Driving home the other night, I saw life’s contrasts. The sky opening to a stunning sunset, as a couple was in the throes of a nasty argument outside my workplace. A rainbow’s wide-brimmed beauty hanging in the sky. Multiple emergency vehicles tending to an accident at an off ramp of the major highway I was travelling. Separately, each of these gave different feelings. Together, they served as reminders that life is a series of contrasts and we have good reason to be grateful for all of them.

Life contrasts are simply markers of “full on living”

I have come to think of these contrasts, especially as they show up in our own experiences as “full on living”.

 There were days where it was all I could do to get out of bed and face what awaited me.  Contrast this with the company of  friends around the dinner table, enjoying delicious food and great conversation. Ends of the spectrum for which I am grateful  because I can claim the richness of emotion.

Those who have come to accept the gifts of life challenges, often express gratefulness and appreciation for what they offer.  Weathering what Shakespeare termed “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” they see things from a different vantage point. Swimming in both ends of the emotional pool, so to speak, comes an understanding of what we are capable, if we choose.

From the sidelines others may think or say, “I don’t know how they can deal with that” . In an even quieter thought – “I’m glad it’s not me”.

None of us wants the challenges  life hands out. Life changing illness, deaths, job loss, relationship troubles or whatever knocks us sideways and sometimes down. Who would? Nobody of course. And yet, once we begin to face them, we realize that who we are as a person grows and changes. If we allow it. Or, we can adopt the “poor me mentality” and cast ourselves as never-ending victim. The wonder of a day, and our lives, escapes us.

The benefits of rising above life challenges

So what are the benefits of moving through and rising above the knock down, drag out matches between you and this thing we call living? Self reliance,  and finding and developing the emotional strength to pull yourself through another minute, hour or day of your personal hell.

Self love, where you give yourself kindness and acceptance and learn it is possible to look for and ask for the help you need.

It is about expressing, even if only to yourself, just how angry, sad or hurt you are and yes, rage at the world for all it’s unfairness; then rising above.

Tough times give us, if we allow them, full permission to feel it all. To be so sad  you will cry more tears than you thought you could. So lonely in a relationship you ache. To be so isolated that you wish just one person would look you in the eye, and say and mean, how are you? And for them to be comfortable enough to sit and listen while you tell them.

Life altering events, and they are life altering, also give us access to kindness and compassion. They teach us how to start determining and defining who we really are at the deepest levels and how to honour ourselves by accepting nothing less.

It is the spectrum of a rainbow where we find the beauty

If the best of times could give us full access to all the growth possible and needed, I would sign up. The reality though, is that life is a series of contrasts. Without them, everything would take on the greyness of a rain-soaked day. A rainbow is beautiful because of its range of colours and we appreciate them because they are  infrequent.

Navigating life’s storms have meant that I have challenged myself to view possibility in the frame of what I can do, not what I can’t. To see choices and opportunities to make my life better.  I have become a better communicator. I have learned to ask for what I need and want and to hear the same from others. To develop more patience and the desire to find an outcome that works, as best it can, for all.

I have come far on this journey of life and know that there are yet more life lessons to come. For now though, I have a reprieve. Since I do, I am making a point of fully appreciating the contrasts of beauty and love that have made their way into my life.

What our lives become is up to us, even as we  confront  the challenges of being on this earth. We can decide to allow growth and possibility into our lives, even while accepting  it will come at the cost of some type of change and transition. Nothing happens in a vacuum. To fully realize the benefits of full on living, I am willing to experience and live it all. Are you?