Sometimes I think what we forget is that words have the power and meaning WE give to them; when we speak them aloud, and maybe even more importantly, when we repeat them in the inner dialogue we have with ourselves all day long, we are in a constant state of deciding, no, choosing, what we think they mean and how they make us feel.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and a few weekends ago I went to a retreat Gabby Bernstein led at Kripalu in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which is such a special and beautiful place, but I found myself unsure how to respond to a very common question we all get asked countless times a day...
“How are you?” I hadn’t really thought about what a loaded question that is until then.
After all, I’ve been meditating, journaling, expressing myself, and working on integrating all the valuable lessons I have learned, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am better for it.
I have gradually opened up to actually feeling my feelings instead of numbing them out by watching reality TV or projecting them onto others by gossiping.
Now, I'm not saying those behaviors were necessarily destructive by themselves, but they were my attempt at trying to put a band-aid over the wounds and hurt I didn’t want to feel. And now that I’m really feeling my feelings as they come, sitting with them, and letting them pass through me, I feel better. I'm happier.
But, when someone asks me how I am I tend to say “OK,” or “Surviving,” or “I’m struggling a little bit.”
All true, but not actually exactly what I mean.
So, when a friend asked me how I was doing at Kripalu and I instinctively replied, “Ugggh I’m struggling.” I felt an immediate sense of guilt wash over me.
I wanted to be able to say, “I’m fantastic,” “I’m great,” “I’m doing the work, and it’s challenging at times, but also liberating.”
Because those things are also true.
I feel more like me than I have in years. I’ve been finding my way back to myself and it does feel fantastic, and challenging, and liberating, and sometimes, like a bit of a struggle.
So, I’m not saying my experience needs to change, but I do think my perception of my experience could use a shift. And as usually happens at any lecture of Gabby's I go to, exactly what I needed to hear was brought to the surface in her answer to another woman's question.
She addressed the idea of struggle and said, "We're always struggling, it's just how much do you believe in the struggle? How much faith do you have in the struggle? It's not that you won't struggle, it's just that you no longer believe in the struggle."
I’ve been turning that word—struggle—over and over in my mind since that weekend at Kripalu and what I’ve come up with is that I have certain preconceived notions about what "struggling" means, but it’s also totally up to me how I choose to perceive that experience, and that word, today.
The verb struggle is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: To try very hard to do, achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems.
But according to the Urban Dictionary, which probably says a lot about how people interpret its meaning in casual conversation, struggling is defined as: Extremely ugly, haggard, broke down, and tore up.
When I think about it in terms of what I’ve been experiencing, I can see how the negative filter commonly given to that word has been shaping my perception.
When in actuality, the struggle I’m having is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
The struggle, is simply my daily moment-to-moment practice of moving closer to how I want to show up in the world, for myself, and others.
The struggle, is the act of embracing and loving what I have considered to be my "imperfections."
The struggle, is with those two P’s in a pod I know all too well: perfectionism and procrastination. But every time I witness that behavior and recognize that I want to move away from fear based thoughts to loving ones, I can choose again.
Every time I struggle with procrastination and perfectionism I can call on the knowing that those behaviors are actually gifts that are guiding me in the right direction.
The fact that I’ve considered myself to be “struggling” with the P’s is actually an awesome sign of movement in the right direction.
This struggle is not bad; the struggle is good, maybe even great.
Struggling with procrastination and perfectionism means they are no longer a fit with how I want to live my life, or how I want to show up in the world. My logical mind has perceived my relationship to the P’s as a negative struggle.
But my loving, right mind can now see that the intensity I feel when those behaviors pop up is the overwhelming strength of my deep inner desire to bring light to the places where it has been dark.
To keep turning on the lights one by one, day by day, moment to moment.
To choose love, over fear.
So, if you ask me how I'm doing and "I'm struggling" happens to be my answer please feel free to congratulate me.