To struggle, according to dictionary definitions, means to make strenuous efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition. It sounds like something to be avoided at all costs.
However, I’m convinced struggle is good for us and that we must grapple with new material if we want to learn and understand the world. Without struggle, we don’t grow.
You may have read my earlier blog posts (here and here )about my determination to deal with pain. I’ve been plagued with arthritis in many joints for years and chose not to undergo surgery because I didn’t know where to start. My interest in plasticity of the brain and new learning led me to the Curable app. (No affiliation.)
I threw myself into learning about the brain-body connection and how it affects one’s perception of pain. I embraced each stream in the Curable program, including education, meditation, brain training and writing. This was new learning, novelty, and I loved it.
The dulcet tones of the presenters led me through exercise after exercise and checked whether each one had been helpful. I felt safe. I walked further. My hands worked better, so that I knitted and embroidered for expected new great-grandchildren.
Persistent pain no longer dogged me. The sensations that once caused suffering became merely unpleasant, if I thought about them at all.
But, three months into the program that was to change my life so dramatically, everything fell in a heap. I had somehow missed the necessary connection between emotional and intellectual work necessary for the program to work on a deep level.
During a meditation exercise, the direction included, ‘Scan your body and feel whatever is present’. Obediently, I followed the direction, and became overwhelmed with grief. Like everyone else, I’ve known grief. But in that moment, I felt as if my whole life contained no other emotion.
Losses floated in front of me. Loss of hopes, dreams, children, people I loved. Important relationships. Things I’d loved – a former home, a caravan, a dog, a garden and my ability to play. Travel. The thwarting by COVID and other events of the graceful old age I’d hoped for.
I cried. Sad, lonely tears. I bawled like a baby.
The pain I thought I’d overcome returned.
Fearful of falling I stopped walking for pleasure and told myself the heating in the pool didn’t work properly, so I wouldn’t swim. The Curable app was not for me!
Struggling against sadness made it worse. It’s true that the things we resist, persist!
Perhaps my attempts to be more mobile, flexible and strong weren’t for me. Perhaps I was doomed to suffer pain. Sadness became anger, as it so often does. My stress levels rose. One eye twitched.
Supportive family and friends to the rescue
My family and friends were supportive. We can mostly share dark times with each other. They had no solutions but they listened. They did have suggestions, some of which were helpful. Comments in the lovely Curable community on Facebook continued to reassure me that the pathway would work. I needed to persist. Thanks, everyone.
Over the next few weeks, it became obvious that there was far more to the program I’d taken up so enthusiastically. My struggle came partly from not understanding what I was grappling with.
With the problem reframed, the solution became obvious. This challenge, like many others, could be overcome with effort and some humility. Curable again became my next best friend.
As Jo Bowler points out,
‘Once we stop the charade of knowing everything, and embrace knowing less, with a willingness to sit with uncertainty, unexpected things happen.’
My grandmother’s adage, ‘Persistence, patience and a sense of humour,’ came to mind. I’m walking, swimming, enjoying life again. There will be more roadblocks on this journey, but they’ll be easier to understand and work around.