I’ve been thinking a lot as we go into the new year about using the challenges of life as an opportunity to be creative, to grow, and learn, and make something even better than was before. Challenges can inspire creativity and options considered that wouldn’t have been otherwise been needed. This thinking started with a renovation…
Husband does construction. He took on a full reno project this fall redoing a condo. The walls stayed where they were, but everything else got changed…the popcorn ceiling came off, the walls were re-painted, the bathroom redone, barn door installed, the fireplace changed, new floors, etc. New kitchen too.
Husband is great. One of my favorite channels is HGTV and I love home decor, so he let me have a lot of input into design choices. I loved picking paint colors. Part of reno is balancing making things beautiful with making costs reasonable. Being realistic isn’t always fun, but it is prudent. I had a blast looking up ways to repurpose and refinish things to create beautify on a budge. It also meant ordering stock items, rather than custom ordering. We had to work with standard measurements and options that they keep in stock.
We had to do the kitchen renovation like all of have to do life:
Perfect isn’t realistic, you have to work with what you got. What other choice is there?
We went with a shiny white cabinet in the kitchen, with push opening…no handles on the outside to mar the beautiful pristine whiteness.
I knew it would look great.
One day, I went to the condo after work to see how the work was going–to say hello to Husband. He told me of the dilemma. The stock cupboards for the upper cabinets came in 21, 24, and 30 inches. We needed 27 inches.
All I could picture was a ridiculous looking 3 inch gap between the last cabinet and the wall. In my mind’s eye this three inch dilemma was a problem that seemed to make an otherwise beautiful kitchen have a distinctly goofy looking gap.
Clearly I am not in construction.
As Husband had been putting cabinets together, installing lights, etc. his brain had been mulling over options. This and that. That day, he asked me, as part of his brainstorming: What is the diameter of a wine bottle?
I pulled out my phone and googled it: about 3 inches.
Hmmmm…a wine bottle is the same width as the empty gap.
His idea was brilliant!
A mini wine rack.
The finished product:
The kitchen now has an extra feature that we wouldn’t have considered if the right width cupboard was available. I really like how the wine rack elevates the look of this kitchen. It looks better with the space for the bottles.
Husband’s mini-rack rack reminded me to consider an alternate process for discovering dilemmas/problems:
Freak out a little. Be scared and upset and recognize the problem as a problem. Acknowledge it doesn’t fit neatly into the plan you had. (This is the easy part for most of us.)
Be real with the fact that something isn’t working. Own it. Grieve it. Accept that fussing about it isn’t going to suddenly make it magically go your way. You simply don’t have Plan A as an option. You don’t have to like it, but you have to accept it. (This is harder than it sounds here.)
Take a deep breath. Or two. (A relatively quick, but crucial step to moving forward. Lower your heart rate, and move out of panic mode. A relaxation exercise, repeated, may be in order)
Get playful and creative. Think outside the box. Look at the bigger picture. Talk to a friend. Brainstorm. Pray. Read a book or look on Pinterest. Find a different perspective that can help you see solutions that aren’t apparent at first blush. Imagine far out possibilities at first to discover a more do-able possibility that otherwise may not occur to you. (Lean into this…give it some time. Allow for the messy middle where no possibilities seem apparent…let the process play itself out. Talk to others for fresh perspectives is important. None of us were meant to go through life alone.)
As we head into the new year, 2018, the wine rack has been a metaphor in my head that I have been playing with.
Turning “problems” into possibilities is what we as therapists do with clients:
- A client comes in with yet another failed relationship. It really hurts. The therapist and the client use this as a springboard to explore why she continually chooses to date guys that are dishonest and unreliable. They notice a theme and explore that as a way to prepare her to select a partner in the future that will be honest and forthright with her. The therapist and client explore why she settles for men that treat her badly.
- A couple comes to therapy in crisis because one of them cheated on the other. The crisis needs to be dealt with in therapy, certainly. However, generally a discussion also develops that explores where there was a vulnerability within the person, or within the couple that opened the door to a partner making a choice that didn’t fit with their vows or values. By changing some fundamental patterns in their relationship, they end up with a relationship that is more satisfying than before the affair.
- A client comes in on stress leave, completely burnt out with the demands of life, and suffering from physical pain that is unbearable. He wants to learn how to handle his stress better, until discussion reveals that he was working at a pace that isn’t compatible with human life. Then therapy focuses on the internal expectations he has on himself that make his life unsustainable. The client makes choices to be compassionate with himself, and makes some shifts in his schedule. His body pain disappears.
May 2018 be a year where when your problems become opportunities to grown and learn. May you find creative solutions that will make you grateful for the possibilities that become necessary when problems arise.