When Life Hurts, Part Four

I knew when I opened this “When Life Hurts” topic that it was a large one, but I didn’t expect to blog so many times on it. I guess life’s challenges are feeling very real to me right now and I am having to look at them head on.

It’s about tools, therapies and treatments for life.

Yesterday’s lesson for me was about tools. It started when I was feeling burdened and distraught. It seemed that all resources had been exhausted and there was no way to escape the oncoming disaster. I wasn’t blaming myself or lost in self-pity. I was not even at a loss for what to do. I knew what had to be done, but felt unfit for the task.

That’s when it occurred to me that what we humans do when we are unfit for the task: we employ or devise tools. Besides language, I would argue that tools are humankind’s greatest advantage over animal life. From the axe and knife to the plow and hammer, simple tools allow us to make radical changes to our environment. And not only that, they can do their jobs quickly and without fuss. You know, like the fuss you get when you tell your child to clean up their room, or tell the employees to produce more in the same workweek … or you are faced with your own task that happens to be onerous.

One tool that makes a great example is the knife. A knife suited for the task makes a clean incision without tearing; the surrounding material is separated without injury. The knife comes out undamaged, ready for the next cut. This is exactly what I need to get my personal issue resolved. I need a clean incision into the problem, a blade that easily slips through the coil of resistance and then comes out cleanly.

Realizing this, it was important to reflect on this: tools are not limited to physical instruments and our major tool is our mind.

And this: the major holdout of resistance is our emotions.

Therefore, if we can use the mind to cut through the emotions and get to the tangled mess that needs to be freed up, the job is done, as cleanly as a well-sharpened and selected knife.

Inspired by the knife, I determined to make my mind sharp, and to let go of the resisting, fearful emotions for the period required to get the job done.

That’s when I saw the bumper sticker of a two time Viet Nam War Survivor. I thought about the tools at a soldier’s disposal: a gun, hand explosives, knives, communication devices, night vision, intelligence, a chain of command, a strategy that is superior to the enemy’s, etc. And perhaps the most significant (and life-saving) tool a soldier has is a mind that is clear, that knows it’s job, has determination to see it completed and has eliminated emotional complications for the time being.

When life hurts, a soldier’s mind and array of tools may be required. A soldier’s or tool-handler’s mind creates distance from the emotions. It gives us the ability to assess the threat, to make a logical plan (treatment) for the best of all concerned, to focus on improving our chances of survival and to commit to that. Neither the tool handler nor the tool can take the operation personally.

The best tools for life are not always love, hope and joy. Sometimes what life throws at us involves action squarely applied for the amount of time required…without apology. Love is my tool of choice, but not all problems respond to love. Or hope, or optimism alone. Sometimes, we need to pick up the harder tools and not flinch.

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