It never gets easier, you just get stronger

I’ll admit, I was on kind of a high for a few months there in 2018. I finally, finally, met the love of my life. Someone who enjoys all the same things I do. Who really just completes me. Finding him actually made me feel stupid for all the time I wasted on other guys who weren’t right for me, when someone exactly like him existed in this world. He makes me a better person, and I thank the stars every day that I get to call him mine. In addition, I sold my car on a whim at the end of the summer, and ended up getting an amazing deal on a brand new one that I absolutely love. Family was good, work was fine… I was comfortable financially and even took a beach vacation with one of my girlfriends for the first time in years. I was just plain comfortable in general. Nothing was really going terribly wrong in my life and, deep down, a part of me recognized that. And we all know you can’t enjoy the sunshine without a little rain, but what I got felt more like a monsoon…

The last few months have been pretty rough to say the least. It started right before the holiday season, when I first discovered a loved ones’ personal, private battle with addiction. I didn’t even know if they would be home for Christmas this year, as they decided to leave town and get help. It’s something you see all over the news, and read countless stories over social media; you know it’s an epidemic because that’s what they tell you. But you really don’t fully understand until it affects someone you know and love. It was one of the scariest times in my life, and even when you think you “made it through” the worst part, accepting that this will be a lifelong battle with someone you care tremendously about, is still utterly terrifying. But experiencing this when I did taught me the value of having faith, remaining positive no matter what, practicing unwavering support, and believing in something greater than myself. It doesn’t make the situation any less challenging, but I have kept these lessons close to me.

Then the New Year came and went, and that first weekend, at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I got a call that would change my life forever.

“Come quick, it’s your father,” my mom said between sobs. I had never driven so fast in my life. My dad had been rushed to the ER and not long after, we all would be sitting in a private room as a doctor came in and told us, they did everything they could, that my dad didn’t make it. We would later find out it was a massive heart attack that took him from us. He never even stood a chance. It still doesn’t seem like any of that was real.

No one ever prepares you for losing someone you are close to. It’s not discussed, not ever acknowledged as a legitimate possibility. We’re taught that “getting your affairs in order” can actually be a warning sign for suicide, because as a society we just don’t plan on any alternative other than us dying at an old age. And we foolishly believe that, as we drink, smoke, tan, and continue in all kinds of other high risk behaviors- just assuming that we are all invincible. And we continue seemingly low-risk behaviors too, like crossing the street not knowing if that will be the moment a car will hit us out of nowhere, or if a meteor will fall out of the sky while we’re having a picnic or going for a jog.

And then one day someone is there and fine, and the next they’re gone. And life becomes a whirlwind of funeral homes and cemeteries, life insurance companies and figuring out account balances and bills that are due, returning his uniforms and key card to work. These things we should realistically all be prepared for to a certain degree, but no one really ever is. When in reality, the only inevitable in life is that every single one of us will die, though no one really knows what to do when it happens to someone earlier than anticipated. My dad was an amazing man who treated others with so much kindness and respect; he would do anything for anyone. And now that he’s gone, everyone who relied on him so heavily and loved him so much, well… we’re all lost.

Something that has always given me strength in unexpected ways is a statement my boot camp instructor tells us at the end of class…

“It never gets easier, you just get stronger.”

Obviously, the instructor was referring to the workout itself, as in, her class is and always will be tough. But as you work harder to get stronger, your mind will trick you into thinking it gets easier. And it doesn’t, your muscles are just developing in a way that it takes you less effort to get through the class.

The first time I applied this sentiment to other areas in life, it was when that loved one made the decision to go to rehab. You could call in to leave them messages, and a lady at the nurses’ station would write it on a slip of paper and hang on a board for them to receive. One day I decided to leave just that, because I knew it was fitting in this situation too.

And then when my dad died, a flood of people had a myriad of advice. And I knew everyone was just as shocked as we were, and they all just wanted to offer comfort and support. But if I heard the words “new normal,” or “it’ll get easier,” one more time… I was going to explode. So I wrote that boot camp message on a sheet of paper, and hung it up on my mom’s calendar (which was riddled with phone numbers and to-do lists), because deep down I knew this was the only thing I could say, and the only way I could feel, to ease the pain of the loss we are all experiencing. Because it’s not going to get easier. What happened was shitty. It wasn’t fair at all. We are all suffering. But we will get stronger- little by little, day by day. I see it every single day in my mother, I can see it in myself. And if these words can help you get through a hard time, no matter what it is, I just want to make sure you know:

It will always be tough. But as you work harder to get stronger, your mind will trick you into thinking it gets easier. And it doesn’t, your muscles are just developing in a way that it takes you less effort to get through.

So, it never gets easier, you just get stronger. x