At War

“You have suffered enough and warred with yourself. It’s time that you won.”

This past weekend wasn’t the first time I’d heard the song “Falling Slowly,” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, from the film and Broadway musical Once. For several years now, I’ve enjoyed the soulful, raw harmonies in the song, with sweet acoustic guitar and piano. But until this last weekend, I hadn’t noticed that set of lyrics: “You have suffered enough and warred with yourself. It’s time that you won.”

And when I heard them, I teared up, because those words, along with the tender pleading tone of the song, match so well the experience of many people I know—of all of us, really, at one point or another. We fight ourselves in so many ways.

Maybe we think that setting a boundary with another person will hurt them or alienate us, so rather than take the risk, we shut down the inner wisdom that tells us this boundary is just what we need. In doing so over and over, we silence a crucial part of who we are.

Or: we believe that whatever we do will never be enough to create security for our family (even when our physical needs are taken care of), and so we work hard, pushing ourselves past our own limits so often that before long, we have no sense of our own center in the midst of exhaustion.

Or: we hold this deep, unexamined belief that we are bad and wrong, so that whatever we do in the world, we tear ourselves down for not having said or done the right thing, self-editing into a static ball that allows no room for creativity or movement.

Over time, such internal battles can actually cause physical disease, as well as mental and emotional distress.

“It’s time that you won.” What does that mean? Does that mean you finally destroy whatever “demon” you’ve been fighting inside and glide along in peace for all of time? I don’t believe so.

“Winning” the internal battle is different from killing off the parts of ourselves we dislike. I actually don’t believe it’s possible to delete those parts. They are a part of the fabric that makes us who we are.

What is possible, though, is to sit with those elements that cause destruction within you, ask lots of questions about them (Where did this come from? What is this feeling telling me?), get to know them really well, and use them for creative purposes instead. There’s no formula for this. But the journey has something to do with honesty, and surrender, and looking for new possibilities.

“You have suffered enough.” What if your old, familiar internal nemesis could become your greatest ally? What then?

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