What To Do With Struggle

30 Mar

WRITEOUS CHICKS NEWSLETTER – March 2010 

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” -Anne Bradstreet

Recently I was reading something by someone who repeatedly repeated that she essentially had it all together in every area of her life and had never really struggled, and I went from feeling mildly irritated to totally enraged.  All the areas in which she had it all together, I struggle with, often daily.  And I got really pissed off and wondered if some people are just tapped on the head at birth with this struggle-free magic wand, and glide through life with everything going their way and birds singing on their shoulders as they throw open their curtains in the morning, while for others, life can sometimes feel like such a struggle every step of the way.  And why the heck did I get stuck with the struggle version of Life?  Where were MY birds perching on my shoulder and singing me off into another easy breezy day where everything goes my way?

This is one way that I deal with struggle – HATE IT!  Just feel like it’s unfair and I don’t want it and throw a little (or big) temper tantrum in my mind (or in reality).  WAH!  But as Carl Jung said, “What you resist persists,” and anything you put so much energy into fighting, has a good chance of sticking around for a long, long time.

This is the other way I deal with struggle – LOVE IT!  Just grow attached to it and define myself by it and think of myself as this person who things are always hard for, who just struggles all the time.  SIGH.  But anything you become so tied to has a good chance of sticking around for a long, long time.

There’s got to be another option!

Two things happened as I continued to read about this perfect person’s perfect life:  1)  I want to barf and 2)  I started to feel proud of my struggles.  Not in a I-define-myself-solely-by-this-and-want-cling-onto-it-forever kind of way, but in a compassionate and accepting way where I didn’t want to deny them and push them away from me anymore, and I stopped wishing for some made-up idealized barf-inducing version of Life where everything is always easy.  There are things in my life that have been hard, but this has given me so much – for one, my desire to write and teach.  I don’t think I would be so compelled to grapple with the things I do in my writing and teaching and life if everything was always easy breezy for me, and I just lay around all day hanging out with the singing birds, popping grapes and sipping Pina Coladas. 

In books, I like to read about characters who have obstacles and overcome them.  Or at least strive to overcome them.  Not characters who have no obstacles, and not characters who have obstacles and sit around all day complaining about them but not doing anything about it.  And in life, I like to be around people – imperfect, flawed, messy, real, human people – who have obstacles and are working to overcome them.  And I have grown and am growing to appreciate and like being this kind of person, too.  I’m learning through trial and error what to do with struggle in my life – not always attaching myself to and loving it, not always resisting and hating it – but sometimes, finding and being in that perfect balance where I can appreciate what struggle gives me – the layers and texture and bitterness and sweetness that it adds to my life to make it so rich.  And imperfect.  And messy.  And REAL.

I went to an Amos Lee concert a week and a half ago and he said, “Some people just have dirt under their nails, and in their souls.”  I love the idea of getting dirty in your life and having some grit in your soul.  Of just rolling up your sleeves and digging your nails in and workin’ stuff out.  And how, when something doesn’t come easy for you, when you finally do get it, after days or maybe months or maybe years of struggle, your success will taste all that much sweeter to you because of what you have overcome.  And why, after a long, cold, snowy winter, followed by days upon days of chilly windy rain, those first rays of spring sunshine feel so damn good beaming down on your face.

What do you do with struggle? 

Happy Spring!  When the sun comes out, take some time to bask in those rays!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxo

Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Garam

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3 Responses to “What To Do With Struggle”

  1. Lare March 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    Great post, because I can totally relate! I watched a presentation online with Garrison Keillor at a Q&A session. Someone from the audience asked him how does one become funny. Keillor simply said a crappy childhood. If you had a happy childhood, that was great. Go and be an orthodontist or something.

    The struggles, like you had mentioned, adds a flavor or dimension to your character. It makes you h-u-m-a-n! Speaking from my own personal experience, I find that people who haven’t really struggled or experienced any sort of setbacks – typically don’t risk much, color outside the lines, love passionately, have their heart broken, and pretty much poo-poo every person who wants to grow and experience life with its ups and downs. Maybe, these are the people I want to fix my teeth. 🙂 ha ha ha.

  2. Margarita Tartakovsky April 12, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    Awesome post, Jennifer! So eloquent and totally relatable!

    I used to be bad at struggling, as in, I’d bury my feelings, close my ears and pretend I couldn’t hear anything – sorta similar to the childlike tantrums. 🙂 Now, I try to process my feelings. That is, actually feel my feelings. I try to channel my struggles into my writing, and cope with them by exercising and leading a healthy life, being with loved ones, and putting things into perspective. It doesn’t always work, but we all have our good days (those birds chirping happily over our shoulders) and worse days (where a tantrum strikes).

    Thanks for a wonderful, honest post!

  3. Jennifer Garam April 12, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    Thanks Margarita! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the post!

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