Every adventure commences with great excitement and expectation. The heroes band together, united in their quest, hungry for success to greet and embrace them with the warmth of an old friend.
In life there are wide pastures where we can relax; enjoy the people we love; stop for refreshment; etc. In the pastures we are refreshed and restored. We smile, laugh and experience joy again.
Life also has it’s mountains. These are the situations that develop strength in our ‘life muscles’ as we climb through life’s difficulties -and we climb with hope because we know there’s a great view to see at the top. On the mountain top we can stop; we take in the wide panorama of how life has led us to these moments and we are generally grateful for the positive and negative experiences we have faced.
But what is there in-between the pasture and the mountaintop? What if we are neither on the mountain or playing in the pasture? Where are we then?
For a lot of people the in-between feels like a valley, and that’s not a great place to be. The valley is where the sun cannot reach; it can feel like utter darkness (how often have you heard someone say ‘I was in a really dark place’ when they are coming out of a life-struggle?); it can feel oppressive, hopeless, joyless, or worse. It can be a place where you feel isolated and lonely.
So how do we cope with life’s valleys? Here’s my three tips:
The Valley experiences WILL pass (and you don’t need to forget them)
Remember that our hard times will pass: they are not eternal – they ARE temporal. Time does heal, and we do find ways to keep on moving forward (and it’s okay to look back and remember where you’ve come from, as well as look forward to where you’re heading!).
The Valley teaches us about reality
In the valley the candyfloss of positive thinking and empty optimism is blown away and we are left with what is real – real emotions; real thoughts; real experiences. It blows away the dross of empty wisdom and meaningless clichés, as well as showing us the depth of friendships and relationship we really have. Although in the short/medium term this can be a painful process, in the long term our lives can only benefit from this raw sense of experiential reality.
The Valley is a transitional Place
This is a truth worth holding onto: the Valley is not a place we are meant to dwell in – it is a place to pass through. Humanity cannot dwell in darkness for long – we are created to live in the light. It is a place to walk through – not to sit in. It is a place to learn in – not to live in.
Are you in a valley of life right now? Is the darkness pressing into your mind or your heart? Are life’s struggles tipping your emotions into a dark place?
Keep stepping forward towards the mountain or the pastures. You will get there eventually, even if it feels tough right now. Keep on keeping on – the valley won’t last forever.