I'm Struggling, But
My inspiration to write typically strikes in the midst of a great book or in deep conversation with a friend. Yet lately, I haven't invested very much time in my own creativity, so I've felt hard pressed to come up with a good topic. In fact, I was in the shower two days ago, scrubbing the Pure Barre sweat out of my hair, and saying to myself, "Think, Griffin, you need to write something". I like to write about concepts that are particularly meaningful to me and/or something that I feel is relatable to other people. I try to challenge myself to be vulnerable because openness begets openness, in my experience. And yet, as I mulled over different topics in my head, the quiet nudging of insecurity would stop my train of thought and say, "Hmm, maybe let's not share quite that much."
And I kept hearing that need to sugar coat things, over and over again. Every topic that seemed like it would be a good starting point began to feel a little bit too raw, too exposed, as I dug deeper into the way writing about it would play out. And then it hit me.
I do this - all. the. time.
I believe that we all share ourselves with the world in terms of masked vulnerability. We tip toe to the edge of the cliff and quickly run back to the veil of safety as soon as we get a peak of the drop off. The dialogue that occurs amongst friends is a prime example of this truth. There comes a time in every get-together when the catching up is over and the real stuff gets asked about. "How are you doing with xyz?" asks one friend. Everyone leans in with their coffee mug or wine glass in hand (depending on the time of day, obviously), and waits for you to spill.
"Well," you say, "I'm struggling with xyz, but..."
And the rest is history.
You see, I'm often comfortable sharing a scenario that depicts myself as a conquerer. Oh, I'll get real with you, for sure. I'll share my anxieties and my hurts, but only after I feel that I've come to terms with them or learned my lesson. We craft a narrative full of real examples, but we leave out the small detail that maybe everything isn't tied up in a nice little bow.
How many times have you heard one of the following:
"I'm struggling with my anxiety at work, but it's fine, I have the weekends to recover."
"I'm struggling in my marriage, but we've decided to see a counselor."
"I'm struggling with my purpose in this season, but I'm praying about it."
"I'm struggling to know if I should give him/her a second chance, but we've been talking it through."
"I'm struggling with my body image, but I joined a new gym."
"I'm struggling to find community, but I know everyone is, too."
And with one little word, we rationalize, mask, and reframe what's really going on in our heads and our hearts. What if we were brave enough to eliminate the "but"? What if, when prompted to share, we stopped trying to be champions of our own struggles and started being honest about the fact that we don't have them under control. How much would our conversations change if we allowed for silence and support after the words "I'm struggling". What if we stopped equating struggling with weakness?
The worst mistake happens when we, as listeners, allow our friends to rationalize without ever probing further. Not every space is a good space to share, but don't let someone's "but" become the end of the discussion. Maybe, we haven't learned all the lessons and "gotten over" the season of struggle. We all feel rushed to get over things. But the truth is that most big struggles evolve. We may become stronger and more adaptable, but for some reason we don't want to recognize that the struggle is part of the story.
The next time you hear (or say) those three little words, stop and ask yourself, "what am I afraid of? What would happen if I simply said that I'm struggling, and I don't have a solution. There isn't a quick fix, and I'm not sure how to handle things." I guarantee that if you find the right people to be vulnerable with, you won't feel the need to be stronger than your struggle. Rather, you'll be supported while being in the thick of your struggle, nothing conquered, nothing finished.
We are the sum of our pieces, just like a puzzle. When you can't find the right pieces to fit together to finish a puzzle, you don't toss the ones you don't like. You wait until the gaps are filled and reassess. By brushing off our struggles, we're throwing away our own pieces.
Instead, why not hold them a little more loosely, and wait for the bigger picture?