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Succeeding through struggles

April 17, 2016

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare… Poem by William Henry Davies.

 

I remember we recited the above poem when I was in form two several years ago.  Of course as a student I really didn’t comprehend the hidden meaning of those words. After all, my greatest concern those days was not whether my kids had eaten or whether they had school fees, or whether I had rent. My greatest concern then was whether I’d ever finish school, get a job and leave my parents house because, they were too tough on me – or so I thought. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone?

Fast forward to the present; I wish I was still a child being told by my mom what to do or what not to do. I would never argue with her. Never.  Plus I’d never want to grow up and leave home. Life as an adult is very tough! The responsibilities that come with adulthood are major and if one is not prepared for them in the right way, then they stand a high risk of not making it in life. There are too many worries and problems in the world we live in today. Indeed like William Henry said in the above poem, life is full of too many cares that we have no time to just enjoy life.

Well, that is what we have been led to believe. But if we are to go by the good book’s instructions, we should not hold on to our cares but instead we should cast them to our creator who will then handle them for us as we enjoy life. Easier said than done, but when done, it becomes easy.

Anyway, moving on, as I was thinking of the cares we find ourselves “caring” about, I remembered a story I once read about a man and a butterfly. Read on…

A man, an avid Gardener saw a small Butterfly laying few eggs in one of the pots in his garden. Since that day he looked at the eggs with ever growing curiosity and eagerness.

One egg started to move and shake a little. He was excited to see a new life coming up right in front of his eyes. He spent hours watching the egg now. The egg started to expand and develop cracks.

A tiny head and antennae started to come out ever so slowly. The man's excitement knew no bounds. He got his magnifying glasses and sat to watch the life and body of a pupa coming out. He saw the struggle of the tender pupa and couldn't resist his urge to "HELP".

He went and got a tender forceps to help the egg break, a nip here, a nip there to help the struggling life and the pupa was out. The man was ecstatic! He waited now each day for the pupa to grow and fly like a beautiful butterfly, but alas that never happened.

The larvae pupa had an oversized head and kept crawling along in the pot for four full weeks and died!

Depressed the man went to his botanist friend and asked the reason. His friend told him the struggle to break out of the egg helps the larvae to send blood to its wings and the head-push helps the head to remain small so that the tender wings can support it thru its 4-week life cycle. You see, in his eagerness to help, the man destroyed a beautiful life!

Pause and think about this whole scenario here, and its implications.

You see, many are the times we want to take shortcuts in life, not wanting to go through the whole cycle of things in order to get to where we want to get. We like avoiding struggles because in our minds (and in reality), struggles are bothersome, uncomfortable and just depressing in some cases. What I have come to realize is that as much as struggles are all those things I’ve mentioned above, they also have a positive role to play in our lives. They help us develop character traits that we may be lacking sometimes such as strength, resilience, patience, focus, determination, etc. It is while we struggle that we develop all these and once we get them, then it becomes easy for us to face whatever challenges life throws at us.

Life is like a gymnasium or a fitness studio. Unless you are willing to put in the hard work, unless you are willing to go through the hurdles and struggles, then you cannot get what you want. For instance, if you are in the gym to build muscles, then my friend you have to be ready to carry weights that will make you feel like screaming your great grandmother’s name as you struggle to lift them up. If you are in the fitness studio to shed off some weight and get those abs and a 6-pack, then you have to be ready to go through an insane routine that will make you want to curse every single day you ate chips mayai, burgers and all manner of other junk food.

If you are training to become a marathoner, then my friend you have to spend time running several kilometers on a daily basis regardless of whether it is raining or shining, while maintaining a certain speed. I can guarantee you there are times along the trail you will feel like your lungs are burning but if you want to become fit enough to run a marathon, then you have no choice but to keep training until your lungs become used to that pressure. Without pain, there is no gain.

The same applies to life. Without pain, we cannot gain. We have to be ready to go through some struggles in order to change levels, otherwise, we remain in our pupa stage for the rest of our lives until we die. We have to allow ourselves to push and shove out of our shells (current situation) until we break out of the egg and start our journey to being fully grown beautiful and colorful butterflies.

I do not know what egg (situation) you in right now, or how many times you have hit the egg shell from the inside so far but it is not breaking. Remember the tender pupa? One of the reasons it has to hit the egg from the inside is so that its head can remain small. So if your egg has not yet broken, then maybe your head is still not small enough and needs some more reduction before you break through the egg. The head in this case could mean that there are some character traits that you still need to develop such as patience, persistence, self-belief, etc. Hang in there and don’t give up. In due course, you will break the egg and get out of the shell and since you will have followed the correct course of the cycle, you will definitely survive the world.

I love what Arnold Schwarzenegger said; “The resistance that you fight physically in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build a strong character.”

So no matter what you are going through right now, don’t give up but remember that every struggle in your life is meant to shape you into the person you are meant to be. Be thankful for the hard times because they can only make you stronger. Finally, you have to stand in Faith especially when you are having the hardest time of your life. You have to believe that you will make it no matter what happens!

Remember, the struggle you are in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Keep pushing and don’t give up!

PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 17th April, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".

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