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The Gift of Life’s Struggles

We are shaped by those people, places, and events around us.

We are shaped by those people, places, and events around us.

Have you ever walked into a room and felt out of place? You experience a feeling of discomfort, look for the nearest exit, and then make a bee-line toward it? According to Psychology Today, you are not alone. All of us desire to feel safe and secure or “at home” in familiar surroundings instead of apprehensive and fearful in unfamiliar places. So what should we do with all these painful or stressful events?

In Part 2 of her book, Mira Kirshenbaum asks us to look at difficult or fearful events and life-long struggles as a gift for many reasons. She believes that these events will prove themselves beneficial if we give it enough time. Among ten explanations, her Reason # 1 is: these events happen in order to help you feel at home in the world. She believes that when the life we are living, similar to a pair of ill-fitting boots, becomes uncomfortable and painful, it is for a reason. The painfulness we feel acts as an encouragement to look for a life that fits who we really are.

Kirshenbaum gives several examples of distressful life events. Among them she describes: a close artist friend (and restless soul) who writes a letter explaining how kidney failure helped her to savor her life despite the physical pain; an orphaned 13-year-old becomes emotionally pained and embittered when suddenly left to the care of an aging stern grandmother; and, a wealthy spoiled young woman who finds herself physically and emotionally imprisoned inside a women’s prison in Central America. In each case, the life ordeal turned each of the individuals into more confident and caring people.

With these examples, Kirshenbaum reinforces that pain and suffering as well as the awkwardness of feeling out-of-place as natural and necessary; it is part of how we learn about the true nature and meaning of life. She writes: If anything about nature is true at all, it’s that the natural world is a place of learning…Valuable lessons are always being learned and there are endless wonderful gifts waiting for us, especially as a result of tough breaks we have to deal with… and this learning gives meaning to our lives (p. 34).

Importantly, Kirshenbaum establishes a spiritual side to life’s classroom. She believes that God’s goodness and presence is ever-present in this learning environment. This belief situates us as living beings of great value and importance as we are called by God to be more, not less of our true selves. She argues that we have free will to choose and that God has “custom tailored” learning experiences as opportunities to choose. These learning experiences result in our being the very best we can be. For Kirshenbaum, Cosmic Kindergarten is a place where we find about our true spiritual nature and develop our abilities to handle such forces as: life, insight, knowledge, faith and love among many others.

I agree with Kirshenbaum’s call for a deeper understanding of life being more than just food, drink, shelter, or clothing. The human spirit is an incredible creation which requires training in recognizing what is good and what is bad. One very valuable way of training is through exercising not only our emotions but our physical senses.

Additionally, her writing made me think about who I am and my own identity. I learned some years ago in a class I took on social media that our identity can be categorized in many ways—spiritually, socially, economically, even psychologically. I discovered we are not out here by ourselves, each of us living in separate untouchable spaces. Rather, everything that happens to us shapes who we are and how we know and interact with each other—every experience, every action, every word, every thing.

My prayer? …that in response to life struggles, all the painful and stressful events… that my choices result in my good and the good of others.

Side note:
As I thought more about the concept of a living spirit in training, it led me to create a 12×12 digital artwork to express the force and shape of this “becoming” a full spirit being. It is entitled: Identity.

I invite you to think about who you are becoming through all of your life experiences, listen for the voice of God’s living spirit, and then celebrate the creative spirit you are becoming.

Living life’s way in 2014,
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