If you have a persistent “challenge” in your life, do you find yourself pushing and trying harder, hoping that the difficulty would just resolve one day if you exert enough force and perseverance?
I believe many of us, myself included, are familiar with the impulse of struggle. A few days ago, I caught myself in a grip of struggle. I heard a voice inside of me telling me that I need to do more, I need to just push, I need to find a way. I paused and I got curious. Why was this voice telling what I needed to do and where was it coming from? I wanted to embark on the journey of self-exploration to trace my conditioning of struggle.
First, I decided to look up the word in the dictionary and here’s what I found:
Struggle means: make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction; to be in conflict.
Wow…this is definitely not the way I want to live my life. Yet, struggle feels so familiar. I remember seeing my parents struggle to make ends meet when we fled from Baku, Azerbaijan. I remember seeing refugee families, mine included, huddled in dorm rooms of a university campus, so we could at least have a roof over our head and so that we could survive. I remember needing to share one kitchen and a few bathroom stalls with twelve families who lived on the same floor as us.
I remember struggling in school, because I didn’t speak the language when we moved from Russia to the US. I remember sitting on my bed with three dictionaries by my side, doing homework for my Spanish class. Things just didn’t come easy and I thought that’s how life ought to be. Simply overcoming one challenge after another.
I also feel that in many ways my Armenian ancestors, passed on this message to me. Armenians are people of incredible strength. They are people who survived the Armenian Genocide and other forms of persecution. They are people who know how to recreate lives from scratch. They know how to land in new city and country with complete “strangers” and how to put food on the table for themselves and their children.
They used their perseverance to overcome great challenges. They have strong wills and an unquenchable desire to go on living. I honor and respect them for that and I feel grateful for the gifts that I inherited from them. And I also realize that I don’t want to struggle in life the way they did.
Struggle feels like a mechanism that is hardwired in us for the purposes of survival. May be now, it’s possible to respect “struggle” for the function it has served and at the same time open a door to new possibilities.
And what are alternatives to struggle?
What about inviting grace?
What about asking for support from seen and unseen
What about surrender?
What about softening instead of hardening and tightening?
What about becoming more receptive?
What about choosing to be kind to yourself and people?
I can feel my body relaxing when I simply ask myself these questions, without “needing to do anything” in this moment.
Marion Woodman, an amazing and wise woman, wrote these lines in her book “Coming Home To Yourself”:
“When the path is blocked,
we can accept or fight.
When we fight, doors slam.
When we surrender to the mystery
Well, what do you need?
Now it’s your turn:
What are some of the ways struggle shows up in your life?
What are some of the unconscious messages you received from your parents, your grandparents, your ancestors about life?
How does struggle show up through you?
What do you notice in your body as you sit with these questions.
What are some alternatives to struggle that you sense, feel, see.
I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share what emerged for you.