A certain amount of struggle is natural in life. It is not necessarily a bad thing and is often a pathway to growth. Think of watching a child struggle to tie their shoes, a marathon runner struggling to the finish line. There are times, however, when we choose to struggle needlessly.
I am learning a lot about my relationship with struggle as I care for my ailing father (you can get the details on that here). What I am finding is that I relate struggle with endurance and perhaps even on some level, competence. I will struggle through, accepting that it should be difficult and that I should be able to handle it. Ah, two “shoulds” in that previous sentence. Never a good sign.
I don’t do this in all areas of my life. In my work as a yoga teacher I encourage my clients to exert less effort as they seek to find alignment and comfort in their bodies. A yoga pose has great benefit when you create a good structure and engage in some action, but the artful piece, the meaning, comes from softening around the structure and letting go of the tension of exertion. Some people have a hard time with this idea, of course. The EFFORT seems to indicate that they are trying, achieving, working, accomplishing. The struggle has value. I suppose I am doing the same thing here with my Dad.
The first few nights we spent at his home were hard. Not much sleep as we both adjusted to this new arrangement of him sleeping in a hospital bed in his living room and me on the couch nearby. He was restless and every time he stirred, I leapt up. Everything gets magnified at night, any pain or worry you are feeling is bound to be more intense. So, I accepted that the nights would be difficult.
The first night-shift my Sister took on the couch was equally hard for her. But instead of accepting the struggle she declared: we need a sleep plan! Within hours she had spoken with the nurse and arranged for him to get a sleep aid. She was right, he needs sleep and so do we. Simple. No need to suffer in this particular way. It hadn’t even occurred to me to try and fix this.
Somewhere within I must believe that some struggle, perhaps even a willingness to suffer, is part of being a good person, daughter, teacher, friend. This is not a belief I was fully conscious of and not one I intend to perpetuate, so it is a gift to step back and take a look at that.
Struggle, like everything else in life, is a balancing act. Enduring a little can propel you to great heights, teach you to overcome adversity and lead you to triumph. Accepting, or even creating struggle can also keep you down and prevent you from stepping on through to better things. I wish us all good luck with that balance. It is an important one. Don’t you think?
Image courtesy of prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net