The Right Kind of Problems

(Psssst. If you’re more of a listener than a reader, feel free to listen in to my podcast on this subject ; )

 

I have this (maybe not so great) habit of looking for things that are going wrong in my life and trying to fix them. Or change them. Or reframe them. ANYTHING but sit still and experience them on their own terms.

Part of it is probably because of my profession. I work as a health educator and life coach. Investigating opportunities for improvement kinda come with the territory. But part of it, I think, is simply my ego desperately trying to hold on to the illusion of control. I don’t want to think that I’m living on a tiny bubble of a planet in an ocean of uncertainty. That’s terrifying. I’d rather think I’m the center of my universe and have 100% free will. Muuuuch more satisfying.

Yesterday, I woke up feeling excited. I only get one day each week to spend with my fiancé. We have flipped schedules, so I rarely see him at all during the week. And he works on Friday and Saturday nights (bartender life). So Sunday. That’s our day together. But on Sunday, he is (understandably) exhausted. And while I’m tired, I’m more energetic than he (I’ve had all of Saturday to myself to recharge). As a result, we spend a good portion of the one day we have in separate spaces – even when we are together. In my  bubble, the weather is clear and my mood is whispy and gay. In his bubble, the weather is cloudy and his mood is…mercurial. Unpredictable. Much as mine would be after a full week of chit chat at a bar. Actually no. That’s a lie. After a week of chit-chat, I would be comatose.

Anyway…I woke up excited and realized VERY quickly that he did not feel the same way. He was glad to see me, but he was pooped. His body was yearning for more and more and more sleep. So I went to the gym. He took another nap.

We are both problem solvers. Naturally, then, we try and put our heads together to find solutions. How can he get more energy? How can we find more time? How might I dial my energy level down? And so on.

But I’m starting to pause. It’s not that it isn’t a situation worth trying to upgrade. I mean…Why not optimize one’s relationship? Why not put in that effort? But I think I have a tendency to jump SO quickly to try and fix things that sometimes I forget just how lucky I am…how lucky we are…to have the problems that we do. At the end of the day, our greatest challenge is that we miss each other. We are so busy working that we move past each other like ships in the night. That means we are lucky enough to have jobs. We are both lucky enough to have someone we each care enough about to miss.

That seems like a good problem to have.

It reminded me of a conversation that took place recently. In one of the classes I teach, a gentleman spoke up about his health journey. We were all talking about the challenge of managing one’s weight…and we had expanded that out to talk about the challenge of balancing life in general.

He said something that stuck with me. He said “I don’t think life is ever about not having problems. I am pretty sure I will always have this “problem” with managing my weight, for example. I think the objective is simply to continue advancing to such a level that you have the right kind of problems.”

So…Maybe today, your entire focus is on getting to your goal weight. Then you get there and your entire focus is staying there. Then, as you get increasingly fit, your focus starts to shift toward getting your best mile run. Then you get it and your focus shifts to…I don’t know…lifting ever more weights? You get the idea.

I guess what I’m saying is that I am finally beginning to understand one important truth; the only finish line we cross that TRULY leads to zero problems on the other side is death. And even THAT isn’t a guarantee. I don’t know for certain there isn’t an afterlife. I’m just guessing. At any rate, though…outside of that, there will always be mountains to climb, goals to achieve and upgrades to make on the life we have. That’s the nature of what it is to be human. And if you think you are the exception, my hunch is that you may as well be dead. Even the most zen Buddhist continues the practice of meditation. And he/she understands that it is a practice that must be sustained for its riches to continue to unfold. Even the most whimsical hermit who has renounced the value of achievement and fair-weathered goals is still trying to refine his personal experience of life and therefore has a kind of problem he/she is aiming to solve.

So I invite you to take a moment to consider all of your problems. Write them down. What problems are presently vexing you most? Maybe you are trying to lose weight. Maybe you are concerned about your finances. Maybe you just lost a job and are madly searching for a new one. You name it.

And for a moment…try not to rush to fix it.

I am not suggesting you don’t try and fix those problems at all. By all means, fix away! And feel free to give me a call if you want support with it. All I’m saying is that before you run to fix them, it MIGHT be worth taking a moment to consider the quality of problem you are dealing with. What resources do you have to help resolve it? Who are your allies? Consider the possibility that while this problem may be aggravating you, it might just be the right kind of problem.

What do you think? Are there problems in your life you feel fortunate to have?

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