I’ve been watching a lot of Jane The Virgin lately and I must admit, the show has inspired me to start writing again. If you haven’t seen the show, the main protagonist (Jane) is an aspiring writer/published author/total badass who has seen some s**t in her lifetime. Although the show is a romantic comedy more or less, it also contains many underlying themes focused on facing adversity, relationship struggles, coping with grief, etc.
But today’s blog won’t be about Jane the Virgin (or else you would never hear me shut up about it…). Rather, I have some thoughts and insights I want to share with anyone who is struggling at the moment.
I think life is a constant struggle. Now that sounds intense but really, every day has its own challenges. It’s up to us, as human species, to find ways to accept the challenges as they are, disrupt the challenges or overcome them.
One way I’ve been overcoming my own challenges is through therapy. I’ve been going to therapy for about a month now and it’s been immensely helpful with realizations about my anxiety, grief and mild obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I’ve also recently taken up boxing because there is truly nothing more therapeutic than punching something. Truly.
In a way, I want this blog post to also serve as a message to my former self. It’s the advice I wish I knew when I went through so many dark times on my own. It’s the advice I wish I had when things seemed numb and meaningless.
We all feel like that sometimes, but one thing therapy has taught me is that struggle is not about suffering, it’s about overcoming suffering. The aim is not to avoid but to embrace.
So, I’ve put together a small list of tips to those who are struggling, including myself. Hopefully, you can look back on these when you are feeling low and remember that there is always hope in some form or another:
- Understand the Now. This is an important one for me and something that initially triggered my search for a therapist. See, my mom currently has stage four breast cancer (yeah, sorry to drop the C bomb like that..), but it’s been a tough journey. I’m presently struggling with anticipatory grief; or grief that occurs before death, which is common among people who are facing the eventual death of a loved one. There’s so much pressure from society to live this fast-paced, cookie-cutter lifestyle and have all these milestones mapped out that when they don’t happen (or something else happens to change the course you set out on), there’s a lot of grief and anxiety and rejection to overcome. You’re born, then you finish school, then you get a college degree, then you get married, then you have kids, then you retire, and then you die. But what if you mom is diagnosed with cancer somewhere in there? Or you don’t want to go to college? What if…
“The trouble with living to society’s plan is that you keep fast-tracking to the future”
The thing about the future is that it’s not guaranteed, so we can’t guarantee ourselves these milestones. All that you’re guaranteed of is your breath in this current moment. Right now.
I’m not suggesting that we completely forget about the milestones like marriage and kids, but I think it’s important to have faith that they will happen when the time’s right.
2. DO More. Another tough but important tip. The last thing I want to do when I’m going through something is add to my rooster of things I already need to do (phew, that’s a doozy). I’m not to first to admit that I get lazy when things don’t work out, but I’ve personally found that if I’m struggling with something, odds are it’s because I need to DO more. Doing the wrong kind of activity (like staying up late, eating too much KD and binge-watching Jane the Virgin in bed) will only amplify your suffering*.
You need to do more of the good stuff like complimenting a stranger at the bus stop, donating ten bucks to a local charity, giving that extra 10% that nobody is willing to give, doing more of what you’re passionate about, and practicing positive affirmations from time to time.
*this is a bit of an exaggeration. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with binge-watching TV shows or eating a whole pot of Kraft Dinner every once in a while. But these habits that we develop when we are LOW actually stick with us when we are HAPPY and then it becomes difficult to get out of them. My point is, it’s important to venture outside of our comfort zones and find NEW experiences because these are what help us grow and live life to the fullest.
3. Struggle Together. I recently watched the horror movie Midsommar and boy, did it teach me a lot. I wouldn’t recommend seeing this movie if you’re particularly anxious or sensitive in nature, but it’s an incredible film nonetheless and deserves its own praise. There’s a scene in the film where the main character Dani, just witnessed something difficult and she breaks down. The females of the village then all huddle around Dani and wail and cry, just as she cries. It’s super intense but it almost made me want to cry with my friends. Just imagine what that would be like if we all had “struggle circles” and just belted out outcries and screams and turmoils. The support would be unreal. We struggle, in part, because we don’t have a foundation of people underneath us to hold us up. We need people; people who will cry and laugh hold us accountable and be there when the inevitable struggles of your life begin to rage.
And with this short, hopefully helpful blog, I’ll end on my favourite Paulo Coelho quote:
‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.” – Paulo Coelho