No Pain No Gain

Everest didn’t want to participate this morning in the homeschool Lego engineering class that we’re hosting at our home. He’s been grumbling about the class the last few weeks, and when I ask him about why he gives a smattering of different reasons (too crowded, too loud, too long, etc). But this morning I think the real reason emerged: he doesn’t like gathering all of the pieces in order to make the project.

“I want you to do it, Mommy,” he declared.

“I won’t do it, sweetheart. Part of the class is learning about where all the pieces are and collecting them yourself. You don’t have to participate, but I think you’ll regret it when you see all of the other kids playing with their completed projects.”

He moaned and groaned some more and threw himself dramatically on the floor. I tried to contain my disappointment and let him make his own decision; after all, I’ve seen how excited he’s been about this class, how delighted he was during the week-long introduction we took over the summer, and how his adventures in Lego class spawn other creative ideas after class. I didn’t want him to take the class this morning to please me or to avoid disappointing me. I’ve worked with too many people who have a hard time trusting themselves and one of my foremost parenting goals has been to raise kids with strong self-trust in place. So I wanted the decision to originate inside of him.

Furthermore, Everest has had a lifelong propensity to want others to do for him what he’s fully capable of doing for himself. He’s tended to avoid things that are hard or require him to stretch. I recognized this has an opportunity for him to push himself and do what’s hard so that he could enjoy the end result.

He finally made the choice to collect the parts so he could make the vehicle and play with it. He felt overwhelmed for another minute or so until I said, “Just take it one step at a time. Start with the first set of parts and move on from there.” He followed my suggestion and then he was off and running. Within a few minutes he had finished building the vehicle and was happily playing with it.

If you’re enduring stage one (separation) or stage two (liminal) of a transition right now, I hope you’re hearing the analogy between this story and your story. To use the eighties work-out term, “No pain no gain,” which is to stay that the only we grow to the next level of emotional, spiritual, or physical growth is if we’re willing to endure a painful stage. This is the definition of growth: you must let go of what’s comfortable and familiar in order to experience something new and unfamiliar (which is why most people are so reluctant to change). It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. The real problems arise when the expectation juts up against reality and you find yourself caught in the mindset that says, “Why am I struggling so much during my engagement or pregnancy or settling into a new house? This is supposed to be a happy time.”

So let’s review the story and how it applies to your transition:

1. Change is hard. We all like what’s comfortable and familiar and most people, if they’re honest, don’t want to do the hard work that leads to the payoff. In other words, most of us would prefer someone else to do it for us (make the decision regarding who you’re marrying, schedule a C-section, etc).

2. You might grumble and moan about the work required but in the end you have to take the necessary steps and action involved in your own personal transition.

3. It’s overwhelming to tackle the entire transition at once. That’s why we talk about it in stages and I encourage people to address one issue at a time.

4. No pain no gain. You can’t grow to the next stage (marriage, parenthood, new job, empty nest, retirement) without doing the hard work of letting go of the current stage. No one can do it for you. You will grieve, struggle, kick and scream. You will endure what is known as “the dark night of the soul.” Transitions are hard, especially when they’re approached with consciousness. You will want to run away and escape. But if you want to experience the joy and fulfillment of the next stage, you have no choice but to stay with it.

5. It’s worth it. I promise you. It’s worth it.

Here’s the bottom line: You have push past your resistance (fear) in order to assemble the pieces that will result in hours of Lego fun. And playing with Legos is really, really fun : )

9 comments to No Pain No Gain

  • Gabrielle

    Your postings always have a way of tapping into whatever I am feeling on a given day. This post really spoke to me. Transitions can be isolating and the impulse to run can be very strong. Thank you for this post!


  • Sarah

    Love this! Learning to trust myself is probably THE most important and valuable lesson I’m learning during this transition. With self-trust, I can have a more realistic view of what’s going on and can access my fear while not freaking out about it at the same time. This post also reminds me of that child-like sense of curiosity; I think when we approach life with curiosity we can really appreciate all of the possibilities available with the pieces we’ve been given and can learn to view life from a different perspective.

  • admin

    Gabrielle – Thank you – I’m glad that post hit the spot! I was just thinking about you the other day wondering how you’re doing. Email me when you have a chance –

  • I am so very grateful to finding this site. The reluctant Lego endeavor is beyond poignant. Your son is my daughter 24 years ago.- Unfortunately in many ways we are facing the same resistance when it comes to her engagement and upcoming wedding.

    My 30 year old daughter was engaged this past June to her boyfriend of 8years. They are a great couple and team together. And we were very happy for them… She sent her dad and I notification by way of email- a photo of her hand with a silver band encircled with diamonds. When we talked a week later she said and I quote, “Why is everyone congratulating me? I did not do anything.”

    I did not bring up her engagement again until I visited with her and her fiance in September. After I asked; she informed me that they would be getting married next year. She did not want to discuss details suffice to say that they would were looking into having the wedding in her fiance’s hometown. Making an already long story short-Basically she was going to abdicate any involvement to her fiance and her future mother in law. I know my daughter is blocking out fear by minimizing the engagement and the upcoming wedding. She is fearful that if she lets it mean something then she will have to admit she is afraid.

    She arrives home tomorrow and we will be going to a Bridal Dress Shop appointment that I arranged. I am reading your site with great interest to glean some graceful way to maintain a encouraging outlook. She seems to need to become “engaged” so to speak. So you can see how perfect your post on the reluctant child fits perfectly for me.

    Can you believe I found this site by googling; “being supportive daughter wedding dress”

    THANK You for being right there on top

    I found so many bits of info – “It’s not about pink or mauve.” – “Stay connected with your fiance.” . But tomorrow I will remember when you told a bride-to-be-“the dress is a symbol.” And stand back and allow her to find her symbol.

    Thank you once again- Teri

    • admin

      You’re so welcome, Teri. I have chills after reading your comment. You are in the position of being a wonderful guide for your daughter and helping her transform her fear and resistance into joy. Be sure to check out my e-course on this site. It’s the best engagement gift you could give your daughter, even if she’s not aware of it now. And how amazing that google directed you here! Yay for google : )

      Many blessings – and keep me posted –

  • I just wanted to update you!Better late than never…

    My blog post – about our adventure into wedding dresses- 9 dresses and lots of laughter later she seems to have chosen a dress. My daughter is taking steps towards being engaged and having some fun with it. I am beginning to think she does not have a problem with the transition into being engaged and married. She has a problem with others watching her in that transition stage- could that be? The more I think about it the more it rings true. I will have to think about that one some more. I will send this to your email as well. Loving your Alanis series!

  • sarah

    Teri- what you said about your daughter having a problem with others watching her go through the transition really struck a chord for me. I think that’s been a huge part of the struggle for me and all I want to do is hide in my ‘cocoon’ and not have to explain myself to anyone until I feel more confident about what I’m going through. Thanks for this insight! I think it’s so awesome that you understand and support the darker side of being engaged, whether or not she overtly acknowledges it, and it sounds like you’re willing to support her if she needs to do this her way – quietly. It’s a good reminder for me; for some reason I think I need to be shouting to the world that I’m transforming, but then I feel exposed, vulnerable, and just raw. Your daughter is lucky to have a mother like you!

  • admin

    Thanks for the fabulous update!

  • Sheryl- Hope you don’t mind me responding to Sarah here-Thanks for sharing your light- and Happy Hanukkah!

    Sarah- Maybe that is the next step- to embrace the in-between places. Ambivalent emotions that are a part of the human condition. I suppose there are plenty of people submerged in a blissful unawareness-but for the rest of us having two or more emotions at the same time can be very unsettling. We can bury our heads in the sand (or work or wedding plans, or child rearing) for only so long- before everything comes to a grinding halt. I should know, I have rode the wave of ambivalence through out out my life. ( And I wonder why my daughter is doing the same?? 🙂

    It is really nice though when things come into focus ( I am a photographer) and you don’t have to pretend to everyone you are fine- BUT it is also grand to be a “hot mess” as the lingo of the day seems to refer to people that are embracing there transitional states- Good luck to you–

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