How to make your problems disappear?

The Problem

I know I am getting better because my hip is now sore. Ten days ago I couldn’t move, bend, or really feel my leg after my hip op. I was operating on a timetable of pain killers between the chair and the bed. Now, the staples are out, and I only nibble the paracetamol, it hurts more! Yes, admittedly, I can escape the living room orthopaedic chair (with my side table of water, pills, cigs, books, pen, paper, phone) with relative ease, even cook on one leg. I can hop around the shop so it’s all good. I know it is all good but I have a problem. Now, I am better, I want to do more but I get easily tired. Usually, I love being tired. I love that feeling of exhaustion, the glory of stretching out in bed, curling up beneath the duvet after swimming, walking, working, but you have to have done something to be tired in order to luxuriate in it. If you don’t the bed becomes an irritant. The sheets seem to be full of crumbs and the duvet gets tangled up in your legs and arms, the mattress is lumpy. Your bottom is sore from lying on it so much (I am unable to wallow in any foetal position). And I have become cross eyed with general irritation. But, I digress. I wanted merely to set the scene about my problem, not go on a rant.

So to get to the point about problem solving. This weekend my daughter brought home a book by an American author, Bernard Roth, called The Achievement Habit. I sighed wearily, and commented that these self-help books are irritating in that they were rather half arsed in their human psychoanalysis, and it was all common sense. Yes, she agreed, but there were some interesting bits. I promised I’d skim it while she went out zip lining in Leitrim. So I returned to the lumpy bed, read it and decided to do a Bernard Roth exercise. I have to share my discovery with you all. It seems you can make your problems disappear!

How to solve the problem

The first chapter discussed problem solving. I had to choose a problem. Being somewhat preoccupied with my own position, I chose the problem of being one legged, unable to walk properly, swim at all, and feeling tired and frustrated. Bernard Roth suggested that rather than posing a question about what to do about this problem, I look at the benefits that I would feel if the problem was solved. So, the benefits of not hopping around on one leg and getting tired would be feeling constructive, and able to do things.  I would cook, and work (read and write). But, I am cooking, reading and writing, just doing it with irritation discomfort. But his argument is that  if I am already experiencing the benefits of the solution, there cannot be a real problem! Eureka! I admit that made me feel less self pity, but I still felt suspicious that problem solving was that easy. Let’s try another one, I decided.

What do I do about the problem of not having a paid job? The benefits of the solution to not having paid employment (i.e. getting a job) are money, comfort, mobility, less worry, more confidence and status. Again, I already experience the benefits! I have job seekers which I can just about live on with the support of my family, I have a car to get around, have worked long enough in the past to have a comfortable home I have paid for, and I am old enough to know that if I wasn’t worried about money, I would worry about something else! And I write and publish poetry which gives me confidence and status. Hey presto…. No problem! Is this man a genius?

Ok, I thought, let’s make up a really difficult problem. Maybe I am fortunate that mine are not sharp enough. I have no money. I am being made homeless by the bank in three weeks and the council cannot house me so is putting me on the street. The benefits to me of the solution of a home is warmth, and security (to name just two biggies). Indeed, yes, I could find these benefits elsewhere, in a hostel, with the homes of friends, in a pub. Problem solved? I think not.

Fortunately, skimming Mr Roth didn’t take long. But I have been doing a lot of reading in this tangle of sheets and in my uncomfortable orthopaedic old person’s chair. Here are some books I do recommend. I finished the Gilead trilogy by Marilynne Robinson which was really thought provoking. It got me ruminating on predestination and existentialism.  I loved all four Eleni Ferante novels about friendship set in Italy. I am particularly enjoying the latest edition of Stinging Fly, In the Wake of the Rising. I must confess, I have been dreading the commemoration year a little but I have found this edition riveting.  Excellent articles, stories and some excellent poems.

So…feeling better this morning. The sun is up. I can now bend my leg so I don’t have to sleep like a corpse in a coffin and I start workshops this week. Yee hah. And, as Mr Roth, would say, I guess a positive perspective does help.



2 thoughts on “How to make your problems disappear?

  1. Martine says:

    I loved this, Kate. I’ve been reading lots since getting ill, including about being ill. Inevitably it throws up questions; your body (which I never gave much thought to, preferring to live up in the peaks of my head) has in some ways turned against you, you are suddenly forced to think about stuff that before you took for granted. I read a book by a Jungian analyst (who looks at archetypes for sickness and says that any big illness puts you in Persephone’s shoes; one minute gathering flowers in a sunlit meadow, the next you are kidnapped and dragged down to the underworld). The point she makes is that this is ‘seed time’ – you are meant to be withdrawn, taking stock. I found that positive.

    Get well soon x

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