Struggle and persistence lead to new ideas

Struggle and perseverance

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.

The struggle

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.

New learning

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.

Copyright, Maureen Helen 2022

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13 Comments

  1. Dear dearest friend – how can we ever thank you enough for the depth of your willingness to share so much. I have not taken up your suggestion to look at Curable. That is something about me I need to look into possibly. In the interim, dear Maureen, I write , as said, to thank you – down the years I have learned so much from you, from what you are so willing to share – a very special friend.

    1. Thank you for your reassuring comment, Elizabeth. I was very nervous that I’d shared far too much. Mxx

  2. My Dear Maureen,
    I was so sorry to read that you’ve had such a painful and miserable time of it lately, but I was delighted to read that you are once more taking part in your usual activities and beginning to feel better.

    As for me, I’m following the advice of the doctor at the Long Covid Rehabilitation Clinic I’m taking a break from Nan’s Farm and from reading other blogs. I’m using the computer occasionally, but generally I’m resting my brain in the hope that the nervous system that has played havoc with my body for so long will repair itself. I already feel an improvement and may begin a phased return very soon.

    1. Hello, Sue dear. I sent an email a few minutes ago because I was concerned about you. Glad you are taking the doctor’s advice and resting. Also glad that you feel some improvement. Doo not hurry back the computer until you are ready. Terrible, terrible, long COVID.

      I’m really glad to feel so much better. Thank you for your kind wishes. Mxx

  3. I am so grateful for the way you interrogate your challenges with curiosity, humility and self compassion. What a role model you offer. Thank you. Like all good writers, you will probably never see the full extent of your influence. Here’s one small reminder of it.

    1. Thank you for reminding me that I am a writer, Sherene. Sometimes I forget that a blog post is writing, because I aspire to write so much more, and differently. I love that you enjoy the way I write about challenges, because sometimes I think my posts border on too personal, too self-indulgent. It’s very useful feedback to know that you find them helpful.

  4. You are a remarkable lady-I do not sY THAT LIGHTLY. yOU INSPIRE ME. I think about you when I walk now-more gingerly, than I used too! haha! I read before about the Cherokee traing themselves to fly above physical pain-usually due to an injury. Go well and thank you!

    1. Hello, Michele. Thank you for your lovely comment. I’m glad we’ve become friends at least through our blogs, because I think we have a lot to offer each other. I wish we could meet, one day. I love the idea of the Cherokee training themselves to fly above physical pain. I’ll think about that a lot, I’m sure. Good luck with your house hunting. Mx

        1. Some people are meant to be friends, Michele. If you are on Facebook, we could pm each other if you liked, or even exchange email addresses. I’d really like that.

  5. “The things we resist, persist!” What a wonderful statement Maureen Helen. I will remind myself and my sons of that one so thank you for your wisdom. Also it is so great that you are on top of it all again and well done for sharing your struggle and the way you have worked through it. You are such a dynamo and a leader so thank you for all you do. You help and inspire us all through your courage, persistence, patience and your unquestionable sense of humour. Love it! Big hugs and it would be good to catch up again soon even if by phone…

    1. Yes, it will be good to catch up soon, Tricia. I do love the statement about resisting and persisting. I, too, am delighted that I’m feeling better again. It was a bad patch, but it passed as I guess I knew it would. Thank you for your lovely comments, not all, and not always deserved. But thank you.

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