Struggle, meet Greatness
Oftentimes I wonder, when is the struggle going to end? When does the learning become less painful? When does life get easier? When do we get to the end of the rainbow? How can I keep pushing thru this? Why is life so difficult? Well friends, I don’t think the struggle ever ends. If you’d like to know how I’ve come to make peace with this and stop fighting it and myself, read on.
When the movie Cast Away first came out, I watched it and couldn’t understand the ending (the last scene). Why was Chuck smiling at the crossroads at which the movie began? He had lost everything — repeatedly! How much pain can someone endure, and how can they smile after so much loss? Had he lost his mind, or could he see something that escaped me? That is where I was 15 years ago; not able to understand this.
I can finally understand why he smiles at the end of the movie.
Chuck was trapped on a deserted island for about 3 years. And then he came out a different person thru repeated loss (of everything) and rebirth (of his choosing). Perhaps he was smiling because he had gotten rid of everything that he didn’t truly want, so his loss removed the cruft, clutter, garbage, and lies from his life. And in that moment, at the crossroads, he could finally go after what he truly wanted. Perhaps it was the artist woman w/ the angel wings who owned that farm, who he had just met. He did leave her a note on her door just moments before saying that that package saved his life. Perhaps he could understand what his life was saved from - being a prisoner to the clock and not really living, and just running around in the hamster wheel that was his old life.
“Chuck Noland: We both had done the math. Kelly added it all up and… knew she had to let me go. I added it up, and knew that I had… lost her. ‘cos I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick, or get injured or something. The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when, and how, and where it was going to happen. So… I made a rope and I went up to the summit, to hang myself. I had to test it, you know? Of course. You know me. And the weight of the log, snapped the limb of the tree, so I-I — , I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing*. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass… And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”
A “warm blanket” came over him. I’ve since talked to many people who have been thru this kind of rebirth (which was not necessarily triggered by some kind of extreme physical trauma… it could be a life choice to let something go and start anew). And we all say the same thing. Once we understood that there was nothing we actually controlled, after losing things that we thought were such an important part of us or realizing our worst fears, we found some kind of inner peace, and we realized that all we can do is let go of what we thought we had. Then put one foot in front of the other. And just keep moving towards a place that we can’t see, but believe exists. Because that is all we control — which is who we choose to be (when we are stripped of everything) and take steps to move in the direction that will fulfill our needs and wants. Because we believe we are worth it. And we all have to take detours to places that don’t give us anything, in order for us to figure this out.
In most stories where the heroine is the “chosen one”, she doesn’t choose herself. These folks tend to be seemingly average people who aren’t even aware of who they are, and what power they have. Then comes a moment in time, a moment of truth, where they are faced with the struggle. And this is when they emerge. And they emerge by letting go of who or what they think they are. And in meeting struggle head on, they find out what they are made of, and they discover themselves. Without this, they can’t unlock their power, or their potential.
"Without this struggle, there is no greatness." - me
Some of us choose to run away from the experience of this struggle. And others embrace it head on. And others embrace it begrudgingly. As long as it’s embraced, you are going to unlock your greatness. It doesn’t mean that you are going to achieve some external outcomes that others will think is awesome. Nope. You are going to win because you will find a little bit more about who you are, and what you are made of. And this knowledge will give you more awareness of who you are. And if you think you are worth it, then this is the biggest gift that you can get. It will empower you to take the next step, which might seem impossible at the time. And then as you keep taking these steps, you begin to question what is impossible. And everything has changed.
When you encounter a moment of truth, and you face struggle, you get to unlock a little bit more of who you are. And it’s your choice to face the struggle. If you choose a life that is less ordinary and you want to do great things (whatever that means to you), then you are going to face struggle. When you’re in this struggle, you can only blame yourself for asking for this. And you ask for it when you reach for what you need or want. When you become a more concentrated version of yourself, and you start pushing against what others have pushed on your existence (that is meaningless to you). In this moment when you push back, you have made a choice. And there’s no going back. Struggle is there to greet you. And you have to greet it right back with greatness. This is the way it has always been, and will always be, and there’s no sidestepping this, there are no shortcuts around this.
"Into the darkness you must choose to go so you can be the light. And in doing so, come to be." - me
There will always be periods of darkness and light in life. Sometimes it seems the light won’t end, and it will (so cherish it while it’s there). Other times, it seems that the darkness won’t end, but it will (so don’t be blinded by the pain). In every life some darkness and light falls, and we will all have to endure the pain until it ends, and enjoy the bliss knowing that it too will end. This is constant. All you can choose is who you are in the moments when there is much darkness or much light. It tends to be much easier to handle moments when there is much light, but it’s really difficult to handle the moments when there is much darkness — which is the struggle. And sometimes they come together (some light and some darkness). While the light and dark will come and go repeatedly until we are gone, there are some things you have to be careful of, when you meet struggle:
life is a struggle, choose wisely who want to struggle with (I don’t struggle alone, since I find strength in people who empower me)
pick the battles you want to fight, since you can’t fight them all
don’t be afraid to let go, because the fear of letting go is often greater than actually letting go.
Why would anyone choose such a thing (to relentlessly face struggle) in their right mind? It’s because people who choose this don’t have a choice. This is who they are. When faced with the struggle, they realize that it only unlocks their potential. And then they want to unlock more, and question what else is possible (that was previously thought of as impossible). They develop the habit of seeing an uncertain or dire situation as one that is full of possibility, rather than one that is full of hopelessness or despair. This is greatness. It’s not about getting to the other side, but it’s about being able to see faith in the face of fear and despair, possibility in the face of nothingness.
"You fight for what you believe. The struggle makes you aware of what this is. And it gives you plenty of opportunity to fight for it." - me
Does it get tiring? Of course. Are there doubts? Of course. There are many thoughts that flow through a person’s mind. We are not the sum total of all of our thoughts. We are not the sum total of all our mistakes. Some thoughts we just let pass thru our mind, without running with them. These are the thoughts of doubt and fear and despair and hopelessness. Does it get easier? No. It hurts just as much as it did at the start.
I’ve often asked myself, is it worth it to rebuild my life over and over again? Has it been worth it, to let everything go, and to start over, again and again and again. I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that I don’t really have any other choice, but to do this. This is who I am. I’m working on finding balance between the disruption and stability, because I’m learning now that there’s a place for both. A life that’s full of only disruption will implode. A life that only strives for stability will be disrupted. So in finding a balance between the two is where the sweet spot lies. As Buddha said (after he went from one extreme to the other), the way is in the middle.
I’ve also learned that I’m not on this journey alone. I have had so many people help me thru this process of reinvention. People who have been critical in me becoming more me. People who have shown me the importance of balance, and how to settle, and not just be disruptive all the time. How to repair things, rather than just burning them down, and building something new atop the ashes. There’s a place for both.
“Have I figured it all out?” — “No”.
“Am I there yet?” — “No”.
“Am I nervous about the path that I’ve chosen?” — “Yes”.
“Do I cringe as I face struggle?” — “Always”.
“Does it ever stop me?” — “NO”.
“Am I going to survive?” — “NO, I AM GOING TO THRIVE”.
Every superhero has an origin story. This has been mine. The 5 articles I’ve written on my reboot (hard reset) chronicle my reinvention into what I am today. A better and stronger person. A better leader. A better listener. Someone who’s more open and vulnerable. Someone who can accept and give love. Someone who asks who they are and what they need and want. Someone who is clear with their intentions. Someone who strives for tranquility in all situations. I will undoubtedly bleed again. But I will undoubtedly heal. I will lose again. But I will also win again.
To fighting the good fight!