A Small Treatise on Hardship


Various dictionaries define hardship as follows:

“Severe suffering or privation.”

“Conditions of life difficult to endure.”

“Something hard to bear.”

Religious leaders, prophets, monks, and the like historically sought out hardship. (Alas, not political leaders. It would be a good idea that should start now, don’t you think?) When we look back at historical figures (biblical and the like) who set out into the desert (or wherever) seeking hardship, it’s difficult for us to understand why they didn’t think their lives were already fraught with hardship. They didn’t have TV, dishwashers, remote controls, cars, electricity, or even an indoor bathroom. We live such cushy lives today, finding out the microwave is broken when we can’t afford a new one can feel like a hardship!

Of course, everything is relative, and we frame hardship based on our accustomed circumstances. A woman married to a billionaire for 20 years sees hardship when she’s awarded $10,000 a month in alimony. To her, that’s suffering and privation, while to another woman living in a trailer in the woods scratching out a life with kids in tattered hand-me-downs, it would be a lottery windfall. I’ve viewed hardship differently at different times in my life, based on experiences and changes in my style of living. I’ve lived in a luxury suburban neighborhood in a 3000 square foot house. I’ve lived in a slanted little house with no insulation. I’ve lived on a remote farm on a rock road that was sometimes completely inaccessible. Now I live in a little old house on a big farm with a barn and a nice paved road.

Many people see farm life as a life of hardship no matter how it’s framed, but I see my farm here as the lap of luxury after living at Stringtown Rising. That farm was poorly laid-out and, in a number of ways, not well managed–partly from lack of funds, partly from geographical challenges, partly from neglect, and partly from inexperience. But the hardships there certainly weren’t all self-inflicted (unless you count the decision to move there). It was a place that took you face-to-face with physical labor and mental endurance. Every day there was a test of some kind. Here, I appreciate the luxury of a barn, flat pastures, and a paved road. I appreciate the mail at the end of my driveway and the county plow truck after a snow. I appreciate things many of us take for granted because I lived without them–and therein lies one of the key values in hardship. If we never live without something, it’s not easy to properly appreciate it.

Hardship teaches gratitude and frugality. It gives wisdom and it teaches patience. It provides a richness to life that no amount of money can duplicate. Sometimes I feel as if my life here is too easy. I’m so accustomed to difficulty that it’s almost difficult to live without constant difficulty. And yet, at the same time, I never stop appreciating the convenience of the mailbox, the hay in dry storage in the barn, the stalls to shelter livestock, the water spigots at their buckets. If the power goes out to the well and I have to carry water from the house or the creek to the animals, it’s like old times! If I have to carry a bale of hay five feet, in the middle of whining to myself “This bale of hay is so heavy!” I remember that I don’t have to throw it over two stuck gates and climb in and over and roll it 50 feet across the yard to my cow. In the snow.

Without hardship, we have no idea of what we are capable. Hardship shows us who we are, down deep. It’s an exercise in our response–do we cry, snap at everyone around us, give up, or work harder?

Hardship comes in many forms, and the hardships that tag along with life in the country on a farm aren’t the only valid hardships in the world by far, they are just a category of the form. Perhaps a special category in the sense that choosing this kind of life is akin to chasing after hardship rather than waiting for it to cross our path–for the love of the land, the commitment to simplicity, or a certain dementia.

Through hardships, I’ve learned the importance of friends and family, self-reliance, determination, willingness to learn lessons and openness to receiving them, and a sense of humor. I know that I’m not finished learning from hardship because when I couldn’t start the generator on my own last week, I cried, I snapped at Morgan, I gave up, and then I worked harder. When I can eliminate all of those responses except the last one, I’ll be finished.

And then I’m moving to a condo!


  1. jeannieq says:

    This post is absolutely spot on! Not only do we learn more about the stuff we are made of by going through hardship but we learn so many coping mechanisms to help us through. While I don’t want to go through a great depression like my grandparents, I want to have the attitude of knowing that I can make-do, use it up, wear it out or do without if necessary. Having had to use those skills in my own life I try to remember the lessons learned through those times and continue to practice a lifestyle that prepares me for difficult times and joy of today!

  2. Jane L says:

    sorry to be so succinct, but I was just going to read and run!

  3. ncastlen says:

    Girl, you said a mouthful. Many of us are spoiled rotten by all the amenities and modern conveniences that we’ve come to expect (and probably don’t deserve!) My husband and I constantly marvel at how lucky we are to have a nice home, good jobs, etc. and we really try not to take it for granted as it could all be gone in a flash. That said, we have also learned by experience that we could live in much reduced circumstances if necessary. Alas, your comment that “Hardship teaches gratitude and frugality” only holds true for those that are willing to absorb the lesson. For many people, hardship teaches them to cheat and steal. But that’s another treatise…

  4. Andrea the Kitchen Witch says:

    Thank you for this post Suzanne. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the wants of life and forget about the needs. Your quote of “Hardship teaches gratitude and frugality” is so poignant. Thank you for those reminders this am. I sincerely appreciate it.

  5. wanda1950 says:

    I don’t wish hardship on anyone but it scares me to death that so many young people have had no struggle at all in their lives.

    My nephew (16 & new driver) has taken months dithering over the car/truck he will get from his parents. My older niece said she was glad to take whatever vehicle she could have. I ( old as the hills) said I did without till I could get my own.

  6. Jen says:

    Hardship teaches gratitude & gratitude turns what we have into enough.

    I’ve wasted a lot of time complaining & being discontented because of what I didn’t have. For example, I’ve had holes in my kitchen floor for almost 25 yrs. Other things had higher priority than replacing our kitchen floor. In September we decided we can fix the kitchen floor. What’s funny is here it is November & we haven’t made a move to do anything & it hasn’t bothered me a bit. I’ve realized that I’m already happy – the holes in my floor don’t keep me from being content anymore.

    We’ll get it done because it needs to get done but I know that what I have is so much more than what my parents or grandparents had I really have no reason to be discontented. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go through great hardships to learn it.

  7. MousE says:

    This is a wonderful read, and I thank you. You made me laugh out loud with your last sentence! :snoopy:

  8. pugwaggin says:

    So true. Hearing that folks are excited about going shopping on Thanksgiving evening has had me thinking of what we should really be thinking about. This is a great reminder.

  9. Joell says:

    Excellent post, it is sometimes hard to appreciate the sunshine until you have lived through a storm.

  10. Anita says:

    Love this. It reminds me that even tnough my personal hardships have been first-world problems, they have made me stronger, and that is the POINT. I’ve grown through them. Reading your blog has made me grateful for them, too!

  11. vgstanton says:

    I’m never disappointed when I read your posts. You’re an inspiration every day.

  12. Flowerpower says:

    You are one tough and smart chicky! Most of us would never make it having to run a farm and raise 3 kids along with all the furry kids. My hat is off to you Suzanne! :happyflower:

  13. Miss Judy says:

    Thank you so much for the post…I’ve always felt that hardships bring out our true character… If we come out of it being better instead of bitter we’ve made it!

  14. GrammieEarth says:

    Excellent post! I too fear for the ‘youngsters’ that have never had to ‘deal with’ the things life (inevitably) will throw their way. Mommy, Daddy or money can never buy self sufficiency. Hardships are a great learning curve IF one pays attention to the fix…even if it does require duct tape!!!
    NO CONDO FOR YOU – (or me)

    🙂 Pam

  15. whaledancer says:

    Hardship teaches us gratitude, and feeling grateful is the road to happiness. I’m working on remembering to be grateful for hardships while I’m going through them (which isn’t always easy). Thank you for the reminder.

  16. Linda Goble says:

    Wow, I can’t believe you just wrote that. Just a couple of hours ago where I house clean the lady and I were talking about the exact same thing. How lots of kids now a days don’t know how hard it is to struggle and they want everything handed to them and every thing the best. Don’t know what happen to our children now a days then when we were all growing up…

    Very nicely said. You are a wonderful woman!!! We all appreciate you very much. You bring us sunshine on our dark days.

  17. joeyfulnoise says:

    Nicely put – thank you for your reminder to us all.

  18. Glenda says:

    I wish everyone could read this treatise! You got it exactly right.

    I worry that my grands who have never wanted for anything they didn’t get eventually will ever truly appreciate what they have. Can that be taught? I hope so.

    The last line about dementia is hilarious….I have thought the same thing a time or two!

  19. HicChickie says:

    bahahaha, so true, God bless ya lady for giving us a “keep yer chin up” moment, and sharing the feelings. The condo isn’t worth it! :happyflower:

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