Ripples #1209: Sweeter After Difficulties


Difficulties in your life do not come to destroy you, but to help you realize your hidden potential and power. Let difficulties know that you too are difficult.
-Abdul Kalam, shared by Brian in San Diego, CA


Living a beautiful and fully packed life means embracing everything from your past, the good and the bad. Instead of denying the challenging stuff, make peace with it and grow from it. It’s just one ingredient that makes up the whole you.
-Alan Cumming, shared by Sara in Madison, WI


Dulcius Ex Asperis (Sweeter After Difficulties)

I scribbled this Latin phrase on my white board after seeing the movie The Lost City a few months back. My sweetie and I hadn’t ventured into movie theaters in a few years, and we were intrigued by the combination of Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. It turned out to be an imperfect-yet-charming flick that we were glad we saw: the scenery was gorgeous, the plot was goofy-fun (think “Romancing the Stone” meets “Indiana Jones”), and we giggled plenty.

I prefer to avoid spoilers when talking about movies, so I’ll just say that the phrase Dulcius Ex Asperis makes an appearance a few times in the movie, and I was glad it did. We all know that life includes both good days and hard days; this phrase is a compact reminder that the good days that come right after the harder days are often just a little more special.

Really intense migraine headaches have made occasional appearances in my life since I was a kid. As much as I dread them while they last, there is nothing quite like the deep serenity that arrives the following morning when I wake up to a day that would likely be a “not-migraine day.” I spend the morning hours frequently and randomly noticing just how marvelous it is to be free of the severe light sensitivity and intense throbbing. Walking around and driving become liberating activities. Food tests better, chores seem worth doing, and life just seems…..sweeter.

The down side is that this feeling rarely lasts for more than a few hours. Soon I’ll be back in the usual flow of things, still enjoying the good stuff in life but mostly numb to just how much good stuff exists in an ordinary day, and just how good that good stuff really is.

Here’s the deal: for most of us, for most of the time, that level of sublime appreciation of life isn’t sustainable. Life is too full of challenges and our brains aren’t wired to focus primarily on the good stuff: our very existence depends upon heightened awareness of the things that are problematic. We made it to today in part because of our tendency to prioritize the scary over the sublime.

But here’s the rest of the deal: that’s okay! Forgetting how grand life can be makes it that much sweeter when we remember how grand life can be. Dulcius Ex Asperis can help release the fantasy of walking around in a perfect state of enlightenment, and instead invites us to relish the special moments that are waiting patiently around the corner from the poopy moments.

Here’s hoping this week brings a bit more Dulcius and a tad less Asperis!

P.S. Because difficulty so often visits us in our lives, we’ve rippled the topic of difficulty several times over the years. If you’d like a deeper dive, peek at Ripples #1185, #892, and #992.

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