Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. From “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost https://allpoetry.com/The-Road-Not-Taken
The 1st book I read after completing my MSW (a long time ago) was the classic by M. Scott Peck, M.D. The Road Less Travelled (1978). I am not sure why this book has stuck with me so long but I found it to have many useful lessons. It also opened me to a new way of viewing myself and, later, to recovery through the 12 Step program of Adult Children of Alcoholics. What particularly imprinted with me was the practical application of themes and personal stories shared by Dr. Peck. One lesson titled “Problem Solving and Time” discusses learning to fix things when he had .“…considered myself to be a mechanical idiot. I was convinced I was deficient in some gene, or by curse of nature lacking some mystical quality…” until a casual conversation led him to a lesson. A neighbor fixing a lawn mower presented an alternative view that it was more due to not taking the time than a lack of ability. This leads to a discovery that for most people “…there is a defect in the approach to problem-solving more primitive and more destructive than impatiently inadequate attempts to find instant solutions …. It is the hope that problems will go away of their own accord” (pg 30).
In a year where I am seeking to focus more on kindness, these quotes may seem harsh. Perhaps so but I have never found myself trying to fix a problem when I could find a way to be comfortable with it, to convince myself it was “okay” and I was “fine” or to work around. I have mostly made the effort to change because I was frustrated, unhappy or in pain. But, secondly, because I could see myself being successful. Linking time with problem-solving has been a pathway to small and huge success for me. It has also been a way to give myself kindness by permission to learn how, to be imperfect, and to persist. The alternative has been to fail, feeding that inner voice of incompetence, mostly because I did not try. And try again. Forgiving my own imperfection opens a door to trying.
• I will “take time to problem-solve” by slowing down. Too often I rush and truly learn that “haste makes waste”.
• I will “take time to problem-solve” by taking time to de-brief with colleagues after a project or event so we can learn and leave no “ouch” unspoken.
• I will “take time to problem solve” by continuing to support myself in my quest to de-clutter my space and file my over-due Maryland tax returns. Don’t quite because I am frustrated but notice how far I have come. I need to remember my purpose; ask myself: What support or resources do I need to continue? What is my FEAR that is holding me back?
• I will “take time to problem solve” by living the next step in my journey to find a way to add a 2nd car to my family & finances. For the 1st time ever, In January I drew a spending plan! Now is using my time to solve my problem is to keep it up. How can I know my resources if I don’t know how and where my money goes?
• I will “take time to problem solve” by considering why I spend so much time on trivia tasks that are not really important and do not move me to my goals. I know the 80/20 rule, so what is this about?
• I will “take time to problem solve” by going to see the elderly relative I committed to calling last month. I did call. We had a wonderful, loving chat. She asked me to visit. Being “too busy” is not an answer.
• I will “take time to problem solve” by using My Fitness Pal to chart my exercise and food intake. I need to have knee surgery but can’t quite get myself across the line on the scale that will get me under the knife and in recovery. I joke about Day #2 of social work school “If it’s not documented it didn’t happen.” Am I avoiding MFP o those calories, especially cookies, don’t count? I do want to be able to walk when I go to Europe this summer with my dad. He is 85 and we’ve never spent more than 7 days alone together and those times were because he was recovering from major health problems and I was his care-giver.
• I will “take time to problem solve” by avoiding a chance to complain. It is so easy to be negative but so much nicer to say “Hey, no problem” when things go wrong. People mean well even when mistakes are made. Stay calm, move on.
• I will “take time to problem solve” by committing to asking those 3 people how we can make a difference with opiate overdose survivors. When I was in high school opiates were a “never” but the last 3 times I have been to my local McDonald’s there have been people there obviously over the edge. I am grateful it is not me but my kids are 15, 11 and 9 so soon it could be my family. I can’t solve this problem but I can give time.
• I will “take time to problem solve” by reminding myself that I can learn to fix stuff. That no one will solve things for me. My big success this weekend was installing a restored double hung window in my 120 year old house. Telling the truth, I have been “working” on 5 sets of windows for 3 years. Yes, 3 years! Sunday, I made myself take materials I had on-hand and a book from the library and just do it. The 1st frame took me over 3 hours to get in. I struggled to thread the rope over a pulley and have it drop down to the opening in the frame. I tried weights, coat hangers and giving up. I considered going to Home Depot not knowing what I intended to find there. Finally, on my 8th trip to the garage, I found a cleat that weighed enough and could maneuver through the pulley …so I could hang on a string that I could tape to the rope …that would then drop down inside the frame …so I could tie the rope to the weight that lifts the frame. The next frame took me 1 hour. The one after 20 minutes. Now, it is not done because I found I am missing some finishing wood but the hardest part is behind me – “the hope that problems will go away of their own accord.” The real bonus is that last night when the winds howled from the West, that window was secure and my house was not subject to the freezing draft of the past 3 Winters. Ding-ding-ding: I win!!!! A surge of endorphins and a moment of gratitude to Dr. Peck.
Speaking of take time to solve a problem, one service at the “Front Porch” in Gaithersburg will be a series on Money Smart (financial wellness) staring tomorrow at 3:00-4:00. Give yourself some Valentine’s love and come join us.
Peace be with you,