The surprising truth, beauty and opportunity hidden behind life’s sh*ttier moments

Jo Parry, AVM member (my own views, not representing AVM, but had great fun discussing them with other members at a recent AVM members’ book club.)

‘Struggle’… is that a word that has resonated with you recently?

I was initially drawn to the title of the book ‘Struggle’ as it perfectly defined where I was at that moment. ‘Life’s sh*ttier moments’… I think we have all had a few of those in the past year!

Picking up the book, I hoped it would help me come through to ‘the other side’ of struggle. It did something far more powerful. Grace Marshall encourages the reader to acknowledge there will often be struggle and sh*t moments in life. To not fight against it, run away or see it as a failure but to accept that it is exactly where you need to be to. Grace suggests that ‘rather than waiting for the struggle to pass, we live out life in all it’s fullness, whatever the situation, wherever we find ourselves’.

Grace’s words and the topics discussed in the book provoked some personal reflections on the last year and home, work, and volunteering life.

Throughout the pandemic, it feels like sector colleagues, whether out of work, in work or on furlough repetitively, shared the same heightened challenge – learning to be comfortable in discomfort. ‘Struggle’ discusses the how we might start to move from feeling comfortable in what we know to learning to feel comfortable in what we don’t know.

We have all had to tread into the unknown this year. ‘Struggle’ explores how this is when we ‘learn, how we develop…and discover how capable we are’ as ‘there is often magic in the mess’. With our adoption of new ways of working, perhaps the book would suggest we have grown more than ever this year. Have our own relationships with risk evolved to help us to step out of our comfort zones more?

We now more than ever recognise the importance of prioritising the areas of life most important to us. ‘Struggle’ explores the biology and psychology of wellbeing and self-care (‘not necessarily ‘spa days and smoothies’) in a refreshing way. That ‘Technology is 24/7, humans are not’. Parallels drawn to the dangers of continued ploughing resulting in a ‘failed crop’. Might we all need a ‘fallow season’ after such a challenging year?

‘Struggle’ is built around bitesize chunks and short chapters which make it very readable and easy to pick up and put down (useful if you have a short attention span!). It cleverly builds a logical path of encouragement, balancing storytelling, and curiosity through philosophical and practical discussion points. It is warm, non-judgemental, accepting and encourages you to take the same approach towards others and their Struggle. I highly recommend.

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