this picture, which I took yesterday morning and shared on Instagram, reminds me of the photograph below
I have written about how I listen to On Being podcasts in the morning when I run. I do so at 1.5x, a detail that Matt thinks is a metaphor for my whole life. Last week, I listened to Brene Brown talking with Krista Tippett. She said many things that made me think, but among them was the assertion that “hope is a function of struggle.” She goes on: “You know, the moments I look back in my life and think, God, those are the moments that made me, were moments of struggle.”
I agree with this on an instinctual level. It also reminded me instantly of Freud’s beautiful quote that “the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful,” and of this much-less beautiful post I wrote many years ago on the topic. It seems fitting to repost it here today. I’m aware that Matt and I are coming to the end of the particular season of struggle I wrote about and had in mind. Our years with young children at home are short, and their challenges are different now, less physical, more emotional. Of course the closing of this struggle will usher in new ones, and they’ve already begun to.
It has been six years almost exactly since I wrote this post (7/26/10). The landscape of my life looks very different from it did that day. But in other, essential ways, it is precisely the same. The guiding principles and, yes, struggles, are unchanged. The beauty still exists in those struggles. I know that even more surely know.
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”
– Sigmund Freud
Many thanks to Anthony Lawlor, from whom I found this quote on Twitter. I do believe this to be true, absolutely, though it’s so incredibly difficult to remember in the moments where the struggle seems overwhelming. The struggle which occurs for me on so many levels these days. The struggle to stop my crazy squirrel brain from frantically spinning over and over on the same questions. The struggle to remain patient and present with my lovely children who can be charming, curious, and incredibly aggravating. The struggle not to over-identify with Grace, to maintain the distance and perspective I need to parent her well. The struggle not to crush Whit’s effervescent spirit, whose enthusiastic bubbles sometimes challenge the rules and norms. The struggle to try to keep alive my professional and creative selves, as well as to have enough left over for those who need me.
“These are the day of miracle and wonder”
– Paul Simon
For some reason that lyric was in my head nonstop this weekend. My subconscious was trying to remind me of the richness of the present moment, I suspect, which can be so hard to really see.
It was a weekend with plenty of struggle as well as ample beauty. Somehow the struggle is so quick to occlude the beauty, so much more urgent and immediate, so hard to shake off. Does this make sense? It is here, on the page, and through the lens of my camera that I am more able to see the beauty. It rises more slowly, over time, asserting itself in memory rather than in the vivid moment. The beauty is in the smallest moments, infinity opening, surprising me every time, from the most infinitessimal things, like a world in the back of a wardrobe (there really are only two or three human stories, and we do go on telling them, no?). Why is it, then, that the struggles, also often small, can so quickly and utterly yank me back to the morass of misery and frustration, away from the wonders that are revealed in the flashing moments of beauty?
I wish I could change the dynamic between these two, but the beauty, fragile as it is in the moment, seems sturdier over the long arc of a life. Freud’s quote supports this, the notion that the beauty develops over time, like a print sitting in the solution for a long time, image gradually forming on the slick surface of the photo paper, slowly, haltingly hovering into being. It is, of course, the photograph that is the enduring artifact of the experience.
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