“A difficulty is an opportunity in work clothes” – that’s what I read in a little book I received at the age of twenty. At first I found the idea novel, but with the passing of time it has become an inner reminder that I value greatly to this day.
I imagine this has been said in various other ways, but for me at least, the picture fits. I have always imagined each difficulty dressed in blue overalls, ready to be “worked on.”
Visual images aside, whenever I detect a difficulty, an internal tension also arises. Difficulties are not friendly, they do not show up with good manners, asking for permission. They break into my life causing all kinds of discomfort, and I respond with resistance, forgetfulness, justifications, and all kinds of other responses at the same level.
I think that almost all my so-called difficulties have something in common, and that is that if they are overcome, they make me grow internally – and also externally, but I am more interested in internal growth. So for some time now I have been reflecting at the end of each week on how the difficulties that arise in my life have made me grow internally. To my surprise, I am becoming friends with those ladies, and that has changed my relationship with them and with myself. I no longer cross the street to avoid them – instead I smile, sometimes converse with them lightly, and definitely do not antagonize or ignore them. And so I am beginning to see that my difficulties generally show up as true indicators of where I need to work.
All my difficulties ask is that I acknowledge their presence and existence, and in exchange for that, they show me clearly where I have to “work.” If I don’t like something, I can investigate it. If someone offends me, I can investigate that. The same if I feel sad, anxious, fearful, etc. If I do not run away from these states, but instead let myself get closer to the root of these conflicts, I can work on them and make them disappear.
I have no idea how the idea became so widespread that difficulties should be avoided at all costs and that we should be smiling all the time as if we were on display. This does not mean we will have fewer of them, so it is important that they become what they really are: excellent opportunities in work clothes.
I say excellent opportunities because when difficulties appear, we get to choose which path to follow, and in the constant process of choosing more deeply, we keep fine-tuning the way we work with ourselves. When I choose to work on my difficulties, the possibility of liberation truly appears, and that is something that is internally very precious.