Possibility Stew

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

I pushed my nine-item-filled cart up to the Express Lane thinking, I shoulda grabbed a hand basket instead. There was a woman in front of me finishing up her transaction, looking for a pen to sign her check with. I checked the grocery app on my phone to make sure I got all the items on this second trip to the store while I waited for my turn.

Behind me came a man in his late salt-and-pepper years with a four-item-filled hand basket. He eyed the number of items in my cart before looking me in the eye to say hello. Then: “These express lanes are never really Express Lanes, are they?” he said, a wry smile blocking his teeth from shining. Just then, the woman with the checkbook pulled away with her groceries, and the clerk began scanning my goodies. “Well, look at that, today’s your lucky day,” I said, and flashed him my dimple and pearly barely-off-whites. He gruckled (yes, I just merged grunted and chuckled) and didn’t say a word, even in his slight grin and head-nod as I waved and bid him a wonderful day, heading toward the exit.

::

I wonder how many times we’re met with complaints in a day, and rather than find the—dare I say bright side or silver lining—we indulge in commiseration of said complaint. I’m prone to this myself, I know. And not even because I like commiserating, per se, but because I fancy myself the “too polite” type, and prefer to avoid confrontation at all costs. Recently I began an actual practice of translating complaints in to possibility.

A complaint is just an obstacle. It’s the roadblock keeping you from getting what you really want. When you focus on that roadblock, you tend to miss out on the brilliance you already possess to maneuver around it, stomp over it or bust right on through it. That Express Lane exchange could have easily gone: “Yeah, tell me about it…” or “Oh, don’t I know it?!” or “For realz tho, yo, this bitch in front of us all up in here with her goddamn checkbook!” Not that I would *ever* even think those things. Ahem… where was I? Oh yes, focusing on brilliance to bust through the roadblocks.

Truthfully, I’m not really the commiserating type. I’m more the, politely-smile-and-look-away-quickly-before-he-says-anything-else-and-for-pete’s-sake-don’t-turn-around-if-he-says-anything-else type. Neither commiseration, nor silence translate complaint into possibility, though. So what does?

::

Possibility Stew

Have you ever been around someone who just loves to sit in his or her own misery? And then at some point, it’s not enough for them to be sitting in it alone, they have to drag you into their Misery Stew, too? I don’t like like the taste of my own Misery Stew, let alone someone else’s. It’s overpowering and salty and garlicky and mushy, in all the wrong ways. Possibility Stew, on the other hand, has power and heat and flavor and texture, in all the right ways—if you’re willing to stir it up a bit.

So, what’s in Possibility Stew? Well, for sure there’s misery—because we need a little of the yang to fully experience the yin. As to the other ingredients (including but not limited to): Sadness and tears, 30-second-long snorts of laughter with water/milk/wine/spaghetti coming out of your nose; confidence and doubt; second-guessing and intuition; falling down, salt-in-the-wound, and getting back up again; down-in-the-dumps and a-deluxe-apartment-in-the-sky; broken hearts and honeymoons; first and last kisses; puppy kisses and vet bills; UHF, VHF, and HDTV; sucker-punches and near-misses; faith and distrust; lovers and I-don’t-wanna-be-just-friends; blown fuses and well-lit parking lots; high tides and low blows; flip-flops and absolute truths; diseases and cures and remissions and we’re-sorry-there-was-nothing-we-could-do’s; lottery wins and stock market crashes; shine and rust; sand and marble; surplus and overdrawn; high risks and low returns; low risk and high returns; no risk and no rewards; leaks and plugs; screeching sirens and deafening silence; life and death; express lanes and checkbooks; complaints and possibilities.

Possibility Stew isn’t about always seeing the bright side or simply dismissing the dark side of reality. It’s about integrating one with the other to make what you want out of a situation you can’t change.

If you focus on just the situation you find yourself in, you’re missing the opportunity for your brilliance to shine in moving through it. If I had focused on just the woman in front of me holding up the express lane with her checkbook, I might have missed an opportunity to double check my list and save myself a third trip to the store in half as many days. If I had focused on just the water that damaged my laptop recently, I might still be wallowing in my sorrow, sobbing alone in the living room, rather than feeling loved and consoled by The Wildcat, over something that could not be undone*.

This practice that I’m working with, of using Possibility Stew to translate my complaints into possibilities looks like this:

Scenario: Jackson wags cute, curly tail into glass of water, which spills onto ottoman. Macbook sits atop ottoman, thus sits atop spilled water. The Wildcat researches what to do about water spilled on a laptop.

Complaint: Fuuuuuuuck! My Macbook is ruined … RUUUIINED!!! My dog is evil and did this on PURPOSE! My Wildcat doesn’t care about ME, she only wants to fix my PROBLEM!!!! I am a miserable, whiney human being and I don’t deserve to own a Macbook, or any other electronic device!!!!!

Reframe my scene (using just the Facts): My Macbook may be ruined, but it can also be replaced. My dog made a mistake and is most certainly not evil. My Wildcat is a problem solver by nature, and her looking into potential fixes for my waterlogged laptop in no way displays that she doesn’t love me. While, at times, I’ve been known to whine and wallow in misery, this is not my nature, and I’m allowed to be human. I deserve my laptop, and even if this accident costs us a bundle of money, we’ve put ourselves in a position to take care of it, and so we will.

Adjust my attitude: Take a deep breath and ask: Where is my opportunity for growth here? How can I use what’s brilliant in me to move past the facts of this scenario?

Possibility: This is a perfect opportunity for me to dig into my brilliance and see what’s possible when my the situation is out of my hands. My opportunity for growth becomes leaning into the discomfort and finding a way to be okay on the inside, even when I’ve lost something important to me on the outside. As for moving past the facts of the scenario, deep breaths are helping with that. I believe there’s a lot of brilliance in a slow, deep breath.

When do you SCRAP complaining, stir up some Possibility Stew, and call out the brilliance inside you just dying to shine?

*Truth be told, I did miss out on a bit of that consoling, and had to go groveling for it later when I was all alone and upset that The Wildcat didn’t want to deal with me snapping at her, “It’s a Macbook PRO…It doesn’t haaaave a battery to remove!”

Yin Yang Earth Sky image used under Creative Commons license and belongs to DonkeyHotey.
  • Oh Dian, this is a brilliant post! It’s funny. It’s practical, and it’s a message that we ALL need to hear! Seriously, I love it.   Favorite parts? 1.) Gruckle and 2.) “Possibility Stew isn’t about always seeing the bright side or simply
    dismissing the dark side of reality. It’s about integrating one with the
    other to make what you want out of a situation you can’t change.”

    This is something I’ve been learning a lot lately as, unfortunately, I got pregnant and then suffered a miscarriage right after we had lunch in April.  Was really sick for the 2 months I was pregnant and was frustrated at first, but then chose to look at it as a chance to slow down, do some reading and savor relaxation.  After the miscarriage, I’ve been trying to make “Possibility Stew” and decided that while I am incredibly sad about losing the baby, I now have a few more months to enjoy traveling w/Hubs, build my career and drink wine.

    Thanks again for the great reminder!

    • It’s so easy to get sucked into our circumstance, especially when there’s such an emotional tie. What I love about the idea of Possibility Stew is that there’s room for both the pain and the passing, the grief and the comfort, the loss and the gain. I would never wish a miscarriage on anyone, and yet, women who have survived their unborn baby’s passing seem to know a depth to life that just wouldn’t be possible without it. I’m so sad to hear about your loss, my friend. And I’m glad this post has found you, and that it’s resonated so deeply. 

      AAAAND…oh how fun to travel with the hubby, build your career and drink the vino!! =)

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