We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
- Abraham Lincoln
As a child, I loved the Brothers Grimm story about Rumpelstiltskin. I was enthralled with the idea of spinning straw into gold. At that age, I remember feeling scared and sorry for the young girl and happy that Rumpelstiltskin came to her rescue. Of course, the idea of giving her first born to Rumpelstiltskin as payment was horrid and again, I was relieved and happy when she found out his name.
We could say that it was magic, luck, or serendipity that Rumpelstiltskin came to the young woman when she was feeling helpless and hopeless. However, it was her resourcefulness that saved her in the end. She sent someone out to search for his name. Though even here there is the element of serendipity, being in the right place at the right time, the solution could only have been found due to her resolve and resourcefulness.
Though we don't have Rumpelstiltskins coming out of nowhere to rescue us, we do have the ability to turn straw into gold, metaphorically speaking, that is. Our attitude, how we approach a situation, makes all the difference. If we can imagine that we can turn the situation, whatever it is, from something not so good into something great...well, that is the essence of joy, freedom, sense of purpose, success, and contentment.
It is true that life is not fair and that seemingly bad things happen to good people. However, given that this is how life is, the issue becomes how we perceive what happens, and then, how we deal with it. No matter how much we attempt to guide our life, change happens. Some of it is desired, some undesired. Our focus, then, is how to accept the changes that are undesired gracefully, integrate them, and find creative solutions.
Many years ago, my family was having dinner at our cousins' house. The mother became quite unglued that her Sara Lee cheesecake top was broken and did not look 'presentable' to serve for dessert. I happened to be in the kitchen at the time helping clean up, saw her state, and asked if she had any fruit. She had one banana which I sliced and put over the top layer of cream cheese. Voila. A lovely looking banana cheesecake. She thought I was brilliant. Would that she were right! As a teenager, I simply thought, “Why get so upset about something so minor? Find a solution and be done with it.” My family was generally solution-oriented. Problem, focus and get creative, solution, execution. Now, it wasn't so cut and dry, but when I look back, there was not a lot of time spent moaning and groaning about what was or wasn't.
However, that didn't stop my parents from worrying...especially when my older sister didn't come home exactly at the minute she was supposed to. I watch and listened to my parents worry and I remember saying, “Hey, if something bad happened, you'd get a call.” That didn't help them. They still worried. That experience did a lot for me.
- When I started dating, I called my parents early to let them know I would be late. They liked that and didn't worry. Then they caught on that I was extending my time out so that changed a bit.
- I don't remember exactly when I realized that worrying, which my parents passed down in one of their genes, really was not helpful. In fact, it is harmful. I decided that I would problem solve and plan rather than worry. I immediately felt better and have practiced that approach since my 'awakening.' Since the gene is still a part of me, I occasionally find myself worrying. When I do, I catch myself and say, “Judi, worrying will only make you feel bad. What can you do right now to help yourself believe that you'll be able to handle whatever happens?” If it isn't that question exactly, I ask myself something like that so I focus on looking for innovative solutions rather than cycling with worry.
Remember to breathe when the 'worrying' starts. Worrying means that you're in the survive state, and breathing will help you shift to the thrive state. The thrive state is the best state to stimulate creative problem solving. Sometimes it's easier than others to shift from survive to thrive. Regardless of how difficult it is, it is well worth it.
The practice this month will focus on making a shift so that you can rejoice that the thorn bush has sweet-smelling roses.