Scott Peck opened his bestseller, The Road Less Travelled, stating that “Life is Difficult”. Buddhism tells us that “Life is Suffering”. Christianity teaches us that “Life is Sacrifice”. Have we been misled?
I remember studying history at school and how much I loved it. I remember learning that on July 14th of 1789, La Bastiglia was taken in France. The revolution had started and people were freed from slavery and the monarchy and noble classes’ arrogance.
I love making use of metaphors in my work and I found this one to be a truly interesting one for my life. A revolution is made up of rebels, people who resist the establishment and push the boundaries of what society deems acceptable. Since I was little, I somehow always felt that I was a rebel. A quiet rebel, or something to that effect, which was fitting with my Chinese horoscope, in which I am a quiet morning tiger. I was not a political rebel, but I guess we might call it a, ‘civil and human rebel’?
In fact, there were many times in my life when I did everything but rebel, because I was scared or chose to think it was better not to.
As the French people initiated the Revolution in the streets of Paris, I felt I did so within the walls and confines of my family. Still today I’m told by friends and clients that I am like a Joan of Arc to them, and with my family I am the first to instil the boundaries when they cross the line with me.
It was not a coincidence that I chose to marry on the same date as the La Prix de la Bastille, 28 years ago to represent what my romantic life had been until that moment: a struggle.
Indeed, life to me was a struggle since the moment I was born. My mum went into labour, where she remained for 24 hours, until she had no strength left to push. As the story goes, a stocky nurse then ‘jumped’ on my mum’s belly and *poof* I was born. No one may ever know or be able to feel the pain a baby must endure after such an arduous labour and external intervention. That was my first attempt at surviving death, as it is for many others too.
For me, as for many others, struggles seemed to continue throwing themselves onto my path into adulthood. No matter what road we take, they come. That’s what counts the most and builds the foundation of our lives. From birth and through our childhood, we start learning to struggle to live. We learn to protect ourselves, which requires us to resist and become resistant. For many of us, this isn’t even an option but a question of survival. Think about all the children around the world who are raised in dysfunctional families, in which ignorance around the damages of domestic violence, abuse and neglect persist. I come from one such a family and know from first person what this can do. My mum and dad also came from such a family. Did yours? Did you?
Think about the children coming from families who love deeply but are encumbered by extreme misery: how could it turn out to be healthy, positive love that’s passed on to the children? Think about those children who migrate empty-handed with their desperate families only to reach European shores to find low paid and spiritless work, with little chance of seeing their homes and friends for a long time. Think about those who have to survive in the wars over in Yemen and Syria, or those recently kept in cages separated from their parents by order of Donald Trump.
The message seems to be pretty clear for children from very early on: life is a struggle and you need to fight. Even if that means having to rebel, resist, be disobedient, walk through the fire in order to survive. I agree with the Italian writer, Carlo Bordoni, author of ‘Il Paradosso di Icaro’, when he says, “not only is disobedience the salt of life, but the origin and the motivation of life”.
Looking back to my wedding day, it’s so clear to me that the message of struggle, imprinted in my conscience, had a direct effect on me, leading me to recreate struggle in my relationships through whom I chose to marry. Undoubtedly, given this underlying and ingrained belief, I chose to be with someone ‘difficult’ and resistant. Someone whom I had to conquer or win over, exactly as the rebels had done with Bastille. He was not going to easily give up the piece of him I craved the most (and that was missing in me: my lost self), which is probably why I was drawn to him regardless of the red flags and lack of evidence that this could ever amount to be a successful and smooth relationship.
We both knew.
My personal radar was wired for danger and could detect those signs. His was the same, I can admit today with a smile on my face. Through him I could jump into another situation or circumstance that would deliver the struggle I was so accustomed to and couldn’t live without.
On the 14th of July, 1990, I won my own battle and ‘got the Bastille’. At that time and for many years after, I never really realised the price that I paid for that victory. A very high and painful one to remember today as I write on the 28th anniversary of that date. Finally, I can objectively remember the facts and see how I’d built the foundations of my life on the innate belief that to be happy I had to struggle.
What a powerful belief. But most importantly, what a powerful lie.
Most of the children in this society, considering that the majority live in poverty or under abusive neglectful and violent circumstances, grow up believing this lie and live out their lives as though it were their destiny to struggle. What other choice do they have? We need to fight to live. We need to resist and rebel to survive.
Why should we fight to live life, when all religions and spiritual movements affirm that life is given to us as a gift? Shouldn’t it then be lived as a gift rather that a continuous fight or flight?
I am doing my best to show and help my daughter feel that life is a gift. When you give a gift to someone you love, you don’t ask or expect anything in return as a parent, or friend, or lover, or colleague.
Before my life could take a different direction and lead me to finally let go of the struggle I was conditioned to live with, I had to recognise the mistaken belief so that I could transform it. I had to stop fighting, resisting and rebelling out of anger and fear. I had to push myself so far out of my comfort zone, as we all do, and start living life from a space of love and responsibility first, knowing that I’m not alone but supported by a higher energy. Working through discomfort from a space of trust rather than fear, opens us up to so many opportunities. It’s not a quick fix so supporting yourself with a feeling of trust can give you the resilience necessary.
Yes, on the 14th of July, 1990, I won my battle and I won the Bastille. But the Bastille didn’t want to be mine. Nobody wants to be conquered and taken prisoner. I didn’t offer a free choice. My love was not mature and unconditional as it is today. It was ‘negative’ love as Bob Hoffman defines it, a love that was imprisoning and not freeing.
The Bastille resisted and the fight became tougher and more humiliating day by day. One day the Bastille rebelled and made me his prisoner. I paid the price for my fight and resistance and wanted to retaliate and humiliate the Bastille for the humiliation I’d had to endure.
In the years that followed, I realised that life cannot only be lived by fighting and resisting. Equally, it can’t only be lived by surrendering to the enemy and becoming the ‘victim’ either. We must build awareness and balance in the world and most importantly, pass this message to our children and friends.
My defiant fight for and capture of my Bastille, can be translated to all the countries that have become war zones or are privy to poverty around the world. Just as I’d paid the price for my fight, so will we, for our fight against all the countries and populations we’ve attacked, abused, neglected, dominated and robbed of resources and dignity. Populations we’ve imprisoned, will eventually imprison us. This is why education and awareness is key.
Trump’s recent visit to London and the huge protest that followed his arrival, explicitly shows how we are all as a population driven by the same motto: life is a struggle, we need to protect ourselves, we must rebel and resist. So, we fight back against Trump’s decision to abuse and neglect with a similar tool: shouting and humiliating. We are all victims of and rebelling against Trump’s narcissistic and sociopathic personality, which exists because he was possibly once victimised, abused, neglected and humiliated too. He, like us, had no other choice but to resist, fight back and humiliate even more, until he became the man he is today.
It’s the same in the microcosmic example of my marriage, as it is in each of our lives. It doesn’t matter what level or scale, we can all be victims and aggressors, and we all want to rescue the world of the negative love it’s rife with.
Things in our lives, as well on the bigger scale of society, will only change when we set new models and beliefs as parents and teachers. New seeds and more hopeful beliefs need to be sown in rich and poor families, across the globe. Because life is not meant to be a struggle. That is a lie.
Life is a magical adventure and all of us, rich or poor, have the right to live it by enjoying its beauty, having fun, and connecting with others. This is not to say that we will not come across obstacles, adversaries, challenges. When it’s required, we must struggle and rebel, we should not become complacent. My point is that struggle should not define your life.
Is transforming this lie an easy process? No. It seems like an impossible challenge for so many, and it is a truly laborious task to undertake, but impossible is nothing and the results and hope will persevere far longer than the discomfort and pain does.
When we connect with ‘positive love’ and joy, we can change our perception of life. When we focus on what is there already rather than on what isn’t, we can change our perspective of life. When we stop fighting and resisting and start saying ‘yes’ to what unfolds because it all has a reason to be, we can change our experience of life.
With practice and awareness we will have the power to transform any struggle we might face into momentary derailment. We’ll be able to look our ‘struggle’ in the eyes and flow with it so that we do not create greater disturbance but maximise the joy in our heart.
I say, “Life is a Magical Adventure”.
Header image by Mihai Surdu
This article was featured on Thrive Global
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