Adversity Also Builds This
I want to begin this week’s letter with an excerpt from my upcoming book whose title, like your local highway, is currently under construction.
There’s an old story that goes something like this:
A man pulls his shiny black electric car into a gravel lot of a local park.
He presses the auto park button, waits, and the car effortlessly backs into a spot. The man opens the driver’s door, slides out, shuts the door, opens the back door, his dog hops out, the man shuts the back door, and stuffs the key fob in the pocket of his blue jeans.
“Let’s go,” the man commands.
The man and dog walk along a dirt path through the woods when they cross a cocoon hanging from a tree branch.
The man and dog stop and look as the cocoon shakes. The man and dog tilt their heads. The man slips his hands into his jean pockets. The dog eyes the man and wishes he had pockets to put his paws in.
“Wow,” says the man, “we’re witnessing a butterfly trying to escape its cocoon.”
The shaking stops. The man and dog waited a long while. Nothing happens. Though the butterfly bore a small hole in the cocoon, the hole is not big enough for the butterfly to break free of the cocoon.
The man looks down at the dog, “Should I do something?”
The dog doesn’t answer.
The man pulls his hands from his pockets, moves across the dirt path, brushes his right hand on his blue jeans, reaches up to the cocoon, widens the hole in the cocoon with his thumb and index finger, and steps back.
“I think I helped,” the man says to the dog.
The dog doesn’t answer.
A butterfly peeks out of the man-made hole, looks around, slowly inches out of the hole, and clings to the bottom of the cocoon.
“Why won’t it fly?” the man asks the dog.
Again, the dog doesn’t answer.
A soft spring breeze blows across the woods and the morning sun filters through the trees.
And then, as if the whole world inhaled, the butterfly leapt from the cocoon, attempting to unfurl its wings but the wings did not unfurl. The butterfly floats in the breeze and then flutters to the ground.
The man and the dog look down at the butterfly, then each other, and then back at the butterfly.
“Did I do something wrong?” the man asks.
The dog furrows his brow and barks, “Murderer!” but it comes out as, “Ruff!”
“I thought I was helping,” the man says and shakes his head.
The dog stamps his front paws, looks at the man, and thinks:
You should have never interfered with the butterfly. You should have known eating through its cocoon allows the butterfly to gain enough strength to emerge whole and strong so that it will fly. By helping too much, you didn’t allow the butterfly a chance to experience its full potential. The struggle and adversity the butterfly endures in the cocoon are nature’s way of preparing it for future challenges. Dogs and butterflies know this. Instincts and thousands of years of evolution have taught them this. Humans with their words and thumbs and fancy jeans and self-parking electric cars and their endless string of questions often forget this.
They forget there’s strength in struggle.
They forget that adversity transforms us into something greater.
A bird chirps.
A soft breeze tumbles.
The spring sun warms the earth.
And the dog sits in the man’s cool shadow, eyes the dead butterfly, and waits for a command to move.
I believe adversity builds good character.
I believe that we’re strong enough to handle struggle.
I also believe that in times of adversity we need to remember to be kind to ourselves.
On the heels of last week’s letter, I want to tell you that recovering from breaking my right hand has been challenging. Subtle movements are still painful.
Ordinary things: typing and zippering a coat and holding a toothbrush require soul-draining resolve.
There have been moments of frustration and self-pity. It’s in these hard moments when I must find the fierce courage to forgive myself.
My physical adversities, from my right hand to my brain disease, are not my fault. Much like your adversities may not be your fault. I mean, bad things happen to good people all the time. Right?
However, in spite of all the “adversity builds character” bravado, I also believe adversity builds forgiveness.
Achieving happiness and love and transcendence, in the unflinching eyes of adversities, requires deep courage to look ourselves in the mirror to do two extraordinary things: reflect and forgive.
Greetings to everyone who found me on the University of Pennsylvania’s Ataxia Clinic’s website! Thanks for stopping by. Though I’m not a doctor, I hope my words comfort, encourage, empower, and serve as good company on your journey.
May Book Promos for You:
Are looking for inspiration? Are you searching for a better version of yourself?
This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors in two awesome book promotions. Click the link below:
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take…
A few months ago, with low expectations, I took a shot and entered “Bedtime Stories for the Living” in the highly regarded, highly competitive international book contest presented by Readers’ Favorite. Readers’ Favorite is an established force in the publishing industry. They have worked with Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.
Anyway, just before I was about to take a midday nap, I was informed that this suburban dad had won…
First Prize, the Gold Medal, in the Non-Fiction/Parenting genre!
Here’s what I’m currently reading: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
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Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life.
For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com