Monday, March 1, 2010

Thank God for Trouble

“We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”

John Gardner

This is me (sometimes) when faced with trouble: A tennis shoe tumbling in a dryer.
I ruminate repeatedly on the problem. Because I can’t think of a solution, I just think about the problem, until my head feels like a dryer with a tennis shoe in it.

Some troubles are fun because it’s a challenge to find an answer. Some, I’m powerless to fix and so I have to practice acceptance. Some are just plain painful.

Take my mother, for example. She has dementia, which has metamorphosed into Alzheimer’s in the past four months. It causes some problems that are interesting, such as how to explain the process of putting on a pair of pants, when she is totally befuddled by the procedure? It causes other problems that I’m helpless to change, such as the loss of her memory. Rather than fight against it with constant reminders that hurt her dignity, I have to accept that’s how things are now.

And the dementia causes plain old pain, because I’ve lost my mother and I feel grief about that. Every day, I have to be the parent to my own mom, and I hate it. I don’t like the “opportunities” that presents.

Much of the time, I make my own misery by refusing to accept insoluble problems, by trying to exert my own willpower over them and manhandle my way into fixing them to my satisfaction. The book Alcoholics Anonymous says, on page 133, “Avoid, then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate [God’s] omnipotence.”

I guess I’m not highly evolved or spiritual enough, because that word “cheerfully” seems impossible to me. But trouble does drive me to my knees these days, and that’s a good place to be.

There are many problems beyond my human ability to mend. There are problems I could mend if only I knew how. Both of these situations are opportunities to watch my Creator at work, if I put my troubles into His big hands.

I’m thankful that in recovery I’ve learned the power of getting out of the problem and into the solution. I don’t have to let the shoe in the dryer keep on tumbling into infinity. Today, troubles are, for the most part, opportunities to grow along spiritual lines, to let go and let God. But to tell the truth, sometimes there are scratch marks where my fingers held on until the last possible moment!

What do you do with your problems? How do you turn them into opportunities?

(The photos are of my Katie Cat, who kept pulling out her stitches. The solution to her problem was a cone. After five days, she no longer fights it and is practicing acceptance.)



God Whispers In The Wind said...

Dear one thank you for sharing from your heart. So very sorry for the pain you have to go through with your mother's now illneses. Love the pictures. Is that a dog blowing bubble? Hugs to you dear one.

Beth said...

Honestly, I think people just have to ruminate their own problems in their own way. For me, as long as I stay busy, I'm good. As soon as I'm still, the problems/issues/concerns loom larger than life and often steal much of my sleep. And by problems, 90% of them (I just made up that percentage... but MOST of them) are work related. I should just remind myself that I can only control me and my reactions.

We are dealing with similar issues with my mother-in-law. She still knows who we are but she forgets our role. For instance, she introduced me to the nurse as Beth, her sister-in-law (not daughter-in-law). It has been incredibly hard on my husband and like you said, he has lost a parent.

I hope you find some answers to help you feel better about the problems you are facing.

Anonymous said...

There is no easy answer for turning problems into opportunities. I have taught myself to handle emergencies objectively, and long term problems, I go to the end of the game immediately and work backwards from there. So I know what steps I can skip. You can't change some things.


Collette said...

I'm sorry you have to deal with this. Life is hard enough without adding to it.
Acceptance is not an easy thing either. But we do what we have to so we can get through it.
I sometimes have a hard time leaving things up to God myself. Maybe I'm just impatient. I know things will work out the way they are supposed to.
My mom had a brain aneurysm in 1973 & since the surgery, she hasn't been the same person either. She remembers things from years ago, but her short term memory is very bad. I had trouble because the mom I knew was gone, too.
But we pick up the pieces & we go on, as hard as it is.
Thank you for sharing. I'm just an email away. (((HUGS)))

Realliveman said...

I always feel sad when I see a cat in a collar. I had had two cats that had to wear them for a short time. I could see in there eyes that if they had the chance, they would have loved to put one on me, just to get me back for putting one on them LOL

Brian Miller said...

i figure ultimately they are my opportunity to relate to others. we all got them, though some pretend they dont. i tend to talk about them, seek counsel and do something about them...

Tracy said...

This is a really great post. I love the "tennis shoe in the dryer" comparison.

I slice and dice my worries every which way. I try to analyze them until I collapse. Then I seek out someone to tell me what I want to hear which is not always what I NEED to hear. This is something I definitely need to work on.

Lou said...

I learned powerlessness, then I learned acceptance, and most recently, trust in God. A fair number of problems, if I remove my will from them, resolve themselves.

I agree whole heartedly that many troubles are opportunities to become more compassionate, sprititual, and to live purposeful lives.

Magpie said...

I love your analogy of the tennis shoe in the dryer...boy, does that sum up some of my days. Right now I'm exhausted mentally and physically and that makes it hard to have the right kind of attitude about any problem. When that happens, I just put my head down and keep pushing..keep doing..whatever I can no matter how little just to keep moving forward. Then somewhere along my day God gives me a gift and I hope I'm alert enough to see it and renew myself with it.

Syd said...

Thanks Chris for writing about this. I have learned to turn my deep troubles over to my Higher Power because there is nothing I can do about some of them. I ask God to remove my shortcomings and humbly to do His will. Many times when I am troubled I talk to my wife, my sponsor, a good friend--people I trust to give me straight talk. I am glad to move towards the solution of serenity and happiness.

Anonymous said...

I learned a valuable lesson when working in brain injury rehabilitation:

Most days were treacherous. Physical and verbal assaults from the injured patients. Fatigue. Low pay. I would ask myself repeatedly "What's the point?" And then it would happen. Those itty bitty microscopic seconds in my work day when the patient would say or do something so far out of left field that it would, quite literally, change the course of my life. Had I succumbed to my own "tennis shoe" I would have missed countless opportunities to see gOd's grace in action.

My point? I had to be still and take everything in. Because sometimes the good stuff in sandwiched in with the "bad."

I wish I could give you a hug. You sound like you could use a big one.

TechnoBabe said...

When my sponsor tried to talk to me about the cheerful stuff I was not feeling very cheery at all. But as she patiently told and re-told me to smile even if I didn't feel like it then I would notice that it would change how I felt. I said things like "oh, you mean I should just pretend and then pretend more". But over time I came to appreciate the part about being cheerful and smiling and it does not have anything to do with pretense. It has to do with change.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I think that some problems can't be seen as opportunities and only time can help them become such...

Prayer Girl said...

Living with a loved one with Alzheimer's has to rank among some of the more difficult things to experience. Of course, there are certainly far worse, but my mom had dementia and it was very heartbreaking.

My dad was a very patient man, but the entire disease process would get to him at times. I'm glad we finally convinced him to move closer to us so we could lend some support.

No matter what program one lives, this kind of situation will challenge it.

I pray for you and your mom.

~ Tabitha ~ said...

First of all .. kisses to kitty :)

Second,your an inspiration to read Enchanted Oak.Our problems can indeed be oppurtunities..It's just do bloody easy to forget that when problems seem to come in waves.IN recovery I've learned not to run away anymore.And I try not to stew or sit on a self pity poty too long.Even if a solution is not readily available - I try to remember it could always be worse.
Funny though how easy that can be to forget.We live and learn and for some of us that best to do so ,
is one day at a time.(thank god!!!)

♥ Braja said...

Like Beth, I'd say everyone has to deal with it their way; you can ask people what they do, but what does that mean? You're not them, so it won't work :) We have to go with the flow, accept what is our nature and what are our characteristics, and we work with that. It's more a matter of sitting down and thinking, "OK, this is the problem, what do I have in the form of resources to deal with it?" It's distracting to think, "what should I do," or "how should I be," because they're "shoulds", and that doesn't help. Who you *are* is what you need to overcome whatever is in your life...

Susan said...

I have dealt with similar themes lately. This was a very candid post and I'm glad you shared it. How do I turn problems into opportunities? I'm pretty positive by nature despite getting knocked down a lot. I just keep fighting even when I don't stand a chance of winning. Life is for living. I may not always succeed at that but I sure do try.

Matty said...

I've never dealt with anything like your situation, so I can't pretend to know how you feel or what you are going through. I'm so sorry that your mom has reached that stage and that you must deal with it. My parents are alive and healthy, and I can't even imagine having to face something like that.

I just deal with problems. I've always been blessed with patience, and an ability to just go with the flow. If there is no solution, that I can come up with, I present it to people who's opinions I value. Sometimes they have an idea I never considered.

lakeviewer said...

There are things you can address without killing yourself, things you can do by punishing yourself, and things that will just go away whether you do anything at all.

I ask myself: what can I do to alleviate this problem without killing myself or becoming so weak that I too will be creating problems for others?

Then, just do what you can and accept that you can't solve problems. These may not go away either. They will be around, as in your mother's condition. You can only help her with the energy you have. Don't feel guilty that you can't do more. Do what is reasonable.

Assert your needs too. Assert your need to say no more.

This is not an easy subject, is it?

Nezzy said...

Hubby and I have three aging parents with various problems and dementia. It can become life consuming sucking every bit of energy right out of you. It's tough, Hubby and I find things we can laugh about, it's a survival mode for us.

You asked how I deal with problems I take them to God, Hubby and my blessed best friend. Everyone need a good support system. Hang in there answers do come.

God bless and have yourself a beautiful day!!!

Marla said...

Having just lost my dad four months ago, I can say I understand and mean it. His dementia was difficult but could be hilarious when I stopped fighting it. If you read some of my first posts, you'll see what I mean.

I do the same thing you do. I pray, turn it over to God and often leave claw marks on my way out.

Maybe I need to borrow your sweet little kitties special collar.

peglud said...

I do tend to ruminate obsessively. And tonight, I am reeling from a phone conversation with my 92 yo mother who only looks for whom to blame - and it's usually me. Have I accepted that my daughter is a heroin addict, and detached? How does one accept such a 'diagnosis'? I am, however, beginning to realize that I will never get the unconditional love and compassion I need from my mother.