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My husband in the mud

My husband in the mud

I spent the weekend in the mountains with my husband and a group of friends. We talked about everything, drank too much wine, and let soft rain, vibrant green, and pungent pine rejuvenate us. We returned to a crisis. 5,000 gallons of water had filled our commercial well house, burying expensive motors and electrical equipment in mud, silt, and grime. Our center had no water, our tenants lost business, and we were overwhelmed.

This happens a lot. You’re going about your everyday, things are smooth, and life is good. Maybe you sold a painting or your book got an excellent review. You feel a bit elated and share the news. Then you go back to doing whatever it is that you do. Suddenly, out of nowhere, something happens. A car accident, an unexpected expense, or relationship troubles upset your equilibrium. At these moments, everything stops. The shock sends you reeling. You panic. You don’t sleep. Worry sucks your energy and the event dominates everything. The elation we feel when things go especially well is a blip. We discount all our hard work, share the credit, and often minimize it, but when things go wrong it’s catastrophic.

Our response to trouble defines us. Many people blame, whine, and fret while giving their money and power to someone – a plumber, a therapist, or debt consolidator – who promises to fix it. This is emotionally and financially expensive. Others avoid the problem and pretend it didn’t happen or doesn’t exist, exacerbating it. Then there are those who roll up their sleeves, take a deep breath, and trudge into the muck.

These are the ones who understand success. Though the effort is daunting, nasty, and a lot of hard work the rewards are infinite. Problems are part of the process. When you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty (and your toes, ears, and eyelashes), you discover things you didn’t know and empower yourself. Facing a problem head on is a creative endeavor.

You may not solve all of it yourself, but the effort is worth it. Whether it’s a well house under water or a marriage, an artistic technique you tried and botched, or a bad review on your newest work, learning from the problem makes you a little stronger and nourishes the courage it takes to believe in yourself.

Have you faced an overwhelming problem and overcome it? What did you learn? Let me know in your comments. I love hearing from you.