Week 4. On the art of not solving problems

It is probably apparent that for most of my life I have been a type A, achievement-oriented person, and so my response to every challenge that comes my way is to do something about it, which is why being Jessica’s mother is so maddening. There is nothing I can do about it. There ought to be! I don’t care how impossible the task might be, I would get it done.

But there isn’t anything to do other than to accept, which turns out to be one of those damned annoying Life Lessons that I am always doing my level best to avoid.

In the process of dealing with the uncertainty that has become my life, I have been doing a lot of guided meditation with my dear friend Debz, mostly because I want to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do next. (Martial artists are very action-oriented.)

Now, if life were like a vending machine, which unfortunately it is not, I would have put in the practice and gotten the desired result.

That didn’t exactly happen. I didn’t figure out some big plan for my life. Nor did I reach the sort of calm serenity that I sometimes think I’d like to have. What did happen was this. I realized that every single thing that is a problem in my life, or that I consider a problem, is the direct result of my trying to solve some other problem.

Yes, indeed, every problem I have was once a solution. Eating too much is a way to cope with stress. Doing that task I hate doing is a way to pay the rent.  Spending more money than I should solves the problem of not having enough time to find a more creative answer.

So at first I thought, Well that sounds a lot like life, it’ll bite you in the ass no matter what, and I started solving the problems I had created by trying to solve problems and I think you can guess where this is headed.

Then I thought, Jesus, I am going to have to stop solving problems, and that is very hard for a person like me–Type As are notorious for solving problems, often butting in where no one has asked them to butt in just in order to solve something. It was harder than pretty much anything I’ve done in life, and not terribly successful until finally I had the aha! moment that apparently all this work has been driving towards: I realized I needed to stop having problems.

Now you may not believe me but this is way easier than it sounds, or at least it’s way easier than it sounds once you realize every other approach you’ve ever tried has failed.

Once I stopped thinking of life as a problem to be solved, it suddenly became a lot more interesting.