It was going on hour two of a full-blown, eardrum-splitting, scream-cry tantrum.
This 6-month-old baby girl and I had spent every weekday of the last three weeks together, doing this: she wailing like it was an art, and me doing everything I could think of to get her to stop.
Some days I thought I might pass out due to my inability to get her to stop crying, and the idea that there was no solution was slowly concretizing into my head.
It was my third or forth year as a nanny to an infant, and I was very good at it. I had never experienced crying like this before, and it made me feel out of control, incapable, and hopeless-- some pretty heavy emotions to be feeling around a little one.
I knew in my heart I didn't need to take it personally (this little one had had a few nannies before me who had experienced the same ordeal); however, the idea that I lacked the ability to soothe her made me feel I was failing her, her parents, and myself.
Hours of a screaming infant will do that to you. It will make you want to cry. It will make you want to run far away. It will make you think you're a bad person.
But, if the screaming lasts long enough, what it also makes you do is a magical thing.
Hours of trying to calm a completely inconsolable baby forces you to give up.
And that is the key to finding the solution.
Sometimes the only way to find a solution is to stop trying to fix the problem.
The only option I had in order to save my sanity was to let go of any temptation to get her to stop crying.
I held her; she cried. I made lunch; she cried. I rocked her; she cried. I showed her toys, trees, and bubbles; she cried. I danced for her, I sang to her, I read her books, I played her music...
I let go and I let her cry.
Babies are incredibly sensitive, communicative people, and they know the essence of what you're telling them even though they don't use words yet. Every time I tried to get her to stop crying, that was a direct message to her that what she was doing was something I thought she should not be doing.
Nobody likes to be told to stop doing something they feel is really important for them to do. And it was clear this little girl felt she needed to cry this much and this hard, because it took a ton of work on her part to keep it up.
So instead of telling her to stop, I accepted her as she was, and thereby let her know that I acknowledged her need to cry.
She heard me. As soon as I let go, and held the space for her tears, her tantrums began to diminish.
It took some time, but eventually she began to go hours without wailing, then days, and finally she stopped the screaming fits forever.
It was then that we became dear friends. The struggle we had endured had created a relationship that we had worked hard or-- we made it through to the other side and it made our story rich and alive.
We made it through together, and all of that hardship sweetened the friendship so much more than had it been all giggles and sunshine from the start.
Rainbow After the Storm, Photograph by Brea Fisher
The juice of life can only be enjoyed to its fullest when you overcome the sludge of a challenge.
Had my baby friend and I not spent months working through hours of wails, our friendship may not have been something we cherished so deeply.
Think back to a time when you were faced with a problem.
Try to remember the feeling you had when you finally found the solution.
A leaky roof you once lived under and the joy of living without pots and casserole dishes scattered around your floor when it was finally fixed.
An extraordinarily hard day at work and the absolute ecstasy you got simply by flopping down on the couch with a good book and going to bed early.
A particularly heart-wrenching breakup and the incredible sense of freedom you felt once the grief passed and you began to feel like you again.
Think of your own version of this. You've got them aplenty, so give it a good go to recall at least one.
Now think: what was the catalyst for that good feeling you got after finding the solution to your problem? Would you have had the joy, the ecstasy, or the sense of freedom without having been faced with the problem first?
Why would I cheer for a dry living room during a rainstorm if I had never had multiple drips coming down inside my home before? If I had an easy, fulfilling day at work, would I get such gratification out of retreating to bed early? Would I know what freedom feels like if I never felt its absence?
So, if the result of a problem is the potential to find a solution, which gives you that I'm-Alive! feeling, one could argue that problems are actually our friends.
Think of a problem you have in your life-- something currently unsolved.
First, be ok with it existing. Let it be. Stop trying to fix it. Allow it to exist.
Now, appreciate it existing. See that problem as a friend-- a teacher-- something that exists for you rather than despite you.
Lastly, set an intention around what you would like to happen regarding this problem. Something like this:
"I intend for this problem to bring me relief, joy, and freedom once the solution makes its way to me."
You can also add,
"May this become my experience if it is in my highest good and the highest good of all life everywhere."
This last statement serves as a way to remind ourselves that all things in life have purpose and sometimes what we think we want, can actually turn out not to be the best thing for us.
Perhaps certain problems need not be corrected at all. Sometimes all you need is to change your opinion about the problem.
Problems? No problem.
I highly recommend listening the Invisibilia podcast episode entitled, The Problem with the Solution, which beautifully illustrates this point, with stories that are paradigm blasting. Find the episode here, by scrolling down to find the episode, or click the play button below to play it directly.
It is my belief that all problems have a solution, that finding the solution often requires letting the problem be, and that it is the problem itself that inspires you to feel so good when you finally find the solution.
As for my little wailing friend, well, she stopped crying and never went back. She became the most easygoing, lighthearted, joyful little wood sprite of a girl and I miss her often.
I try not to play favorites when it comes to the babies I've nannied, but this one, I gotta say-- she's special. My thanks goes to her countless hours of the scream-cry.
Make your problems your friends and they will give you treasures of joy, accomplishment, and peace.
What do you think? Got any tales of woe that made your life a whole lot better? I bet you do, if you really look. Whether you want to share those or tell me of other insights you may have had while reading, please let me know! You can leave a comment below, or you can email me directly. I love hearing from you either way!