Allowing Our Problems to Help

Seeing our problems as an outward symptom of a deeper issue offers us an opportunity to heal.

The other day, a friend asked me to pick up some books for her. Well…over 600 books. I drive a small car. An even smaller voice whispered to me: “I don’t feel comfortable putting over 600 books in my car. This will not end well.”

Alas, since the voice inside of me was much smaller than my car, I psychically “shushed” the voice and picked up the books.

The next morning my rear tire was flat, like Flat Stanley flat.

The problem might externally look like a flat tire that needs nothing more than a replacement; the problem might sound like a headache: calling AAA, waiting at a tire store for hours, and finally, getting that new tire installed.

All of the above is correct, but there’s a larger problem, one that has reared its head in many forms in these decades of my life on this floating planet: ignoring that small voice.

I’m not angry with my friend for asking me to pick up the books; I’m angry with myself for not heeding that small voice. I’m angry at myself because this is far from the first time that I’ve chosen to help another while ignoring my intuition.

Recognizing the problem, the REAL problem, is when growth can take place. The problem is the portal to changing our self-sabotaging habits or triggers. According to Counselor and Instructor, (Core Belief Engineering) Lisa Sidorowicz:

“Imagine for a minute that your “problems” are actually portals to resolution and healing…. Imagine not having to turn away from them anymore, but stepping into them…transforming your issues and getting beyond them.”

If we think of our problems as opportunities, as breadcrumbs on a trail to understand ourselves instead of something to avoid at all costs, we can actually dissolve the problems themselves.

In the case of the flat tire, the tire will get fixed, and I will drive again. But the source of the problem, the issue of ignoring my inner voice, a habit I have grooved into my subconscious when it comes to pleasing others, is no longer present. By stepping INTO the problem, I have journeyed through the core issue itself (putting others before myself) and come out the other side (honoring my inner voice).

So, the next time you are facing a problem, consider it deeper than its face value. Ask yourself:

What’s going on here that’s shown up in different forms before?

What is the core issue I am avoiding and need to face?

When we embrace discomfort, we find our pain offers a clue to our healing.

Nostalgia, Not Regression

There is a subtle yet distinct difference between appreciating the past and regressing back into who we were then.

The colleagues I worked with for the past several years are back at school, preparing their respective classrooms for that timeless yet momentous occasion (that somehow always goes by in a dizzying blur): the first day of school.

For years, I loved working with students but also felt a yearning to work with students in a different capacity. When the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed my personal career brass ring and started working for a non-profit literacy agency. To say that my experience is both enjoyable and rewarding is an understatement. Each morning, I feel like I’m waking up to some career fairytale, singing like one of the 7 Dwarfs “Hi, ho, hi, ho, it’s off to work we go…”

And yet, I miss my colleagues and friends at school. I miss seeing their smiling faces as we share the unspoken adrenaline of preparing for another school year. I miss the smell of books, the various personalities that make their way through our classroom doors, the camaraderie of teachers.

So how can I miss something that I yearned to leave?

According to life coach and author, Martha Beck (THE WAY OF INTEGRITY), sensing or experiencing an “impending transformation brings on a spasm of nostalgia for the life…known so far.”

There’s a reason we call it growing pains! The prefix TRANS (transition) literally means across or beyond. To go beyond something can shake us up, ejecting us from our comfort zones. It’s why the smoker who finds the willpower to give up cigarettes, while proud of their success, can also experience sadness, knowing they can’t share a smoke with their friends anymore. It’s why the victim of abuse who leaves their abuser is finally free but craves the familiar cycle of violence.

It’s why I can revel in pursuing my career but still wax nostalgic and sad about missing the first day of school.

“If you start honoring your true nature and find yourself missing your old culture, don’t panic. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time and space…” (Martha Beck)

I haven’t outgrown the classroom, but I did outgrow my role as public school teacher. I can appreciate the nostalgia that comes with time away from the classroom, but I don’t want to return there just because it’s familiar.

When we embrace our transitions, honoring how we feel along the way, a world of possibility arrives. And that’s where the real magic happens.