Getting out of the box

Early 21st century American executive types like to expound on “thinking outside the box”.  Their sermons run something along the lines of “all our problems could be solved if someone could just think outside the box.”

Implicit in this statement is an idea that a problem will somehow disappear if we just can think up the right solution. However, I would argue that sometimes the ‘solution’ is to take a different perspective of the problem. The problem may be unsolvable, for example you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Sometimes there is only a ‘less bad’ choice. Regardless of the levels solvability, the problem does give us the opportunity to examine our own reactions to the problem, our own machinations as we run around the box, slam against the walls, tear our hair in frustration at being stuck in the box.

So how does one get out of the box? There are many tools for doing this, but it takes time and the more tools you have, the more likely you are to get out of the box. These are some tools I have found useful over the years to escape the box.

  1. Ask for help.
  2. Ask for support
  3. Know that you have support
  4. Examine your ideal of perfection
  5. Examine your need to please other people
  6. Examine your need to control things
  7. Take a walk in nature
  8. Calm your brain- anxiety is a marker of the problem, but anxiety is only good as a marker. Anxiety marks the boundaries of the box, but anxiety will never help you escape the box.
  9. Pray to God -not to solve your problem- but to give you a different perspective on your problem.
  10. Try to find the underlying causes that built this box in the first place.


Good luck!



Hairspray 2016!

My younger son is in his first High School theater production! He has a small part (only two lines), but he’ll be doing a lot of singing and dancing on stage. Older son is in the orchestra pit playing baritone saxophone.

If you are in town this Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday (matinee), please check out our production of “Hairspray”- guaranteed to please!


10 Mile Stroll

Pictures taken along my husband’s favorite 10 mile ‘stroll’. He does this every Saturday and Sunday morning, at what he calls a ‘leisurely pace’ (I call it a “brisk trot”). I can only do this once every two weeks, when I fail to remember how much it hurt the last time I did it.

Ok, yes, it IS a pretty stroll. If you ever want to see exceptionally fit Americans, this is the place to go. We are inevitably passed by a high school or college cross country track team. I tell my husband that if you see someone wearing a “Chicago Marathon” t-shirt, you are supposed to let them have their way on the trail. He suspects people just go out and purchase these t-shirts so they will be among the trail elite.

Self-Fulfilling Rat Race

“But these were days of self-fulfillment, where settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble. Somewhere, surrendering to what seemed to be your fate had changed from being dignified to being a sign of your own cowardice. There were times when the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive, as if happiness were something that everyone should and could attain, and that any sort of compromise in its pursuit was somehow your fault.”

-Hanya Yanagihara in A Little Life, p 41

Sinking in

“I open the gallery door, walk in with that sinking feeling I always have in galleries. It’s the carpets that do it to me, the hush, the sanctimoniousness of it all: galleries are too much like churches, there’s too much reverence, you feel there should be some genuflecting going on. Also I don’t like it this is where paintings end up, on these neutral-toned walls with the track lighting, sterilized, rendered safe and acceptable. It’s as if somebody’s been around spraying the paintings with air freshener, to kill the smell. The smell of blood on the wall.”

-Margaret Atwood in Cat’s Eye p 90

Sticky Treat

I had been complaining all summer long about the humid weather to anyone who would listen. I felt the humidity was unnatural for our typical dry Northern climate. The humidity ought to disappear after a thunderstorm, but not this year. The storm would roll through and the humidity stayed, making everything sticky and (to me) uncomfortable.

This morning I opened my front door and assessed the humidity level. 10 am and already too sticky for a quick walk. This darn weather. Climate change. Mumble grumble. As I turned back inside, I noticed the fern plant on my front porch.

All winter long I had nursed the sickly fern plant. By May I thought it would die, so I put it out front on the porch and ignored it. Until today.

The fern plant was thriving. It was covered with fresh green leaves. While the humidity had been making my hair frizzy, my clothes cling to me in fetid sweat, and my outside activity level plummet, the excess moisture in the air had done wonders for my invalid fern. It was thriving.

Humidity makes me wilt, but it makes pteridophytes happy.100_2145

21st Century Pilgrimage

“He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passer-by, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went. He had neglected so many things, that he owed this small piece of generosity to Queenie and the past.”

-From The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, p 107

Life Coach

“Schwartz knew that people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense. Everybody suffered. The key was to choose the form of your suffering. Most people couldn’t do this alone; they needed a coach. A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you. A bad coach made everyone suffer in the same way, and so was more like a torturer.”

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Depends on how you look at it

Last summer I was standing on a bridge going to an island in a lake. When I looked to the east, I saw a brilliant sunny day with sunlight glancing off the water.

Bodensee East                                                           oil                                       11 x 14

When I looked to the west, I saw ominous storm clouds, the water a gray-green prediction of trouble to come.

Bodensee West                                                            oil                                          11 x 14

Both of these contrary views depict the lake, both seem to offer their own version of ‘truth’. What is the ‘truth’ about this particular summer day?