Monday, August 13, 2012

Another Little Mantra for a Big Week

The mantra I shared recently is not the only one I've developed to guide me through life.  There are others on my To Write About list, and while driving to work a few days ago I found a new one floating to the top of my thoughts.

These are the words on which I'm leaning heavily this week:

Be a problem solver.

This is a big week, full of opportunities for accomplishments that could expand my personal world and benefit a community, but fraught with unprecedented demands and circumstances beyond my control to which I will have to respond quickly. It's all wonderful.  It's a dream come true for me that I'm even in the role I'm playing and loving.  But it's also very stressful.

I confess that in the past I have not been aces at managing stress.  I have an unfortunate tendency toward anxiety that kicks in mightily under these circumstances. I dislike not knowing what will happen (I own up to a few tiny control issues maybe), and I'm easily frustrated when things don't go along with the smoothness I crave.  I also get a mite wound up and jittery, vibrating along with the manic pace of change and fearing that I'll fall apart.  I've always managed to get done what needs to be done, but at times it hasn't been peaceful or pleasant.

As I was driving, I observed my thoughts inexorably returning to the topics of What Must Be Done and How To Do It and my feelings fluttering nervously with doubt, tempted to spin up in the old way.  I soothed myself with a reminder that these daunting tasks and uncertainties are just problems to solve.

It was then that I really understood how life changing it could be to take this approach consistently.

One of the things I love about my husband is his usual calm in the face of a problem. When something goes wrong, instead of getting frustrated and irritated, he gets curious.  Life may as well have presented him with a classroom word problem to solve without the pressure of a grade.  He creates no personal story about his own vexation or his utter inability to cope.  He just puzzles it out with acceptance and persistence.

He has solved many of my own problems this way, too.  Early in our relationship, I began to find myself counting on this skill of his for such aid.  I was grateful for his helpful spirit, but I didn't want to use him for something that I could learn to do myself even if I am very much my father's daughter.  I've had my therapy.  I know that we ought not to borrow too heavily or too much.  I was determined to work on my fussiness and cussiness in the face of challenges and to become a problem solver.  I did not want to be the woman who always devolves into hysterics, while someone else saves the day.  Besides, bumpy times are stressful enough.  Why add to it with wails of woe?

I've finally accepted that life isn't a smooth ride all the time for anyone.  It's an off road adventure at many stages, a thrill ride if you're truly growing.  If I view all the challenges and changes of plan and upending developments as simply problems to solve, and myself as capable of solving them you understand, how much less would be my fizzing and suffering!

That's my hope anyway.  The ride has begun with a vengeance, and my powers of expression seem muddled.  I feel lucky to have any time at all to rest and show up here.  This active fog is why I need my mantra, a memorized intention to guide my responses, a holdfast against the waves, a light to steer by when tempest tossed. Or even pre-programming, if you will.  That's what my grandfather once told me: Load your mind with your desired response, and it will be ready to run when needed. I didn't know him very well, but I thank him for that idea tonight.

Speaking of family, I am reminded suddenly of the old motherly inquiry, "What do you say?"

This week I say, "Be a problem solver."  Let's see if it works.

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