Granny’s favorite phrase. “It’s good to struggle.” has been coming to mind again.
It’s a phrase she repeated for practically every situation and it is a phrase I loathed with every fiber of my being.
When we went through a very stressful, challenging situation shortly after Cole was born, rather than offer empathy or sympathy — two things she lacked profusely — she repeated her phrase to me.
“You’ll be alright,” she stated matter-of-factly. “It’s good for y’all to struggle; it’ll bring you closer.”
“We’re good, I don’t need to be closer to Lamar,” I said. “I want to stop with the constant nightmares.”
Those tough situations were things a lot of people are probably facing now.
Job loss, housing concerns, and just fear of how to get by day to day. And we had a newborn on top of it. We didn’t know how we were going to survive, only that we had to.
Granny telling me daily it was good to struggle wore on my nerves. How could she be so cold-hearted to what we were going through? Did she not care?
I was her only grandchild — Cole her great-grandchild.
We were facing what seemed to be not just one, but several insurmountable obstacles all at once.
And her idea of words of comfort and peace were, “It’s good to struggle?”
She thought it was somehow a badge of honor, to have struggled and gone through trials and tribulations. She spoke of them often with pride.
In some ways, she probably felt like it made her tougher, stronger, but I also wonder if it made her bitter and maybe hard-hearted.
Her saying always annoyed me, much like that ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ phrase that floats around now.
Not everyone has a bootstrap; some people may not even have a shoe.
That’s how we felt at that time.
We were scared. Worried.
You can be doing everything right in the world and still have the rug yanked out from under you and not have the first clue how you will move forward.
It wasn’t the struggle that made you stronger; it was the sheer digging and clawing your way of the abyss.
There were plenty of times I didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t give up.
I thought stubbornness or stupidity was what kept me going but I was wrong. It was something entirely different. Grit.
Grit is what makes the difference between those that make it, come hell or highwater, and those who give up.
There’s nothing wrong with giving up sometimes either. I think that is some insane notion of continuing to do something, when you know it is a lose-lose situation.
Being able to walk away when you know you need to takes a lot of courage.
But more times than not, we don’t have a choice.
The characteristics of grit include that aforementioned courage. Perseverance, passion, resilience, and vigilance are gritty traits, too.
Being able to adapt and bend without breaking were necessary too. There were times I had to get creative in my solutions and be willing to receive an outcome that differed than my expectations.
It nearly broke me, but I didn’t have the option to give up. I’d have a mini-meltdown, wipe my face, and keep at it.
During that year, Mama had a life-threatening medical scare and major surgery, so I tried my best to not worry her.
Granny, on the other hand, was all up in my business.
“You got a lot to be grateful for, you know it?” she said.
“What?” Her comment made me a little mad.
How dare she ask how I was doing and then respond with I had a lot to be grateful for.
“Oh, really?” I asked.
“You do,” she said again. “You’ve got a healthy baby. You’ve got a husband that tolerates your hateful little self more than you deserve. You’ve got a roof over your head — for now — and you’ve got family that will take you in should that change. You’ve got food. It may not be what you like to eat, but you’ve got something to eat. You’ve got family that do care about you. You’ve got a dang cussed lot to be thankful for, old gal, and I’d suggest you sit your tail down and count your blessings before you forget.”
Those things were a given. I was thankful for them. She had no right to say otherwise. And in one of our firsts of many battles, I told her so.
She sat there, uncharacteristically silent for a few seconds.
“You don’t like how things are? Then you need to praise yourself out of that situation. Be thankful for what you’ve got, or you could lose that.”
I hated her delivery. Oh, how I hated her delivery.
But when my anger had surpassed, I realized she was right.
I needed to focus on what I had. And when I did, I found I had more than I realized. Counting those blessings gave me the grace I needed to get through.
During some points this year, and maybe even the one before, and the one before that, there have been times I didn’t think I had a grain of grit left. The situations were different than what I had experienced before, but they were still overwhelming.
I’ve wanted to just lie down and give up. But you keep going, that’s what you do. And you find the grace in the grit.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.