April 28, 2009

Problems serve a purpose

Posted in Between Us column, Spirituality at 4:48 pm by dinaheng

I hate gnats.  I’m sure they serve a purpose in Nature and the world’s ecosystem, but I can’t wait until they leave my house.

Lately, these tiny pests have been buzzing around my head no matter what I try to do to get rid of them. At first, I just noticed one every now and then when I sat at my computer to work. Then, I started seeing one in the kitchen.  A couple in the living room. 

Since I take the garbage out every night, I figure the critters are coming from a houseplant. I traced the culprit to two sources — a planter of orchids that someone sent me a few months ago, and two plants that I repotted recently, using the same overly moist soil because I was too lazy to go back to the store to get another bag of dirt.  To combat the gnats, I sprayed everything. But the bugs keep coming.

Funny how most problems in life are like that. We procrastinate dealing with them. We think they may go away if we ignore them. We hate cutting negative things out of our lives, even though we know we should, and end up creating more problems in the long run.

Problems, though, are really opportunities for growth in disguise. We can initiate that growth, or we can wait for life to initiate something for us, which is not always pleasant to deal with. Growth means learning new things, embracing change and letting go of things in the past that no longer serve us.

Letting go of the past doesn’t mean ignoring its lessons. It just means releasing what no longer works, and giving away anything that prevents new, positive experiences. 

We have the opportunity to do this every day in some form or other. I often remind myself to let go of impatience. I’m forever trying to set aside judgmental thoughts. Some days, the best I can do is take outdated stuff out of my closet to give away. Even then, half the time I end up putting something back before it makes it to Goodwill.

That’s how Congress tends to write legislation. Lawmakers start out with language that changes something for the better, then those who disagree start putting in words to keep things the way they were. The push me-pull you act of compromise seldom gets the job done, yet we tend to applaud whatever progress is made, simply because something has changed.

I guess we all just grow in fits and spurts. Part of us wants to change our lives for the better, and part of us fears that change will… well, require us to change. The great thing, though, is that Life is always changing, whether we want it to or not. We can worry about what’s coming, or we can trust that the best is always unfolding.

That’s how I’m looking at this recession. Yes, half my 401(k) has disappeared, but I absolutely believe that I’ll always have what I need. Because what I need has less to do with money than with love, peace of mind, and happiness.

The economy is only in trouble because we live in a world that believes more in lack than limitless opportunity, more in finite resources than infinite good.  

Having fewer dollars to play with is giving most of us greater appreciation for what we do have. Perhaps that’s the gift that problems give us. I’m grateful for my health, for my friends and family, and for the roof over my head.  Even if I have to share it with a few gnats.

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