Problem Solving

If all you ever look for in life are problems, guess what you’re going to find?

A Sacramento River tributary

Last spring I went on a weekend retreat. Had a couple books, a journal, pen, and the goal to be as disconnected as possible. Went there from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. On Friday it took me a solid three hours to see the beauty that surrounded me — the hundreds of acres of black walnuts, the tens of acres of plum trees, the few acres of wine grapes…it was incredibly beautiful. Throw in a slow moving Sacramento River and you get the idea.

young orchard — with no one around. Complete solitude.

But all I could do was see the issues, the problems — what was wrong. A dead tree here, a broken branch over there, or a leaky sprinkler (in my defense, in California anything that leaks fresh water is pretty much under state order to fix asap). It was impossible for me to see the setting sun, hear the birds singing their evening song, or walk under the shade of these trees in full springtime regalia.

It’s great to be a problem solver. It truly is — in fact, it is sorely needed. There are lots of things in this broken world that need fixing. But when I’m fixated on problems, I can’t see anything else. I can’t enjoy life, know friendship, or discover life. And when that goes on for months on end, what becomes of us? We lose sight of the greater picture.

We forget our clients are real human beings.

We neglect our families who we, in any other circumstance, love.

We rush from thing to thing because we can’t get it all done.

We sacrifice whatever we can to get minimal gains.

When we can’t see beyond the mire, then that’s all that exists; we can’t believe or reason there’s goodness or beauty out there. What does it take for us to come around and accept the good things? Sometimes it takes a friend to slap you in the face. Other times it’s a long week or holiday. Maybe something terrible has to happen to jolt us from our routine. Or maybe we can take a weekend of solitude to recall the promises to never forget what virtues really matter in life — those that we put aside long ago in the hustle of our loud and raucous life.

Whatever was unintentionally put aside, I hope we can reflect on what really matters. You will always have problems, but you will not always have the beauty that currently surrounds you.

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