A math professor, teaching a college Abstract Algebra class, once told his students the following while handing out the homework:
“If you get to a problem, and you just can’t seem to figure it out, go get a beer. Drink the beer, and then go back to the problem. If you still can’t figure it out, get another beer. Drink the beer, and then go back to the problem. If after the second beer you still can’t figure it out, get a third beer. If after the third beer you can’t figure out the problem at least then you aren’t going to be worried about getting the problem right anyway.”
Sometimes I wish all problems could be handled like this.
After talking to a mentor and doing some painful work last night, I’ve come to realize that my personal struggle from the last post is really a dark of the soul that needs to be worked on and healed. And now that I have figured that out, I just get to get my arms wrapped around the issue, deal with the pain from why the issue is there in the first place and most importantly, get myself to a place where I feel safe enough to accept the pieces of myself that were so badly damaged back into my life.
It’s a nice, big problem that is going to take time. And after the work I did last night, I also realized that I don’t know exactly where to start. And that’s when the professor’s words came back to me. Of course, beer is probably not the best liquid to drink in situations like this. And in my tired silliness, I thought ‘tea!’ suddenly remembering the lovely book “The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul, ” which a passage of described how I was feeling after my spiritual work expertly:
In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you’ve had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.
Tea to me is soothing. Tea is flavorful and healing. There are so many varieties and ways to make it that almost everyone can find a favorite variety. And even the task of making a cup of tea or seeking out that one flavor that is your favorite is caring for yourself. Tea for me is also humorous, as my husband drinks it a very specific way that has grossed out many an English person’s sensibility while making it the last time we were in England.
But back to the problem at hand.
I don’t think that I’m alone in the feelings I have. Anyone who is looking at the news here in the United States and are seeing the horrid events that are happening are also feeling a lot of the same things. Perhaps the entire United States is now going through a dark night of the soul; trying to find it’s real identity as well as what the true definitions of patriotism, unity and freedom are. It seems like we have all been assuming that we all believe one way, while what has truly happened is that we are significantly divided.
And that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this. I’m recognizing I’m all over the map right now. Last night especially. Last night I was upset, crying like a lunatic one moment, the next moment giggling to myself about the thought of getting a beer or a cup of tea, and the next moment after that planning out writing this post. And perhaps many more people are just as all over the map like me right now; whether it be from their own personal issues like I have, or because they know what is going on in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and in Washington D.C., and can’t get away from the media attention being given to all of it. Or perhaps they are just upset at the division they see in their own cities, counties and states that again they can’t get away from.
There is one thing however, that I know with absolute certainty, no matter the reason or situation causing the pain and struggle. I am going to get through this. And we as a nation are going to get through this. We will get through our personal issues, the country will find a new identity, and life will move on. This process may not be short. This process is going to hurt. It’s also going to reveal more about who we truly are as individuals and as a nation. But I know there will be an end someday. And we will all get to that end, just like sooner or later I will get to the bottom of my personal struggle. And what will matter at that point is what we do with the knowledge we have gained from the experience. Have we chosen to become better people, or have we just chosen to become more bitter. I already know what the answer to that is for me.
Picture from Deviant Art