Thoughts on Struggle

“What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”  How many times did my mother say that to me when I was a child?  Enough to annoy me, that’s for sure. The phrase came up again the other day, when a college friend quoted it to me after I had a really low day in my own current struggle. While I recognized it was from the heart, in my head my response was the usual “Well then I must be the strongest person in the world.” If the phrase is true, then we should be a world of superhumans walking around with muscles bulging and growing bigger everyday. Instead, I see a world where good people struggle, and people who only think of themselves thrive. Why? Or am I really the selfish one, who sees my struggles as more important than anyone else’s.

I recognize that my struggles are nothing compared to some of the things others face right now.  I am witnessing, long distance and through the eyes of social networking, the struggles of a small family whose son was born too early. They face each day without knowing whether or not he will survive, and yet they do it with beauty, grace and passion as well as with pain, fear, and strength.  Meanwhile, they visit this beautiful growing child daily, while the husband searches for work in a struggling economy. Yes, if this does not kill them it will make them stronger, but I want to know why these good people have to struggle at all?

Is the journey the struggle? Is the struggle the journey?  Is the struggle what makes life worth living? I wish I could answer these questions, but beyond knowing that somehow my family and I will move past our present situation, there is no answer.  We will find jobs, homes, passion, friends . . . all of the things that make life worthwhile. But, will I be satisfied once we’ve moved on, or will I simply look for another struggle? Because, if it is the struggle that makes us stronger, then maybe contentment and satisfaction is giving into weakness.  If that’s true, then there is definitely something wrong with this world.

Author: Lisa Kramer

Lisa A. Kramer is a lover of words, stories, and the power of all the arts to strengthen communities and bring understanding. Her first novel, P.O.W.ER was the finalist for the Sarton Literary Prize for Contemporary Fiction. Author of P.O.W.ER. She is also the author of non-fiction and short stories. She holds degrees in English and Theatre from Smith College" an MFA in directing from the University of Hawai'i, Manoa, and a Ph.D. in Theatre for Arizona State University. She is the co-founder of Heart Forward-a company that communities through the creation of innovative artistic projects—at home and abroad—that challenge ourselves, our audiences, and our collaborators to find strength in shared stories and to foster social change. Lisa is also a Creativity & Innovation coach and the co-Founder of Yes, And . . . Creativity Coaching.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Struggle”

  1. I am always struggling with that concept, and the saying “God only gives us things that we can handle”. I had a Christian upbringing based heavily on the idea that we must endure certain suffering in order to achieve the eternal life. So somehow I should have been used or had conformed to that idea. Contrarily I find myself not dealing well with either. I find it hard to deal with the idea that if we are struggling to deal with certain things it’s because we are somehow being selfish since our problems are minimal compared to others’. People have different ways of dealing with the same problem, so I guess the best thing to do is not comparing our problems. I do look back at my ancestors and knowing the hardship they had to endure, I realize that I haven’t endured anything compared to what they did. However, that doesn’t make me feel any better. I tell myself that I am such a weak person, but then I don’t know how I would act being in the same situation.

  2. Platitudes hold truths we dislike hearing. “this, too, shall pass”‘ “whatever doesn’t kill you….” and the like. Swindoll says what we inherently know: it’s not the circumstance, but the attitude we bring to it. Well. Once or twice, maybe, but a steady diet of Hurdles wears us all down. I find despair wearing. The constancy of a string of small calamities gets old. And in this economy looking for a job is daunting. And we all know why. My husband, a master at what he does, has been unemployed for a year. Guess what? Social security doesn’t cut it. Doesn’t matter how good you are. Getting through it gets harder and harder. And yet, we are used to getting through it. Hopeless is not a word Americans are prepped to accept. That is hard to look at. “it will get better” has always been true, it says in the fine print. But my mother lived in the Depression. Not pretty. For many, it didn’t get better. What you can do is whatever is your best. Someone will recognize it and hire you. Surviving til that happens is the hard place. Requires pluck and a long term plan. You have a lot on your plate. Give yourself credit for climbing the mountain.

  3. Maybe it’s every day of life makes us stronger, whatever it brings us. I hope it at least makes me better than the day before.

    1. Lisa Kramer says:

      That is always the hope.

  4. Deb says:

    OMG, now I’m sorry I said it. I don’t know everything that you’re going through, and though the comment seems flip, if you think about it (which you did), it’s one of the few ways to show light at the end of the tunnel from those of us who don’t know the whole story. Because, when it comes down to it, people do struggle and life is not easy, but when you do get the rewards you can value them in ways others who have not been down your road cannot. (Please do not send the above sentence to our college English department.) I work with people who are struggling everyday, and it helps to put your own stuff in perspective. As a result, I am thankful for what I do have, even though I whine about the things that are keeping me down. Think about what the gifts are in your life and try to hold on to the thankfulness for those when you are struggling. Maybe that’s what will get you through.

    1. lkramer14 says:

      Deb, totally don’t be sorry. I know it was coming from heart, and that’s all that matters. It was just food for thought. I am trying to hold on to the positives, and remember all the good things I do have (including friends like you, who are there even though we haven’t seen each other in ages).

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