To Be or Not to Be?

Life Is a Struggle Worth Living

“To be or not to be? That is the question” posed by Shakespeare in his tragic play, Hamlet (Shakespeare, 1996). At the mention of “Shakespeare,” most of our heads spin and we flashback to that failed high school English exam. Bear with me here . . .

Have you ever gone on to read the lines after “To be or not to be?” Shakespeare’s character agonizes over this dilemma:  Is a life wrought with pain and struggle worth living, or is the unknown world of death more appealing? Hamlet flirts with the latter, drawn to the idea that in death, “We end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1).

“The thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Chronic pain. Shock. Losing a loved one. Shock. The daily grind. Shock. Hurtful words from a trusted other. Shock. A loss of purpose. Shock. Shakespeare’s question transcends time because we all know how painful life can be. So painful that sometimes it seems simpler not to be.

True, in day-to-day life most of us do not walk around pondering Hamlet’s dilemma.  Our internal dialogue is more along the lines of “Should I eat cereal or yogurt for breakfast,” “To buy a Mac or a PC,” or “Is it a shoveling or snow-blowing kind of day?” But we all face pain in life. The modern day question is:  What do we do with that pain?

This is a pro-life blog. I propose that ignored pain can make life a living hell. But if you are brave or exhausted enough to face internal agonies, pain is an opportunity for transformation. I speak, not only as a counselor, but as a recurrent recipient of counseling. Processing my troubles makes me a freer, more relatable, more intuitive person. Don’t get me wrong – the process sucks most of the time. But the outcome . . . coming to peace with darkness and rediscovering ourselves along the way . . . the outcome is worth it.

If there is something nagging at you, making life miserable, you don’t have to live this way. If you’ve never allowed yourself to talk about your pains (big “P” or little “p”), try it in a safe setting like counseling. If you’ve been to counseling but it’s been a while and you want more out of life, come back again. Because life is a struggle worth living.


Tami Widmer, MA
Licensed Professional Counselor

Posted in Mental Health.