When I am struggling in life, my end of the line often goes dead. I do my best struggling alone. I sob, I cycle through the poor me, why me, and when me. I view myself as alone, always, when I am at my lowest. Then, when I am ready, I pick up…..and I move forward. For me, it’s really when I do my best work, in regards to self-awareness, accountability, and empathy.
The problem with this form of struggle is for those who love us. Those who love us, love us when we are at our best. They love us when we are at our worst. They love us during the in between, mundane times as well. We bring them along when we are at our best, we bring them along for the boring, but the line goes dead during the struggle. Probably a bit confusing to those who process differently.
What does that say to our inner circle? What are they assuming is our motivation during this time?
This is where things can get sticky…..assuming motivations. Those who love us will either assume we are struggling and bear with us, or they will take it personally and it will create distance. It all depends on what story they bring to the table. It also depends on what story our family has created for us. Did our family provide a space for us to grieve? Did they provide a space for us to think on our own? Did they provide a space for the struggle? Do any of us know the right way to struggle? Is there a right way to struggle? How can we let others struggle in their own way, if we are not comfortable with our own struggling process?
Personally, and professionally I feel the right way to struggle is akin to the right way to experience self-care. Self-care should energize us, it should feed us spiritually and leave us feeling motivated and at peace for what comes next. Struggling is the same in my book. We all need to struggle, that is how we grow and create space for change. Struggling is an inherently personal journey. We all struggle differently. Some of us struggle out loud, and some of us struggle silently.
My best form of self-care is hiking. In the hiking world, fellow hikers build what’s called a cairn to let us know we are in the right place on our journey. A cairn is a small tower of rocks, marking the trail. When you see a cairn it reassures you, that you have been on the correct path and continue to be on the correct path. The cairn brings a warmth to my heart when I see it and reassures me that I’m okay, that I’m just on a journey and I will wind up at the place I am intended to. It soothes my anxiety about the journey, and just helps me to be present with the uncertainty of struggling.
So I thought……what if we took the cairn out of the mountains and brought it into our relationships? What if we used it as a marker, to let those we love know that we are okay…..just on a journey. The cairn could help us to bring clarity to those who process differently. The cairn could help define our motivations for those who don’t understand our different way of struggling. The cairn could be an offering of sorts, to provide a deeper understanding to those we love. That while we love them just as much, we process differently, and that is okay.
The cairn could tell them…
I love you…and I am in my thinking space.
I love you, and I am processing.
I love you, and am where I am supposed to be.
I love you and I need a little more silence, but I will get there.
I love you and please accept this as a bridge of understanding between us.
I love you and please don’t punish me for silence.
I love you and need you in my life, please hang on with me.
We could send a picture of a cairn by text, as that is our most often used form of communication these days. Sending it by text would continue to support our silent struggle for those of us who need it, but it would also support those we love, who struggle differently. It would be a smoke signal, of sorts, that would break the silence, while continuing to support our struggle space. The cairn honors all forms of struggling, all forms of motivation and bridges a gap of understanding that could create discord with the ones we love the most.
Those of us who struggle silently owe it to the ones we love to send a cairn, to calm their worries and respect their love for us. Those who love someone who struggles silently, owe it to them, to accept the cairn, and allow the space needed to move forward. It’s a love pledge of sorts, that while we may not struggle the same, we love each other just as hard and just as continuous. No explanation needed, no misunderstandings….just space for love.