“struggling upstream” . . .

by mulberryshoots


When my daughters were young, we took a trip to China together when they were 7, 9 and 11. I remembered that either during that trip or somewhere along the way, they learned a Chinese card game called “struggling upstream.” This memory popped into my head just now as I reflected on some events that occurred recently. I’m not familiar with the card game per se, but the title seems appropriate for how we can sometimes make things hard on ourselves.

I wonder whether people really change or whether we just keep trying on different permutations of our same self. I know that I am often resolute to do things differently: to be more careful about my finances; or to be more productive rather than spinning my wheels. It’s good for awhile and then I find myself in a situation that feels familiar. Yesterday, I was resolute and returned some purchases that I really liked but didn’t fit my lifestyle anymore.The tags were still on these items and I had the receipts.

So, I made a shopping day in reverse yesterday and returned them. Once I did, I felt such a sense of lightness and freedom! I even treated myself to a warming drink called “Mexican Mocha” at the Nordstrom coffee bar. This was a delectable combo of semi-dark cocoa mixed with hot milk, a shot of espresso and real whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg. It hit the spot! I bought a package of the Mexican cocoa to try out at home with the kids for after dinner or during the day throughout the holidays, made with decaf French Roast coffee and hand-whipped cream. Buzzed and satisfied, I reflected on how I wanted to resolve not to buy things in the future that satisfied some hunger for a figment of a life I had imagined in the past.

Since that experience yesterday, I have come to the conclusion that the figment of my past life I really want to give up is struggling upstream. All my life, it has felt like that. Feeling alone and without much support or help, I made my way and somehow survived. Now, I don’t have to do that because I’m not in those circumstances any longer. I am fortunate in my second marriage and have worked hard in a career fraught with stress. The remnants of feeling like I still have to struggle upstream have lingered. The things I returned symbolized that feeling of “struggling upstream” because they represented what I thought I once wanted in order to feel that I had overcome unhappiness.

Now, I have arrived to a place of my own making. And I have not only support and help, I have love. I am now freed from feeling like I am still struggling upstream. At least, for today (LOL!) And, that’s enough.