Words on Struggle

I just got bored with all her nagging and complaints.  Her job was too hard, her children were screwing up, she was underpaid (oh yeah, 70k…that’s a lotta tofu), and blah, blah, blah.  Whatever.

She didn’t know from struggle.

The word is weighted with political histories tied to tyranny, genocide, refugee camps, and life-exhausting battles.  The word also brings back memories of my mother’s childhood home and of her growing up with her parents in the backwoods of South Carolina with no running water and no indoor toilet.  The electricity on the small farm was their nod to 20th century comfort.

I remember watching one of the first “reality” shows several years ago.  You may remember some of them.  They would take a family and place them in a reconstructed historic situation such as pioneer living on a midwestern prairie.  Far away from their modern-day conveniences, they would have to align themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally with tasks like drawing water from a well, using an outhouse, or brushing their teeth with baking soda.  I remember that in one of these segments, a teenage girl complained about the taste of baking soda and how she missed her toothpaste.  She didn’t know from struggle.

It’s not that I lack compassion for the difficulty of daily living, but it’s been hard for me (even as I look for work) to equate the daily grind with real down and dirty struggle.

I have tried many times to replace the word “struggle” as it relates to day-to-day experiences:  family relationships, friendships, soul-killing jobs, or high gasoline prices.  I like terms like “overcoming obstacles,” or “eliminating barriers.”  These words blunt the prickly sword of “struggle.”  But like the tale of Sisyphus rolling that dang boulder up the hill only to have the thing roll down again, Struggle will not be redefined.  Here She comes at you with the addictions,  national political battles, and teenage killings.  And it’s all a part of the day-to-day.

My father used to tell me over and over again, “Don’t judge another until you’ve walked in his shoes.”  Yes.

If we breathe, struggle is required.  Without struggle, we cannot grow.  Struggle adds value to life.  And while I am truly, truly loathe to admit it, every obstacle is a struggle for someone—even if it’s only about the taste of baking soda.

The folks in other parts of the world who struggle with violent oppression or have lived in refugee camps for a quarter of a century are indeed struggling, some with little hope for change.  The rest of us are struggling with our “stuff,” the things that threaten to suffocate that authentic “voice” within us, the intuition that guides us to a high-quality life for ourselves and all those around us.

All struggles, in the heart, are equal.  I guess, I began this post too harshly.   I suppose–in the heart–recovering from addiction is as much a part of the tightrope as being in a job that one hates.  The difference, however, is that, unlike folks in a refugee camp, most of us can see a way to the other side.  We roll the boulder to the top and watch it roll down the other side of the hill.  Every challenge brings us closer to being the person we know we can be.

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