Trust Your Struggle

DenaSeptember 6, 2011 | Trust Your Struggle

“My mouth is a fire escape. The words coming out don’t care that they are naked, there is something burning in here.” —Andrea Gibson

Sometimes we want to say something, but words fail us. Maybe we want to describe the goosebumps that crawl all over our bodies while listening to Nina Simone. Or the rush of blood to the head as we watch watercolors creep across the sky at sunset. Or the way that we want to fall to our knees standing on the shore as the tide comes in. But we can’t always find the words, and so we say nothing.

I’ve been having a hard time and it’s one of those times when the words just won’t come. But still, I’m here, I’m trying. Recently I was writing to a friend and I was telling him how I feel a bit lost and confused; how I’m not sure exactly what I want to do with my life. And just when I thought that I was quite alone in the world, he reminded me that I am not, not at all.

There is a line in the sunscreen song that says: Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t. It makes me happy… because it’s so true.

My grandmother was an artist. One time we were making an oil painting together and I asked her for a ruler. She said: Dena, there are no straight lines in nature. That has always stuck with me. That’s the way it is with life, too. There are no straight lines. There are periods of calm and then there are tidal waves. There are little bumps in the road and sometimes there are cliffs and all of a sudden you’re falling into the depths never knowing what hit you. And all of it is alright. There are no straight lines, not really.

Sometimes I come down on myself for not being “enough.” When that happens I like to remind myself of Steven Pressfield. He once said that the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. And I like that a lot. I think it’s true for art, and I think it’s true for life, too. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

Even though it’s not always easy to see it in the present, when I look back on my life, the struggles are the most beautiful parts. Right now, I’m trying to trust my struggle.

It’s not perfect, but I’m trying.

Comments (15)

  • Matt

    September 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm


    This hits close to home. Those two quotes are life changing:

    There are no straight lines in nature.

    Nothing Else Matters but sitting down and trying everyday.

    I often get down on myself for not having a job in a field that I am passionate about. I currently see my job and a place where I need to be in order to get where I am going. A stepping stone that a ways off from the lake. Eventually I will get there, but I need to learn a few things along the way I guess.



    1. Dena

      September 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

      I’m really glad that those quotes resonated with you, Matt. 🙂 I know what you mean about not feeling “passionate” about your job. I find that pursuing my passions as hobbies often fills the void. But, still, I know what you mean. Sometimes it’s painful to be forced to do something you hate, or even dislike, for a paycheck.

      I’m still searching for the answers. Just when I think I’ve got it figure out, my world flips again.

  • Lou Mello

    September 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I favor the saying “one step at a time”, it says all we need to do in life. Just keep moving forward, try to do a little good each day and abide by the Golden Rule. Everything else will find its place around you as you move on step by step. No magic will fall from the sky, you will surprise yourself by making your own without even realizing it.

    1. Dena

      September 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      You always sound so certain, secure, and calm. You are definitely a soothing presence in my life, Lou. It must be nice to have reached such a place of security & happiness in your life.

  • andra watkins

    September 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    As one of those forty-somethings who still struggles with what she wants to be when she grows up, I can tell you this: the struggle makes life richer. It fills in the color. It adds nuance to the flat and dull. Not knowing the answers is, for me, one of the amazing bits of living.

    I’ve missed you and wondered where your lovely posts were. Thanks for sharing your struggle. It made a post that speaks to more people than you know. xo

    1. Karen Snyder

      September 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm

      Amen, Andra. This is wonderful, Dena. I need to be reading your posts on a regular basis!

      1. Dena

        September 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm

        Hi Karen! Thank you so much. I’m really glad you’ve found me. Isn’t Andra just the best? 😉


    2. Dena

      September 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Oh, thank you ever-so-much, Andra. Reading your words–“a post that speaks to more people thank you know”–absolutely fills me up! It is my greatest hope. You are so right, it is the struggle that gives life it’s spice. I wouldn’t want it any other way. <3

  • Liz DeLoach

    September 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Great blog post, and I love the statement that there are no straight lines in life! So true. I ‘ve been and done many different things in my almost 49 (aarrrrgghhhh!) years. What I loved five years ago would not work now. Winding paths are far more interesting anyway. Every day is indeed a chance to try again. And this quote comes to mind: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day that says: “I’ll try again tomorrow.” 🙂

    1. Dena

      September 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      “Winding paths are far more interesting anyway.”

      Ah, yes, yes, yes! Thank you so much for being here, Liz. Thank you for your comment and encouragement. 🙂

  • Mark

    September 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I heard that pearls are made by outrageous tidal irritation. Anyone can hold their head high in the high-times, the swell-season. Grit and guts are made when the tide ebbs. Your words come from the tides of suffering–and so, are pearls. If I have anything of value to “glory” in, it’s the fact that I can’t even begun to articulate the long-suffering. Most things the world tells me I’m valuable for are good luck and good timing. There are no real pearls there.
    p.s. my grandma was an artist too.
    p.s.s. i like your friend a lot too

  • Dawn

    September 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Haha…I’m in that 40 range. I would like to say it’s not too late…cause that would be depressing, and I don’t do that too well.

    Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break. Your post inspired me to acknowledge that I as falling into old yucky patterns of despair. So I took some action. Action cures!

    1. Dena

      September 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      You are wonderful, Dawn. I am ever-grateful for your e-presence in my life. May we continue to grow wiser always. <3

  • Kristin

    September 14, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I love the story about you asking your grandmother for a ruler while painting… that is so beautiful. I’m honored to follow you as you figure these things out, Dena

    1. Dena

      September 19, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Thanks, Kristin! It is a very special memory for me. You know how I feel about my grandmother she was (and is) a true angel in my life. <3

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