The Serendipity of Struggle

Recently I was doing a little research on the difficulty of maintaining a proper vineyard in a warm temperate climate. The wineries I have toured in the past on the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina have been shipping in grapes from my hometown in the foothills of North Carolina known as the Yadkin Valley Region. Our area is purported to be ideal for the growing of grapes – often compared with Napa Valley – as it has warm summer days with cool breezy nights and lots of freezing temperatures in the winter. They have to struggle to survive unlike at the coast where they succumb to disease, too much humidity, too little root development, and lack of going dormant as they do in cold weather.

Struggling is good for the grapevine. It sends down deep roots where it can receive nourishment during a drought, thusly, they are not too close to the surface and succeptible to root rot during heavy rains or flooding. These same long roots keep it bolted into the earth when the harsh winds blow, and losing its leaves in winter prevents disease. Yes, struggling serves the grapevine well.

While I was working on this, my friend Jess over at A Winsome Journey was working on a piece about struggling as well. Titled The Outsider, it recounts a bit of her struggles during her formative years and the strength that she too received from it. I love her positive attitude and the gifts that she understands are hers because of the trials.

Where there is no struggle, there is no strength. – Oprah Winfrey

My son was blessed with many talents that served him well in sports – at least many of them and most notably the ones of baseball and football. He decided to try basketball one year – never his particular favorite. Unlike other sports, he didn’t excel at this one. In fact, he didn’t enjoy it very much and only stayed with it due to his belief in honoring his committment. He also wasn’t the star player and often sat on the bench – not something he was used to. He struggled. I personally thought he learned more from that season than any other. It served him.

-Once all struggle is grasped, miracles are possible. – Mao Tse-Tung

On the traveling baseball team that he later played on during the summer months, he had a great coach. He called them together and asked each one individually which part of their workout they liked best and which part least. Then he gave them double workouts on the things they liked least and halved the ones they liked best. For my son, that meant he did more running. He despised running as exercise – during a game it was exhilarating – but to just run for the sake of running was not perceived as fun by him. (He probably gets that from me.) The reason why his coach did this was due to the struggle. He thought they were naturally drawn to the things that were easiest for them and repelled those that were hardest – the very thing each one needed most to be the strongest athlete they could be. They needed to struggle in order to be strong.

-Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. – Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar

There are times, especially when we are young, that struggling doesn’t seem right or fair or pleasant. We look around and see others having it easy and are envious of their lives free of the battles we face. Then the storms rage and they have no anchor. Little trials tear them apart. They are not strong like us. They didn’t have to develop deep roots or learn how to survive adrift. Things that roll off of our thick skins, penetrate into their core. Then we see the truth of it. They were not the ones who were blessed – we were.

We should pity them. And we should see the gift of struggling.

-Education comes from within; you get it by struggle and effort and thought. -Napoleon Hill

The word serendipity is described as making desirable discoveries by accident or having good fortune or luck. I find there is much serendipity in my life lately, not the least of which is the discovery of another great blogger and our coincidental concepts of struggle.

-Always remember that striving and struggle precede success, even in the dictionary. – Sarah Ban Breathnach

Categories: Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I started college at age 31, divorced, two young kids, and working full time. It was a struggle but I learned something very important from it. I learned that I could keep going even when times were rough. And I learned I could depend on myself to accomplish whatever I wanted. There are easier ways to learn than the school of hard knocks, but the education cannot be beat.

    1. Reading your comment brings another quote to mind – that of the hottest fires making the strongest steel. Thank you for sharing a bit of your struggle.

  2. i loved this post; as my brother and I spoke just of this topic today…”There are times, especially when we are young, that struggling doesn’t seem right or fair or pleasant. We look around and see others having it easy and are envious of their lives free of the battles we face.”…I will read this post to him tomorrow.
    Thank you for your always kind words, sincerely.

  3. This was really meaningful to read and is a post I will come back to again; your quotes were the perfect accompaniment, too.
    Thank you, Renee.

  4. I’ve learned alot via serendipity and as for the lessons of struggles well I guess it’s “no pain, no gain”.
    You did a great job with the quotes and showing the lessons and strengths gained with life experience. 🙂

  5. Great post! Oprah is right. I struggled through my divorce and for me, that struggle was a metamorphosis. I came out the other end strong and empowered. Today, I count my blessings.

  6. Inspiring one Renee Great Job!
    Simply out standing. Loved everything about this post, even the quotes also. True words of wisdom from you.
    “Once all struggle is grasped, miracles are possible. – Mao Tse-Tung” I am going to remember this quote for a long time. Even I am writing it as quote of the day in my blogs widget page. You are back to your best. 🙂

  7. Oh my…standing ovation. This is profound and so well written. I see here Nature skillfully used in the setting of a short story or novel. Keep writing. Grapes in the Carolinas? Unique.

  8. Great post. I love how you began this with the struggling wine grapes and then moved the spotlight onto us, all of us, in our ongoing struggles with the perplexities of life.

  9. Thank you for this post! I agree with your words of wisdom, and love the quotes you used. I can’t say I enjoy times of struggle, but at least I have come to recognize, while I’m still in the moment (or day or months!) of struggle, that I will be the better for the experience, somehow, some way. And certainly, looking back, I see that pattern. Funny how life works, isn’t it? ~ Sheila

    1. If only we could learn to look for the lesson while enmeshed with the struggle. Somehow it isn’t until later that we see the value. I felt like you would understand.

  10. Sometimes I read things that just completely resonate with me. I really thank you for your insight in this post. It’s sort of comforting to know that there is much to be learned from times of struggle.

    1. Thank you Selma. It’s never fun to be in the midst of a struggle, but when you come out of it the realization that it served you well is comforting. Thanks for visiting.

  11. Renee, don’t laugh or I’ll wilt: I am struggling with this, your piece. Struggling so much with some of the quotes’ assertions that your post rooted itself firmly into the starved soil of my brain, following me around as loyally as ivy will cling to a tree. Which is why I haven’t commented until now. And even then only to report dire results, bearing little fruit, lying bracken.

    Of course, the theory (just like “that which doesn’t break us makes us stronger” – complete nonsense in my opinion) is fine. Sounds convincing. Yet, unlike laws of physics, those observations will hold in some cases, in others they will not yield results. What then? There are people who will “struggle”, I prefer to call it “apply themselves”, with no return whatsoever. And that is tragic. Not only because they aren’t “rewarded” but because they have to learn that effort does not warrant success, that many facets of life cannot be traded, and that Lady Luck sometimes looks the other way. What about: Right time, right place, being given a break? Etc Etc Etc. All the unknown, not to be manipulated parts in a life’s equation.

    And what of those people who never seem to need to struggle? To whom things will come naturally. Does that make them less “deserving”?

    A fine hole you have dug, planting an acorn. May an oak grow from it. Gnarly. Beautiful. Strong. Wind ripping through its branches. But always standing.

    To put it another way, Renee: Your post was a grape – now it’s my raisin. And as much as I love grapes when fermented I like them dried too, and not just to pick them out of cakes.


    1. Do you know the song – “Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda?” For some reason that is what played through my mind as I read and reread your comment. Only I replaced the name Rhonda with the name Ursula.

      If we wanted to take this further, I would say that we cannot know how much a person struggles. Look at Marilyn Monroe, Princess Dianna, Sarah Ferguson. Struggle can be physical, emotional, financial, spiritual. There is a quote that I am most likely botching that says something along the lines of, ‘Man cannot know God until he has struggled with him.’ Another one for you to digest – sorry.

      Many people do get bitter instead of better. And maybe there are those who never struggled much and now feel cheated out of a growth spurt. They probably will not like my piece very much.

      I also believe that luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. Opportunity alone is fruitless – grape or raisin.

      So now I am struggling with end of year reports and tax forms and the like. As much as I dislike that sort of thing, it makes me disciplined.

      Thank you for your nicely worded comment. I can tell you put a lot of thought into it and it has added another rich dimension to the discussion that I hope we will keep right on having.

  12. Amen, to your words. I often pray to skip the struggle, but I know it means I’ll be repeating the lesson again because I’m some kind of hard headed learner and it often has to hurt in order for me to remember and implement. It too about 5 years to get my vineyard going. Now, I’m amazed how well it does. Another lesson in waiting….phooey.

  13. Lady, you have given us much to ponder. I’ve always believed that struggles serves to shape us, strengthen us, show us what we’re capable of. Just the other day my daughter said, “I wish life wasn’t so hard” and I said, “If that were the case, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the fact that you’re alive.” Speaking of the Yadkin Valley Region, my daughter went on a wine tour there last Valentine’s Day!

    1. What did your daughter think of the wineries? We have some lovely ones getting established and some new ones that are really coming along nicely. I think the process is quite exciting.

  14. “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength. – Oprah Winfrey”
    This is certainly true in my life
    However, I have friends who, if they step in a pile of pooh, they would smell of Roses. If I stepped in the same Pooh, it would def smell of pooh! Why do some people in life never have to strive for anything?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.