Making friends with struggle

intransitive verb strug·gle

: to try very hard to do, achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems
: to move with difficulty or with great effort
: to try to move yourself, an object, etc., by making a lot of effort
- Mirriam-Webster

I struggled with this painting. I worked on it for weeks. I started it to be a possible match for a friend who commissioned me for some artwork for her new home. I was so excited to get started. And then, after getting some rough basics painted… I was stuck. I would work with it. Not one tweak or adjustment seemed to move the painting forward. This was the painting I mentioned that sent my emotions into a flurry of overdrive and I broke down and cried.

Do you know some synonyms for struggle? Also from Mirriam-Webster:

blunder, bumble, flog [British], limp, lumber, plod, flounder, stumble, trudge

Yep, spot on! And, all over a painting? Right? Except…

Being an artist is an important part of who I am. So when it doesn’t come easy, a part of me fears that instead of being an artist, I am a blunder and that my work is merely a mirror of who I am.

If that’s where my brain goes with it, then it is no wonder that I fear and resist the struggle that comes with creative work.

With this painting at least, I’m on the other side of the struggle. I’m feeling good about where I’ve landed. And now, there’s something in me that feels heard and satisfied. It’s a great feeling.

Stephen Pressfield, author of The War of Art, said:

The more important an activity is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel to it – the more fear you will feel.

It’s not heartening to hear that, but does make me feel more sane. It means I’m on the right path. Just recently, I’ve been gaining a sense of the responsibility I have for my own soul. I want to grow and evolve. And, just like being a parent to my 10 year old, it can mean that I have to allow opportunities for learning and growth that aren’t comfortable. Everyone makes blunders and fumbles, especially when starting out. We have to plod, stumble and trudge through it all. We struggle. It’s not just about what we get on the other side of that struggle (although that is pretty darn amazing to experience) – it’s about what we learn and become while in the thick of our struggles.

It’s not the freedom from the struggle that changes us, it’s the struggle itself.

Now, if I really get clear on that, my relationship with struggle changes. Nearly everything I want is gained walking hand-in-hand with struggle. If I have to walk hand-in-hand with struggle, wouldn’t it work best to see struggle as a companion and friend? And, by doing that, wouldn’t I immediately remove some of the worst of my struggles. ;)

What do you think? I’d love to know.




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