In the terrific and very moving movie Still Alice, the character, Alice, played by Julianne Moore, made a speech talking about her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. She explains ‘Do not think of me as suffering. I am not suffering. I am struggling’. This line stood out to me. It revealed a hugely important concept in how we decide to live our lives.
The reality is that life is tough in many ways. I know that some will argue with me on this as they believe that positive thinking and the right attitude is all you need. The truth is that a good attitude oftentimes helps us to cope and deal with the hardships that life brings. However they don’t prevent them from happening. The world is not perfect and the inevitability of death is an ever present reality.
The term struggling is seen as a very bad term by the self-help brigade. It conjures up thoughts and images of failure and the pain of not achieving what you want. I understand this. But the word is a verb. It is an active image of you fighting against the odds. You may be losing but you have not lost.
When you suffer, you have already lost. Suffering, too, is a verb. It is something that we do. Many experts claim to show you the way out of suffering, like suffering is a location which you are trapped in. But I believe our ultimate power comes from the choice to see suffering as a decision. And you have another option.
The reason that line ‘Do not think of me as suffering. I am not suffering. I am struggling’ made such an impact on me is because I believe that it expresses, beautifully, the most important lesson of all. It explains the most important choice we have to make. In the event of our problems, what do we do? In the event of tragedy. In the event of illness or pain. In the event of things not going our way. What do we do?
Do we simply allow ourselves to suffer this hardship and these hard times? That is the ultimate question. Because we can also struggle. Struggling instead of suffering suggests that we are trying… working away… doing what we can to succeed. Struggling means it is tough but we are fighting. And that is what we need to do.
Of course there are times to accept what is. There are times to grieve and allow yourself feel the pain that comes with losing someone. But far more of the suffering which we inflict upon ourselves comes from the devastating brutal dark side of our mind. Our negative inner voice. The part of our mind that attacks us, that terrifies us, that makes us miserable.
When we suffer from anxiety or suffer from depression, we are the victims of these evil and dreadful mental illnesses. But I think it is absolutely critical to choose to struggle instead. Struggle because it means you are fighting. And it is a fight that you can win. Even if sometimes it feels hopeless. Even if sometimes you feel helpless. Even if the darkness seems to take over… struggle. Struggle. Struggle. Struggle forward and dig deep. You can overcome and get through the toughest challenges and problems out there. But you first need to let go of the label of victim and do whatever you can do to move forward.
There are people out there who can help you. There are things you can learn and do which can help. It is time to stop suffering and start struggling. Although I have been blessed in many, many ways, my life has been a struggle in plenty of ways. But I refuse to suffer any more. Instead, I will keep moving forward.
To me, it is sometimes the simple things like this which make the biggest difference. I hope your life is full of amazing things going brilliantly for you. But when this isn’t the case, I hope you struggle and say no to suffering.
Image: Thanks to http://www.gratisography.com/