THE BLOG

Dropping The Struggle!

I believed
for so long
that my strength
came from struggle.
I race
from moment
to moment;
the chaos
of a fly,
seeking to control
this feeling,
this thought,
this emptiness.
Today I rushed,
checking boxes,
losing my temper,
losing my breath,
impatient with you
and your small hands
gripping my office chair,
"Mommy, mommy!"
while I called
yet another
doctor's office,
therapist,
pharmacy,
insurance company.
Counting the minutes on hold
waiting to connect.
And all you wanted
was connection
with me.
Hurried and harried
from house to car to school and home again.
You cried.
I had to go.
More doctors,
more appointments.
Looking for answers,
looking for hope.
Lab results,
inconclusive.
Scans and symptoms
lead nowhere.
"Try not to worry,"
the doctor says,
but sometimes
it seems
worry is all I do.
If I didn't struggle I would...
If I didn't struggle...
A long day
home again.
You've been throwing up.
"Be with me mommy."
And so I am.
Put down the phone.
Climb into bed.
Fleece pants and three deep breaths.
Your blonde head on my arm
the flow of sleep.
If I didn't struggle I would
simply be here.
Now.
With you.

Jane's poem graphically, even painfully, holds a mirror to the life that so many of us live in today's frenetic, driven world. The circumstances may differ, but the ongoing sense of struggle, of battling somehow with odds that nearly always seem stacked against us, is a common feature of most people's daily life. Jane,(not her real name) who submitted this poem in my online course, Dropping the Struggle, has captured her own conflicts and struggles with the most radical honesty, and in so doing, she offers us the opportunity to look without blinking at our own.

And yet she ends by climbing into bed with three deep breaths to be with her daughter. When the struggle reaches its pitch, and is clearly not working - not getting us the result we want - we have no choice but to let it go. To drop it and fall back, she realizes, into what she really wants, which is the intimacy of connection; of simply being here; here where she already is; in bed with her daughter.

Life, as most of us experience it, is challenge and conflict. After all, we all begin life by struggling to get here out of the womb, and that is just the beginning of a long road. So you might think that dropping the struggle suggests giving up on life; throwing in the towel to whatever challenge you are faced with. But that is not what happened for Jane. On the contrary, giving up the struggle allowed her to move more fully into life. She accepted the reality of her situation - that she was helpless to do it all - and that acceptance led to the experience of intimacy and love. Dropping the struggle to tick all your boxes, to get it all right, leads, not away from life but deeply into it.

I for one have spent way too much time struggling for what struggle can never accomplish. It's true that life doesn't provide us with food and shelter as a natural right. Sometimes our survival demands struggle. Yet struggle will never get us the things we want most - love, meaning, freedom from anxiety, contentment with ourselves exactly as we are, imperfections and all.
The kind of surrender that Jane experienced is an echo of Nietzche's idea, amor fati, to love your fate - to acknowledge and accept the conditions of your life exactly as they are now, whatever they are - because that is what you have. Not meaning your fate cannot be changed - that's not what Nietzche meant - no, this moment only is your fate, your life, and each moment offers you an opportunity to respond more creatively, more intelligently, than the last moment.
It takes an allowing, in the form of a persistent, deep, and courageous Yes! to life right now. That Yes doesn't wave away the pain of the world as mere illusion; neither does it attempt to become some detached awareness or witness safely removed from the trials of life. It doesn't mean not caring about what happens in the world or in our own lives. It means caring so much that the heart spills open. It means being willing to be fully here where we are, wherever we are, however dark or light it happens to be.

When that Yes happens, we open our arms to life as it appears and disappears, moment to moment. We fall back into the larger aliveness that we already are, out of range of the ego's dictates and need for control. This is true relaxation. It is what we are here for. It is why I wrote my new book, Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have.