©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
I watched her, slumped in the chair, her body language a mixture of despair and defensiveness. “It isn’t my fault,” she protested for the umpteenth time, her voice projecting antithesis from taking responsibility for her own personal growth.
“The issue isn’t who is to blame,” I began, “but whether your life is working for you. And,” I hurried on before she could interrupt, “if not, what strategies can you implement to help you thrive?”
I might as well have saved my breath. “There is no way!” (The woman went on as if she hadn’t heard my comment and she may not have.) One after another she continued to name people and factors that she believed had conspired to block her success. As the recital droned on I kept hearing the phrase, “There is no way!”
Finally, when she paused for air, I raised my hand in a stop-sign gesture. Hoping an illustration could help, I began with the words, “Once upon a time…”
...It was one of those reportedly simple do-it-yourself projects that had turned into the proverbial nightmare. The workers had tried everything they could think of to thread the cord through 100 plus feet of 18 inch corrugated tubing. Of course it would have been ideal to insert the cord before the sections were glued and screwed together, but the instructions had not been clearly specific about that step and who had known? At this stage of construction, the upshot was that the L-shaped contraption was too small for any of the workers to wriggle through.
They were not without ideas. We’d watched several of them, the most recent of which had involved a fishing pole taped onto the end of a broom handle, the idea being to shove the cord it Arlene half way and then snag it from the other end.
“Dad gumm it!” The sound of a very frustrated voice split the tense stillness. Melissa (the owner’s daughter) giggled and then laughed aloud. I tried to catch her eye without success. As much as I was in favor of laughter it might not be her best choice at this precise moment.
“There has to be a way!” Another voice offered. “We’re all adults here,” a third voice opinioned. “We do not want to dismantle and start over!” More silence. (I paused and glanced at my listener. She was still tuned in!)
“I can make a way!” a little voice said. It was Melissa, her eager eyes turned upward.
“Sure, honey,” someone said, patting her head absently. “Sure, honey.”
“But I can,” the little girl persisted. No one paid her any mind. One minute she was there and the next instant her little body was disappearing into the tube.
“Wait!” a voice called. “Come back!”
“Oh let her go,” another ordered and then added, “What can it hurt?”
Fearing she might become frightened in the darkness, her father bent down and spoke into the tube.
“I’m okay. I’m making a way!” she called back reassuringly. Slowly but surely Melissa made her way around the elbow and met up with the end of the fishing pole. Gripping the cord in her little teeth (smart girl to leave her hands free) she began backing out the way she had come. Before long we could see her feet, then her plump little rump, and finally her tousled little head. Jumping up, eyes shining, she flung herself into her father’s arms and cried triumphantly, “I made a way!”
I concluded the story by saying, “And she had. When none of the workers could come up with a solution, Melissa made a way.” Silence.
Finally the woman stirred. “How old was Melissa?” she asked.
“Five.” The woman’s eyebrows registered surprise.
“It’s not always one’s chronological age that makes the differences, it’s one’s attitude,” I explained.
“Hmm.” Another pause. Longer.
“Rehearsal is an important part of recovery,” I said, breaking the silence, “but unending rehearsal without implementing a personal plan of action rarely leads to thriving.”
The woman’s face broke into a rueful grin of recognition. “I’ve been rehearsing for the last nine years,” she admitted. (I bit my tongue. I really did!) “I need help with some strategies.” (I nodded encouragingly.) And then, tentatively at first, but with gaining resolve, she added “I can make a way.”
Ah, now we could get somewhere—toward thriving!