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Rarely a Clear Path


I’m figuring that sometime soon someone will figure out an algorithm that will tell us how many times we have to hit a brick wall before we realize we need another approach. When they do, I hope I’m one of the first to hear about it because I’m growing weary of devising the same methodologies over and over again with the same unsatisfying results.

All of this is to say that I’ve written about this before and I’m using this space again as a way to remind myself of something that doesn’t seem to sink in very easily.

I’ve been grappling with a writing problem for a few weeks. To be honest, I’ve probably been wrestling with it for a few years. But each time I face it again, I stand somewhere else—hopefully a little closer—and I take a deep breath and dive in. My goal, of course is to find the answer, to get to that perfect way to write about what I want to write. Even constructing that sentence I can see the error in my thinking, but I do it anyway. It is as if there is—somewhere in the mass of papers, notes, ideas, suggestions from others, and memories floating around in my head—the perfect thing to do, the ideal approach. Just the other day, when someone asked me how the project was going, I said, “I’m almost there.” I knew it wasn’t totally true when I said it, but you can’t believe how much I wanted to believe it.

The beauty and wonder of life is really in the fact that it’s constantly changing, moving, sliding, slipping, and growing.

A few days later, I did begin to see some light. It wasn’t glaring brightness or even like the sudden glare of the early morning sun when it rises over the trees in the back yard. It was just an inkling of something a little clearer, as if I could see ahead on the path a bit further than I had before. That’s when I remembered that thing that I cannot seem to etch into my brain: There is no magic, cure-all, perfect-fit, one-size-fits-all, clear-cut answer. There is slogging through it until bits and pieces are illuminated and they lead me to something else that might guide me on my next steps.

Of course it sounds as if I’m talking about writing here, and I am, but if you look one second longer, as I had to do when the light bulb went on AGAIN, this is true with every aspect of our lives. We want so much to rid ourselves of that anxiety we’re carrying around about whatever problem is eating at us. We don’t want to wake up and remember that we haven’t solved that dilemma yet. We want to feel as if we have checked off every item on our to-do list and everything is humming along as it should. In our rational minds we know this isn’t going to happen, but it doesn’t stop us from wishing for it. At least it doesn’t stop me.

I have been blessed or cursed—depending upon one’s perspective—with a very busy brain. I cogitate over every blip, turn in the road, bump on the path, often before I get to it. I try out solutions, play with possibilities, conjure up perfect scenarios, all for the sole purpose of not having to worry about all of these things I’ve come up with in the first place. And I do it with this idea in the back of my mind that somehow I’ve missed the most obvious answer, the one that is going to fix everything forever and let me drop this problem in the trash.

Anyone as old as I am knows, however, that the beauty and wonder of life is really in the fact that it’s constantly changing, moving, sliding, slipping, and growing. Each of us has so many varied interactions in a day that when two of us come together on Tuesday it can be completely different than it was on Monday. This is human energy—and probably lots of real, scientific energy I can’t possibly understand or explain. This is what makes the world what it is—creative, exciting, unpredictable, frustrating, and joyous.

My lesson THIS time—and trust me that I completely get it that I will be revisiting this again—is that my desire to stop all of that energy for the sole purpose of making me feel more comfortable is neither possible nor desirable. My life focus has got to be more about enjoying the ride than trying to take the wheel of a speeding, careening vehicle and bringing it quickly to the curb. I know this realization is not going to stop me from looking for the one true answer to each predicament I face. Instead, maybe, just maybe, it will remind me that there are many roads to take and each will have its own ridges and potholes. But each will also take me to vistas I haven’t seen before and to views I will be so grateful to have witnessed, if only for a moment.

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