The Plain Struggle, a Writing Meta Post

A black stormy sky and a close up shot of purple brush. It was shot in infrared according to the photographer.
Image by Mike Lewinski / CC BY

Why can’t I struggle more beautifully?

I wake from a dead sleep with that thought repeating in my head. So much of the day stretches out before me like a blank expanse. It’s a wilderness I’m tasked not only with traversing but populating. 

I shuffle to yesterday’s coffee. It’s sitting smugly in the pot. Cold. I take a second to wonder if I’ll throw it out like a sensible person. Rinse out all the components of my 2-in-1 grind/brew. Set up a steaming pot with new beans.

Or if, like the lowest mornings, I’ll quickly pour the cold leftovers into a cup that I nuke in the microwave.

It’s an important choice. Tells me what kind of morning to expect. Am I mustering up the resolve to float above the day’s work, conjuring whole worlds from air? Or am I going to crawl along on my belly like a stubborn lizard, popping bugs into my mouth?

Both approaches have their advantages.  Sure, working from on high is a lot more dignified, but you see different things when you’re down low.

“Screw it,” I say, dumping the cold coffee in the sink. “We’re making fresh coffee this morning.”

And it seems like a good omen. Doing the right thing, making a full effort, with eyes still blurry from sleep. Shuffling around the kitchen on legs that seem like they don’t want to work yet.

But once I’m at the keyboard, I stay stuck in crawling mode for hours. I start to feel that I’ve chosen poorly.

Struggles Are Rarely Beautiful in the Moment

I think that’s the real brutality of a struggle: They’re rarely beautiful. Not when you’re in them anyway. They can look that way sometimes, especially in hindsight, when you know that the tedium has led somewhere interesting.

Or in other people when they’re sharing the pithier bits of their struggle, studding their social media feeds with chosen lowbrow moments. A sort of ruin porn in miniature.

Then, the mud can look rather shiny. Nuanced.

Instead of the uniform murkiness of the many moments of not knowing.

And yet, as you sift through the mud, you often discover valuable things beneath its depths.

It’s just the sorting that’s hard to narrate. And nothing anyone wants to watch play out in real time.

That’s why “reality” TV has the edit. And why our personal stories owe so much to tenor and vehicle.

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