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To Get Through Life Cleanly, You Have to Get Your Hands Dirty 2

I try to take one day at a time but sometimes several days attack me at once. – Ashleigh Brilliant

Halloween is upon us and if there is anything I know about Halloween, it’s this: Buy more candy than you need so that you can eat the leftovers.

Oh sure, I could donate our leftover candy to a school, a homeless shelter, or even to our neighbor’s kids but if the candy is right in the kitchen pantry, why shouldn’t I just eat it?

Because I like things that aren’t good for me.

I like drinking alcohol, eating sweets, procrastinating, couch-potatoing, browsing the Victoria’s Secrets catalog, etc. And the only thing that will keep me from indulging in these things is to avoid indulging in these things. In other words, I have to face my tendencies and choose a better alternative. I have to fight the discomfort of resisting in order to enjoy the comfort of resisting. Funny how that works.

This principle pretty much applies to every uncomfortable experience in life. The only way to deal with it is to, well, deal with it – to get our hands dirty in order to clean the gunk out of our life.

From my work in hospice, I know that the only way to heal grief is to grieve. We can’t avoid it. We can’t deny it. We must simply deal with it.

I know that in order to enjoy our later years, without needing a chair that lifts us to our feet, we must eat right and exercise. We can’t just think about exercising. And we can’t sit in McDonald’s and watch the people at Whole Foods. We must just do it. Nike was onto something.

And I know that  whether dealing with personal relationships, work relationships, or the duties in our job, we need to get our hands dirty. When things get uncomfortable, we must deal with the discomfort rather than trying to pretend it will get better on its own.

While speaking to a group of hospice leaders recently, someone said that their greatest challenge in leadership is the difficult conversations they must have with people who are not performing the way they should. This is one of the tough aspects of leadership. And yet, everyone in the audience agreed that most of these difficult conversations are made even more difficult because they weren’t dealt with earlier.

So, if we can agree that to stay clean, or well functioning in life, we need to deal with the challenges head on, then here are a few suggestions for getting our hands dirty.

Acknowledge the Source of the Discomfort. Sometimes our discomfort comes from someone or somewhere else. But often, it comes from us by the way we see the world or a particular situation. We must be careful to see the reality rather than what we think is happening so that we understand the true source of the discomfort.

Speak Your Discomfort. When we are challenged or uncomfortable, it helps to verbalize the discomfort. When we can share our emotions with others, it allows us to regulate the emotional pressure cooker inside us so that we don’t erupt from holding everything in. It’s not about spewing on everyone all the time but making sure we have outlets to express ourselves.

Face the Challenge. If you have a tense relationship at work or you are struggling with addictive tendencies, the more you avoid them, the worse they get. Own up to the struggle and do whatever it takes to face it. Talk to the person who challenges you, in a compassionate way, and look for ways to heal the tension. Get help for addictions rather than letting them run, and perhaps ruin, your life.

Always Seek Balance. A short fuse is short because it’s been burning too long. We need replenishment to deal with the daily fires in our lives. You can balance the stress in your life in many ways. Humor, meditation, exercise, and prayer are just a few. Whatever replenishes you is what you need to pursue, on a regular basis, to keep yourself balanced.

Getting our hands dirty is not really dirty business. Instead, it’s a way to clean our lives of the gunk that negatively affects our functioning. By regularly getting your hands dirty, you can deal with the dirt rather than wallowing in it.


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