“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny” – CS Lewis
So you were rolling along seemingly fine in life and then it happened out of no where. Something went wrong, the plans changed unexpectedly or you fell short of your ideal goal. Whether you are currently in one, just came out of one or you are about to head into one, we all experience them at some point. Rough patches are a way of life, but how we navigate through them, learn from them and until we understand why particular ones are actually occurring, we may find ourselves experiencing unnecessary stagnate points in our lives. These delays or obstructions can come in many forms, such as poor decision-making, linking with people who do not have our best interest at hand or allowing our negative past to dictate the future.
Unfortunately I have been a victim to all three of these and my rough patches were long, arduous and often unnecessary, but since I had not learned the essential lessons yet, I made decisions that I later regretted, connected with people who I allowed to talk me out of things I once was sure of and dwelled on the mistakes I made in the past. This proved to be the perfect recipe to become stuck.
So the best lessons that I learned were not always due to an ideal outcome, but more importantly ones that I did not expect or necessarily prefer, at least initially. When things went array or not the way I planned, it forced me to reflect and ask myself the hard questions I often chose to push to the side at the beginning stages. This in itself defined the rough patch for me, but it was ultimately the best thing that could have ever happened because I was in prime position to finally listen and actually hear for a change. An essential combination, but not always the reality for hard-heads like myself.
Figuratively, when the grass is too tall to see where we are headed, perhaps pausing to assess where we are and possibly re-assessing where we need to go can be a good thing. Heck, plans change, people change and goals change. In other words, what we desired yesterday may not be what is best for us tomorrow, but how will we ever realize that if we don’t pause occasionally? Perhaps it is the best thing, but how can we be sure if we seldom take the time to reexamine our motivations while we are on the journey? And there is nothing like hitting a rough patch that forces us to do just that.
Now I wish I could say I met this place with maturity, self-respect and wisdom, but often it was the contrary. Kicking, screaming and whining was the norm, I am embarrassed to admit, but that is what it was. “Why me, why now, and when does it end?”, were the common questions I asked God, myself and others. Of course to no avail, but they often felt good in the time, albeit they served no productive purpose in my current circumstances. So again I was forced to be still and begin to look within.
For me introspection was not the challenge, it was the fact that my plan failed. Because I am a planner and somewhat of a perfectionist, (let my kids tell it) when my plans get derailed, I get frustrated and hard on myself. I wonder what I did wrong and was my plan doomed from the start. If allowed I will drive myself stir crazy with this, but being forced to stop or pause allows for that time I need to reevaluate what I am doing and why. It is in these times I hear like no other time. The answers are often very hard for me to accept, because they are raw and full of truths I must finally reconcile.
The failure of my second marriage is probably the best example I can use. I was 90% at fault for the demise, but initially I was seeking to blame her. Once the dust was settled, and the emotional roll-a-coaster ended, I was alone with my feelings and had no choice but to reexamine how I got there. It was an agonizing process, but so essential for my growth to becoming a better man and future husband. So during this rough patch I journaled regularly, took on counseling for my emotional health and prayed like never before to God for clarity about the man I had become.
I received some tough answers, but it was the truth I desperately needed to hear and I digested the answers with humility and dignity. This moment, rough patch, delay or whatever you choose to call it, was the impetuous to a new and better beginning. It was the life-preserver to my future love life, which I had no idea even existed. More importantly, it was a time and opportunity for me to do some hard work on myself, and although I would not wish the pain on my worse enemy, it served it’s purpose and was probably the only thing I would have heard and learned from during that time.
Now I am not a man who enjoys experiencing repeated hardships, so I try to make every effort to learn the lessons the first time around, and even though this has not always been the case for me, I am committed to keep trying, therefore I afford myself the opportunity to keep learning. Of course this mindset cannot prevent every potential rough patch that I will go through, but it certainly has given me some leverage and momentum essential to press through them, while simultaneously gaining knowledge, applying wisdom and understanding gratitude more profoundly. For me this has been key to learning life lessons and rolling through the rough patches of my life.