin to sink in a scary way and it can be very hard to get out. Here’s where knowledge about quicksand could come in helpful in life.
The more you struggle, the deeper and stronger the quicksand can take hold. One thing that some people don’t understand about quicksand is that as scary as it is, it can’t swallow a person up—unless they struggle! I love the metaphor (where you look at one thing to describe or understand another) of quicksand.
Quicksand happens. It’s not fun. With life experience you can learn to avoid quicksand in the first place but until you do, knowing how to get out is helpful. And just like quicksand, you can get yourself out of your challenges if you follow the steps. It’s the same with the struggles of life. Every challenge is different but there are ways of approaching and handling the situations that come up that are skills you can use your whole life long. So let’s explore.
Step 1. When someone gets stuck in quicksand they’re taught to drop everything. Let go of the “stuff” they’re carrying so they are lighter. In a challenge, it’s not a physical backpack but it could be about letting go of old beliefs and expectations. Do you have other ideas of what you might need to let go of what's weighing you down? When you free yourself up to see the situation clearly, then you can make the best moves to get free (of the challenge or struggle or hard times). Freedom is not really about where you find yourself. It’s about how you are inside yourself! You may not be able to control what’s happening on the outside but you can absolutely have the freedom and power to direct your inner self: feelings and thoughts!
Step 2. Each time you might find yourself starting to “get stuck” in the challenge, you can take a step back. With quicksand stepping back might get you right out of it. In life—especially when we’re young, we don’t always understand how we get ourselves stuck with our struggle. With life experience, you’ll get familiar and be able to take the step back as soon as you recognize where you’re heading.
Step 3. Once someone finds himself stuck in quicksand, a strategy for getting out is to actually lay back! It sounds like the opposite of what someone should do, right? But if he lies back, he’ll stop sinking and his feet will be easier to come up. He’ll float in the water. And yes, he’ll get pretty dirty, but he’ll be able to get out safely.
Sometimes in life, the best way out is through. You gotta get through grammar school to get to high school and you gotta get through high school to get to what’s next. Here’s where your attitude changes everything. Dear beautiful Ella, there are lessons in this world we are here to learn. Hashem sets things up in ways that are above our understanding and for our best! One thing that is for sure is that every challenge, every lesson comes to us with great love and every single human being has to have trials. Here's a point of power that can change everything: We can't always avoid pain in life but suffering is always a choice.
Here I want to say that if you are in danger—if someone is molesting or hurting you—there are ways to get out and be safe. You can tell the adults (or if you're an adult, there are experts) in your life that you trust and they will get the help needed. Like with quicksand though, panic will never serve you or get you out of it.
Step 4. Move slowly and carefully to get out of quicksand. Being frantic (panic, freak out, etc.) will not help. This requires patience! It could take a while, but you will get out when you move slowly, carefully, and intentionally.
When the quicksand is deep: the advice is actually to relax. Can you believe it? Breathe deeply. Breathing changes whole chemical reactions in the body and gives the mind time to find solutions. The idea with quicksand is not to sink and be trapped. So when someone gets stuck he can lay back and gently swim to the firm ground. Then he can roll out.
It can be scary to feel stuck in a situation you feel you can’t get out of. One of the strategies for getting out of deep quicksand is to take breaks. Just like getting out of quicksand is exhausting, it can be exhausting to grow through the hard stuff of life. It doesn’t mean you ignore the challenges or pretend they’re not there. You keep working to get yourself out of the quicksand of course, and you keep working on solutions to the difficulties of life.
Dear reader, you can do this! So many people love and believe in you including those you're not even aware of. Trust that you are never alone, there is always support and guidance. Another one of my many favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill that you might find inspiring: “If you are going through hell, keep going!”
Time will reveal more of what is so hard to understand today. The beautiful thing about maturing is that you get perspective. You can think about something that felt really hard when you were younger but that is easy for you to handle now. You are a wise soul but you’re still very young and tender in this world. Use the quicksand strategies to change the situations that you feel stuck in. They really work. If you can apply these ideas now, you will have developed a skill to last your whole life. Talk with those who are trustworthy and experienced about how to apply the quicksand strategies for your situation. That’s a plan to get you through hard times in the best state of mind.
I want to tell you one more tool that you’ve already learned to some degree. It’s so basic and so out in the open but people don’t talk about it so much. It’s gratitude. Gratitude is seriously life-changing. Practice it, play with it, talk to God. I feel like I’m coming out of a trial in my own life. I know this stuff and I teach this stuff but I wasn’t feeling so grateful at all. But I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “practice what you preach” so I started to work on gratitude. Did I mention that I was feeling so utterly cranky? So I started with, “God, I’m so grateful that I can have a crappy day with food in my belly.” (There are way too many people on this Earth who are starving and I’m not hungry!) “God, I’m so grateful that I love the people in my life even when I don’t want to be around anyone.” (We are not alone.) “Dear God, even though my life feels so suffocating, I’m so glad to have these challenges and shelter.” Get the idea?
I just saw a video about a woman, Jessica Buchanan, who was abducted and kidnapped in a country in Africa called Somalia. She suffered terribly. Then she came up with a new way of seeing things. She called her pain “proof of life.” Her pain was proof that she was alive, living life!!! Of course, it’s easier to say these things when you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of it, but you can still grab onto what works.
Remember, one small change in you changes everything around you and changes the results you’ll get.
I believe that you have the resources to get through what’s hard in life.
You shine more than you imagine. Shine, shine, shine!
Live the extraordinary life you deserve.
Aunt Laya inspires and encourages you to live the life you want for yourself! She'll tell you the truth, even when it's not always so easy to hear so that you can learn to handle the hard stuff of life and be your best, happiest self. Always with love and caring.