The Struggle is Real

by Dawn Brown

The Struggle is Real

I count things.  I realize not everything that counts can be counted, but I still count things—by twos.  Some people might think it’s an obsessive compulsive disorder.  I like to think it brings more order than disorder.  And if you read my last blog about Wardrobe Wearabouts, the Dewey Decimal System I created for my closet, I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you.  But, many years before that, back when life was simpler, kids were expected to play outside, and weren’t expected to come home until the street lights came on—that’s how our summers were spent and we loved it.  I remember coming home after playing and sweating in the hot sun all day, covered in dirt, tan from the sunshine, and plumb tuckered out. My siblings and I would take a bath and prepare to watch Donny and Marie or Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters—variety shows were so ‘in’ back then—no wonder America’s Got Talent is so popular these days; it’s good, clean family fun. I’d prepare our pre-show bedtime snack of Coca-Cola and M&M’s, something we looked forward to all day long. The three of us would share a bottle of Coke—a real, 16-ounce, glass bottle that we’d return to the store later for a dime. After I evenly poured the three cups of pop, I began counting. Fifty M&M’s each; no more, no less. We’d all sit like M’s on the floor in front of the TV, take a sip here and there, and savor those M&M’s one-by-one until the show was over. That may be where my even-numbered counting began—or, where I learned about the things in life that really count.

I guess I’ve used my superpower of organization as a form of intentionality.  The Latin etymology of intentionality comes from the verb tendere meaning direct tension, as if aiming at a target.   I’m sure back in my M&M counting days my target was more of equity and fairness.  Recently, I’ve adopted a new tension in my day-to-day life…I gave up bread.  #thestruggleisreal

As you might know, my youngest son left for Afghanistan two months ago for an extended deployment.  He doesn’t live on a base, it’s more of a camp—meaning no bank, store, no amenities of any kind.  He said the food is good and the shower is hot, so it’s do-able. But, the sacrifices he’s making are hard for me to comprehend.  So, in my own have-it-better-than-I-deserve way, I decided to give up something in my life that would be a daily reminder, although nowhere near comparable, of what sacrifice feels like.  So, I’m just saying no to bread.

No hamburger buns, no buttery rolls.  No bagels with cream cheese, no ham and cheese croissants.  No, loaves of bread at Grains and Grill or jalapeño cornbread from Jefferson Street Barbecue.  While bread might not be your weak point, refusing it at each meal is a sacrifice to me—the tension is palpable. It’s not as easy as you think to point an arrow at a bullseye when it’s on the bow under so much tension.  The stress makes it difficult, but the improved focus gives you the confidence to take your shot.

Focus is the key.  What you focus on is what will win out in life—just like the old Cherokee Indian legend of the Two Wolves illustrates:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

When poverty statistics are bad, it’s easy to give up, believing the odds are stacked against us.  When we have the ability, our response isn’t always solution-oriented.  When we have the capacity to help someone, some thing, or some place, and we choose to do nothing—or worse, complain and do nothing—we can’t expect the headlines to change.  In each scenario, the evil wolf wins.

But, we can change that by simply adding some verbs to our daily diet. Give. Help. Work. Do. Change. Love. Sacrifice. In other words, we need to start feeding the right wolf—intentionally. He’s hungry. Starving even.  What can you spare for a little joy, peace, hope, and truth?  All it takes is a little intentionality.  Choose to feed the right wolf.  It will help you learn what really counts in life.  Rumor has it he loves M&M’s, Coca-Cola, and bread…hot, buttery, fresh-out-of-the-oven bread.  But, any scraps will do.  When it comes to feeding the good wolf, it’s clear that #thestruggleisreal.