This is hard, this season of life.

Marriage is hard. Not hard like when our babies were young. When hard meant tired half-conversations that took place as we passed each other in hallways and meals scarfed down in turns, not together.

No, this season of marriage is hard because when you emerge from that tunnel of exhaustion, you have to re-learn how to have a relationship that involves just the two of you. You can barely remember what you said to each other before you had kids and the problems you have to work through aren’t just overlooking those peccadilloes and quirky personality traits. You learn what “for better or worse” really means in a way that you couldn’t anticipate when you first uttered those vows.

This season of parenting is hard. Not hard like sleepless babies and tantrums. This is hard because you’re navigating big feelings, big confusion, and big questions in bodies too small to accommodate them.

This season of parenting is hard not because you’re holding your baby and you don’t know why they’re crying but because you know *exactly* why they’re crying and you know that you can’t kiss away their hurts anymore. Because they’re finding out all the ways in which people can hurt each other. The ways the world can hurt.

And that is harder than anything I’ve ever done.

Friendship is hard. Not hard like when you were young and stupid and a careless word or a snub made you feel left out.

This season of friendship is hard because you thought when you got here it would stop. But it doesn’t. And it hurts worse because when you’re this old, people should know better.

This season of friendship is hard because your friends are getting sick. They’re getting divorced. They’re losing parents. They’re losing each other. And you know a mix tape or a collage isn’t going to fix it anymore.

Life is hard. Not hard like when you had student loans and big questions about who you wanted to be and where you wanted to go.

No, life is hard now because you have house loans and car loans and tuition and, according to the calculator on your financial planner’s website, you will apparently never have enough money for retirement.

Life is hard because you have finally gotten what you have been working for. What you thought you wanted. And you honestly wonder if it was worth it. If you still want it. If you sacrificed too much. And those big questions about who you want to be and where you want to go are still there.

Love is hard because you’re going to more funerals than weddings. You are losing your parents, your siblings, your friends. And you know this is just the beginning. And you realize—in a way your younger self could never appreciate—how much you could lose at any second. And like all the muscles in your body, your heart isn’t as flexible as it once was.

Here’s the thing. Every season of life is hard. They’re just different kinds of hard.

And the best that you can do, I think, when it seems too hard, is remember that you once thought another season was too hard for you to bear. But you did. You got through it. And you’ll get through this too.

But only if you talk about it. With your spouse, with your kids, with your parents, with your friends. With yourself. And if you don’t have any of those things, then talk to me.

We have to stop only talking about the parts of life that are pretty and safe and uncomplicated. Those things are good but they are only part of us.

And the truth is, it is in the hard things that we also find the beautiful – the reason we fell in love to begin with, the inexplicable joy that our children gift to us, the comfort of a true friendship.

The truth is, our cuts and bruises and scars are just a reminder that we are still alive. They are the price we pay for loving hard.

It is through the hard that we love hard and are loved hard in return.

Originally published on the author’s page

Cameron Reeves Poynter

Cameron Reeves Poynter is a reformed lawyer, writer, rabid sports fan, and mother of two. She writes about parenthood, loss, and loving hard on her blog Lucky Orange Pants. Her work has also been published on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Babble, The TODAY show, The Elephant Journal, YourTango, and The Mighty.