oh my deer van gogh print

image from oh my deer
purchase the print here

The struggle, the fight, the ongoing healing journey in mind, body, and spirit — all of these involve striving. And they often don’t involve ease.

Listen to me read this piece here:


 

Striving.

Sense a flinch? The word’s landed itself on the semantic blacklist — no striving, ease, and choose what’s easy have replaced Tennyson’s exhortation: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” A leaning back to Sheryl Sandberg’s leaning in.

This relatively new concept — the push toward ease — has indoctrinated itself deeply enough within me that I paused before purchasing the Oh My Deer print pictured above, which reads: “I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all of my heart.” (Vincent van Gogh) I keep it above my bed, next to a print that says, “Do what matters. Forget the rest.”

Strive is derived from Middle English, with ties to the word strife; it means, according to the OED, “(v.) Make great efforts to achieve something; struggle or fight vigorously.”

Great efforts. Struggle. Fight.

 

“What would your life be like if you only did what was easy?” — Danielle LaPorte, The Firestarter Sessions

The conversation around striving popped onto my radar with Danielle LaPorte’s Metrics of Ease, from her (initially) self-published multimedia project, The Firestarter Sessions.

To be clear, LaPorte’s explanation of what ease entails does not refer to eating bon-bons on the couch. She speaks of doing what comes naturally, including your creative genius; she encourages an elegant, productive, simple life that doesn’t feel like a struggle.

As with most things, I encourage moderation. I believe that almost everything has its time — including the act of striving.*

Those who have followed me for years may recall a period in which I named my domains and sites after the word enitens — a Latin word that, roughly translated, means “trying harder every day.”

It is true that I value excellence**, and part of that trying harder has embodied the chase — the ferocious, ambitious chase that I’ve spoken of before — the chase after awards and accolades, after creating a legacy that looks and feels important and lasting.

It is also true that my self-esteem plummeted down the Mariana Trench last year. After being told that my mind was irreparably damaged, with no hope save for acceptance of never coming close to my original, magnificently flawed self again, I forgot that I could do, or be, anything of consequence; my sense of worthiness dropped in direct proportion to the pile-up of diagnoses and new symptoms. It was suggested to me by a disability insurance representative, helpfully, that there was always a job opportunity at McDonald’s. By the end of 2013, I felt as though I had aged by half a decade — and had aged without grace, or a core self to hold onto.

 

“You see, we’ve always been on a journey, like it or not, aware of it or not, struggling to enter and embrace things as they are.” — Mark Nepo, The Exquisite Risk

Striving, like everything else, can be overdone. But by 2014, it was necessary for me to strive; if I didn’t commit to a struggle, my spirit would die beneath the onerous mantle of Eternally Sick & Damaged.

Recognizing that I needed to fight was the first step in healing myself. I responded to the call by signing up for a self-defense class based on actual, full-force combat.

From March 7-9, I took a three-day, 24-hourlong self-defense intensive. For those three days, I engaged in actual fights over and over again with men much larger and stronger than myself. I learned to yell; I learned how to strike, and when. Though I’ll be writing about the experience in a future Chronicle (tentative title: “I Kicked My Rapist’s Ass — 14 Years Later”), what matters here is the manner in which I fought.

In our final circle, a fellow student told me something like this: “Out there, in those fights — you fight like crazy. You’re like a coiled spring as you wait for the danger to strike, and then you fight tooth and nail. You look like you’re fighting for your life — like you believe that your life is worth protecting. I hope that you know that. I hope that you know that, because your body knows that.”

The struggle, the fight, the ongoing healing journey in mind, body, and spirit — all of these involve striving. And they often don’t involve ease.

I strive with all of my heart because right now, that’s what I need to do.

Perhaps you, too, are in a position where you need to strive.

You need to break out of an addiction.

You need to get out of a relationship that is no longer, or never was, a good situation for you.

You need to claw your way out of a pit of hopelessness, and emerge into the light.

Here’s to striving.

 

A question for you: When in your life have you needed to strive?

*Another view on striving, from Grace Quantock: Stop Striving — Lessons from the Qi Gong Studio.

**Here I’ll reference Abby Kerr’s brilliant Voice Values paradigm, with a free assessment here.