On Bread Crumbs and Lightning Bolts

“Problems bear the seeds of their solutions…” Thus begins a lovely little meditation in Julia Cameron’s book Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life. Reading her thoughts, I am reminded again of how impatient I am, looking for Magic Answers, Solutions NOW, thank you very much. Somewhere deep inside I hold out hope for lightning bolts parting the clouds with drop-down signs pointing the way forward, issuing clear directions, netting solid, tangible results, and a big sigh of relief.

Not that I do this consciously. I know better than that, but it’s part of the human condition to hope for  tidy solutions to quandaries, and it’s easy to let that become wanting them sooner rather than later. Ironically, this only blinds me to the seeds within the problem that will germinate if I “water” them and find some patience to wait for results.

When I catch myself longing for “solutions now”, inevitably my next thought is self-recrimination, which is equally unhelpful, only adding self-loathing to longing. Nope – not helpful.

What can help?

The first step is always — always! — acknowledging honestly what I feel, however ignoble and/or “immature” those feelings may seem. We’re not bad because we have thoughts. It’s what we do about thoughts and feelings that carries the burden of judgment. Acknowledgement changes the focus, saying to those thoughts and feelings, “Yes, I see you. I accept you, but I don’t need to allow you to run the show.”

I find it helpful to ask my feelings and thoughts what they are trying to tell me. Well… sometimes it’s helpful, other times, no message comes forth. I suppose that’s a message in and of itself: I am asking to understand something before it can be understood.

So there I am, mixed in a muddle, trying to be oh, so magnanimous and wise, and feeling oh, so lost and impotent.

What if I looked for seeds instead of fully ripened fruit? “Bread crumbs” instead of “lightning bolts”? What if I tuned my radar to little messages and small directional clues, noticing “little Cessnas” instead of scanning the skies for jumbo jets?

It’s an intriguing strategic shift. Looking over my recent past, I see that “bread crumbs” have revealed the path forward if only to the next crumb; bits and pieces, partial solutions, unfolding moment by moment. The single crumbs by themselves seem insignificant, but taken together, they move me along my path. My job is to get out of the way with my grandiose plans and choose, instead, to follow the crumbs, one by one…

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