So, what is the challenge of your life? What is the struggle that defines you, your “life myth?”
It’s real, that struggle. It’s real for two reasons.
First, it’s real because it’s based in fact. You really are torn between those challenges.
Second, it’s real because you believe in it, and because you believe in it, it shapes your choices.
Your understanding of what your struggle is changes your perception of the events you experience. Your perception of your experiences shape the choices you make. And the choices you make shape your life. Changing your choices is the only thing you can do to change your life, since you have no direct control over environment or outcomes, just control over what you choose to think, to believe, to do.
The challenge, though, isn’t to not struggle. You are human; struggle defines life in a finite world.
The challenge is to struggle for something good and empowering. Creating a struggle for something better, rather than something futile or petty, will change your choices, and change your world.
“Buy the premise, buy the bit,” as comedy writers say. Changing the premise changes everything.
In trans, we see people’s struggle by seeing what they hate. HBS people have defined their struggle as against perverts & poseurs, rather than a struggle against a society that has trouble with trans. Struggling against freaks seems easier than struggling against the world, or worse — struggling against yourself.
Rehab isn’t there to fix you. Rehab is there to redefine your struggle. It’s no longer between you and whatever is hurting you, now the struggle is between you and your addictions. The change from an outer directed struggle, one where people are out to hurt you and the best you can do is dope up, to an inner directed struggle, one where you strive to engage your own healing and deal with all those outer interferences.
Life threatening diseases have the same effect, instantly changing your struggle. Your first struggle might be to try and not let go of your old struggle, but your new struggle will win out, and that will change you.
Andy Rooney loved WWII because the whole country — heck, the whole world — was engaged in the same struggle, which gave a kind of commonality and community he hasn’t found since. Choosing a struggle that is one of outwardly-directed service offers a whole different life than a struggle of inwardly-directed hurt & anger.
It’s amazing how many struggles are ones that we believe we have to engage to join the group. Do you share the struggles of women, of African-Americans, of Christians, of conservatives? If you change your struggle, do you lose your identity in that group? So many people struggle to be comfortable, to be normative, to maintain the status quo that they see their struggle as outwardly directed, silencing people who threaten change.
It’s not easy to change your struggle, to change what you see as the defining challenge of your life. But that struggle does change across your life, as any kid knows. The struggles of a second grader are different than the struggles of an sixth grader, are different than the struggles of a freshman in college.
My struggle is, and always has been, one of denial. I need to deny my own whatever in order not to disquiet people, because if they saw the real me — big, queer, tranny, smart, shaman, intense, whatever — they would not be able to handle it. I am just too whatever for society, so my struggle is to deny that whatever.
With a struggle of denial, is it any wonder that I also deny myself choices that would be healing, be powerful, be rewarding, be good for me?
I need a new struggle, one directed towards becoming better rather than one directed to becoming smaller.
People around me know that’s what I need, but they want me to just change in small ways, not to be transformed by transforming my struggle. They know their struggle, and their struggle is to stay in place, stay in the status quo, and not to enter the struggle to make good and potent drama.
I need to struggle to be present and positive in a world that wants to erase me, to be what I can be, to boldly sing the song my mother in the sky placed in my heart.
The only way to change my life is to change my struggle.
But, as all humans in community know, the old struggles of others just keep hauling me back in, and that feels like too much struggle anyhow.