Problems. Life. Two separate things which are generally running together and at certain times the former seems to take over the latter.
The key thing is that problems may be a part of life but problems are not life.
Think of a rose bush.
The plant itself is the life.
The beautiful fragrant flowers are the things going well, the good experiences.
The dried up, droopy and stenchy flowers and leaves are the problems.
Nature has made the rose bush in such a way that it will always have the rotting bits but the bush will drop them off and allow the new ones to bloom, keeping its beauty and appeal to the eye.
Life is the same. It can sometimes have so many complications and problems that the life itself seems lost in them, but it will always have an underlying beauty and the promise., provided you give it a chance.
Just as the rose bush will thrive better with regular pruning and some regular watering and tending, our life benefits from regular reflections and tidying up and organising of the thoughts and some regular dose of loving care and kindness to ourselves.
What do I mean from tidying up of thoughts?
It’s taking stock of what our problems are. Choose top 2 on your list and then think them through. Are they really a problem or are you perceiving it as being a far bigger issue than it actually is?
Then break it down.
Every single problem can be dealt in 4 possible ways:
- Has a tangible solution. Act and solve it so it stops being a problem.
- Doesn’t have a solution and doesn’t have to remain a part of life. Let go of it.
- Doesn’t have a solution but has to remain a part of life. Accept it and see how you can find a way to live with it. I’ll give a personal example here. I have chosen a slightly bigger and loftier problem but it can be of any level. I see poverty and its effect on children as being a big problem and it’s a social issue that affects me. I like my material comforts but having this sentiment makes me feel guilty of enjoying them while there are people out there suffering at extreme levels. This conflict has the potential to make me feel disillusioned and discontent which can take my mojo in life away. I also know I can’t change the situation. But I have to find a way to live with it. I have done it by adopting a child and a family. It’s not changing the world but there is a family that I am lending a helping hand to through their tough times and there is child who is getting meals on time, adequate clothes and shoes and is attending school, all of which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I understand that I’m not getting rid of the problem of poverty and it will still be here long after I am gone but I feel satisfied that I’m doing what I can at this stage in life and the conscientiousness of looking out for community events and helping out now and again has given me the ability to deal with the problem and accept it, without it having an ongoing impact on me psychologically.
- Has a solution. But there’s not much you can do about it at present. There’s a possibility you may be able to do something about it in the future so you accept the problem as part of your life – but not forever. The ultimate outcome is either reaching a solution or reaching the point of admitting that nothing more can be done and the problem needs to be allowed to let go. Keep the solution in focus, decide how far you are willing to go to put up with the problem and where are you going to draw the line – be clear about this specific point. I’ll again take a personal example here to illustrate this approach to problem solving. When I am talking to a drug or alcohol user who is not yet ready to quit, despite it being the best solution to their problem, my focus changes from harm elimination to harm reduction. I stop talking about giving up drugs (although I keep bringing it up at regular intervals) and start talking about using clean syringes to reduce the risk of acquiring and then spreading blood borne infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C, steering clear of unlawful activities, engaging with the available social services they can use. Some may argue about the righteousness of using tax payers money but I don’t think any of those arguing would want to be the next person whose house or car gets broken into by a drug user. The shattering effect of living through this experience is becoming all too commonplace . I’ve sat with patients and watched them transform from well functioning, hard working people to paranoid and traumatised people who are struggling to get through even the most basic of life functions, simply from having a mere few minutes experience of having their personal space violently invaded by someone who doesn’t even have the clarity of thought to know clearly what they are doing or to care about the consequences of their actions. I still keep my focus on the ultimate aim of them quitting drugs and become a functioning and useful part of society again but I’ll continue to manage their drug use related problems until that time comes. To minimise the wider ill effects of their drug use. But this is where the element of drawing a line comes in . If this drug user then starts creating problems in the waiting room for other patients or the staff, asks for scripts for prescription medications, steals or forges scripts etc then I accept that there’s nothing more I can do about the problem here and have to let go.
These four breakdowns of problems work every single time for me – from something as simple as doing the laundry becoming a problem to much bigger personal dilemmas such as employment, traumatic life experiences, perceived challenging behaviours from significant others.
The key is to not to do anything about a problem. That’s when it starts to overtake our lives and starts being the life itself. Separate. Problems. and Life.