Nothing Beautiful Comes Without Suffering

October 1st, 2019  |  Laurie Hawkins

I am dedicating this blog to my courageous husband. This month I witnessed him, along with seven of his friends, compete in and complete the Tough Mudder. The Tough Mudder is a 10-mile obstacle course, designed by an English counterterrorism officer. It’s tough, it’s grueling, it’s muddy, it pushes you through fear and unique challenges. You jump deep into ice water, throw yourself waste high into a mud trench and get electrocuted…on purpose. There are numerous other obstacles that you would have to be either a little off-centre or challenged by your friends to choose to take part in.

Challenge Accepted

My husbands’ friend was turning 50 and his desire was to challenge himself, along with a group of his closest friends. Without hesitation, they all accepted the challenge. These men push each other to new heights of experience for sure and none of them would miss the opportunity to conquer this together. 

Then the training began. It was months of hills, calf issues, knees giving out, shoulder challenges, golfer’s elbow and mindset shifts for my husband. He works out every day and part of that is due to some physical ailments that have been a struggle throughout his life. His biggest goal was to not hold his team back.

As the race came to and end, the last obstacle is an intense electrical screen where cords are hanging down and someone is soaking you with a fire hose to amplify the shock effect! When someone asked them all about how painful the shocks were, they all looked at each other and said they didn’t remember! They just remembered how it felt to come across that finish line together, arm in arm. Accepting the challenge of something new that stretches you past your current limits brings a new level of joy that you wouldn’t have experienced before. Without the challenge, you wouldn’t feel the incredible joy.

When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?
This is a question that we keep as a theme in our family. In my 50th year, I created a list of 50 things that I did throughout the year that I had never done before. Now here at Tough Mudder were hundreds of people doing something they had never done before. The energy that was at the starting line was beyond powerful. The excitement for what was to come – the possibilities, the fear, the encouragement.

At the starting line, there was a military man getting the racers ready to rumble. He was so full of positivity that I wanted to get my runners on…wait, no (sorry, got carried away)! Here are a few of the opening thoughts he shared, as they all kneeled together to prepare for GO TIME.

He said “what you do out here today as far as looking out for each other and helping each other out, take that right back home; to your neighbourhood, to your nation, to your world. You are movers and shakers and if you do it you are going to encourage others in this world to come on board. The biggest thing you will take on today is the feeling of fear and that is the most important thing you take on today too. I see people stare at obstacles for 20 minutes with people pausing to encourage them that they can do it. People will be encouraging you all day and the truth is you’ve got this and even if you don’t achieve it you will be stronger from the effort. The next time that feeling of fear comes at you the easier it will be for you to keep moving forward to do what needs to be done. Don’t care about your time. You may not be able to do every obstacle. All I want is your best. You may not be the best out here, you may not be able to do every obstacle, you may not finish…I want your best – your honest best not your settled best. This is everything. No one is better than your best”.

I had tears in my eyes as I watched everyone take their first steps towards something they were doing for the first time. My husband had spoken about doing this for over five years, when our daughter had done it at the age of 18! When you step into a new possibility, a new opportunity, a new potential and see what you are capable of, there you find joy!

Find your Strength
You are the captain of your strength. My husband ended up blowing his calf just past half way through the race. In that moment, his mind started spinning about not letting his team down, not being the weakest link, wondering if he could finish, and sadness. He offered to let the team continue without him or to go ahead and he would take it at his own pace. Without hesitation, the team encouraged him, came up with a plan to manage the remainder of the race and didn’t lose a beat. They all stayed together to the end.

The acceptance and support that his team gave him was remarkable. There were 8 unique people with different personalities but one thing they all share is an intense level of compete. This day wasn’t about time though, it was about the power of friendship and the love and support of a group of people that have being life together for decades.

It was the struggle, the pain, the fear, the realness that pushed them all through to the end together. This is joy.

Once you Take the First Step Towards Your Goals, They Become Easier
I asked my husband to share some of his biggest aha moments from the Tough Mudder experience. He gave me all your typical cliché ones that you could imagine. Then he said that once they got through the first obstacle, they realized that it really was just take one obstacle at a time. How often do we clump everything together and make it so big that taking the first step causes us to freeze? They didn’t think about all 25, they just approached each one as it came to them. Once they finished one, they knew they could do the next one. Each obstacle became easier as they knew they could do it, and every obstacle they completed, got them closer to the finish line – and the cold beer at the end.

Imagine the joy that is possible when you focus on the first step and then the next step and then all of a sudden realize, you have crossed the finish line. What a feeling!

We’ve Got Your Back Man
Find the people that you could go to war with. My Father told me when I was young, if I one person who had my back when I was older, someone that I could call a true friend, then I was truly blessed. My husband had 7 friends and 100’s of comrades on this day that had his back. In a world filled with turmoil, confusion, noise, pain and suffering – there are moments every day of people helping people. When you are suffering in the mud pit, someone is there to guide you out.

Watching how everyone supported each other, both with the groups of people who had come together and complete strangers was so moving. The whole event was really about supporting everyone to finish and overcome the obstacles they were faced with.

My husband shared how powerful it was to share in this experience and know that people had his back. That is joy.

Pause to Celebrate
When you actually push through the electric circuits, pause for the beer (or bubbly) at the finish line. In this busy world, I notice that people are off to the next race before they acknowledge the one that just finished.

We spent the night in celebration with our friends and family. We celebrated our friends 50th, the incredible feat that everyone had just accomplished, the strength to say “hell yes” and go for it, no matter what obstacles were presented. I loved this pause with my husband, to see the pure joy of all he had overcome, all that he had lived through, the deeper connections he had built and the suffering he had survived. It was all of the suffering that made it that much richer.

“If you get a new client, if you get up the nerve to ask someone out, if you get the job, the house or the last cookie, celebrate. We’re so damn busy all the time we rarely take the time out to acknowledge our awesomeness. Meanwhile, what you focus on you create more of, appreciation appreciates, badassery badassifies, Take the time to feel into, be grateful for, and do a cartwheel about all the greatness you’re bringing into the world and you will empower yourself to bring even more.” From YOU are a BADASS Calendar

Reflection: What experience in your life has shown you the most beautiful joy when you walked through the suffering? What were your lessons and how can you continue to lean into these to strengthen your joy?