Are you at the bottom of the hole? – Problem solving


a mule

a mule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By David Joel Miller.

Sometimes problems look like there is just no solution.

Every one of us has to face problems in our lives. Some people’s problems are much larger than others. The people who do the best job of solving their problems are not those with the fewest problems, they are the ones who practice solving problems until they get good at it.

This reminds me of a story and as my colleagues will tell you I am fond of telling stories. There are a bunch of versions of this story and if you have heard one of those other versions, well be warned this is the definitive version or at least I would like to think so.

The Gold Rush played a dominant role in early California history. We still like telling and listening to those old stories. Life in those mining camps was hard and sometimes there were tragedies.

One day a group of miners were out away from camp working on their clams. These particular clams were strung out across the hillside. This one old miner was pretty well liked by his fellow miners. Despite that Gold fever going around this miner still would do a good turn for the other minors.

So one morning after the other miners were already at work, this ol miner named Pete (Might have been Pedro, I can’t be sure).) Well Pete comes walking along, with his mule Betsy behind him, bringing up his tools and a few things for the other minors. Some say the mules name was Bonita but we can’t tell about that either.

Well Betsy slipped and slid down the hillside, ended up in a deep old open-pit mine shaft.  Pete commenced to hollering and the whole hillside full of miners came running.

For the best part of the morning they tried everything they could think of to get that old mule out of that pit.  If you heard this one before just keep it to yourself.

By noon these miners had tried everything they could think of, ropes and lowering a man into the pit to try to help the mule climb up and all like that. Nothing had worked.

Pete decides to do the right thing and put his girl (Mule) Betsy out of her troubles. So he and the other miners decide to give Betsy a decent burial right where she was. Sometimes it pays to give up and just let it all go. They were thinking this was one of those times.

So they all went and got their shovels and started throwing dirt in the pit. It started to pile up around that old mule and then commenced to covering her back. This was in the days before the SPCA and stuff like that. Today you wouldn’t be allowed to bury a mule without a permit and an environmental impact study.

So old Betsy did not like that dirt on her back and commenced to shaking. The dirt flew everywhere and ended up under her. So the minors threw in some more dirt.

Burying a mule that keeps moving is a chore. Well the long and the short of the story is that the more dirt they threw at her the more old Betsy shook and the higher up in that pit she came. Before long the pit was full and Betsy, why she just stepped out onto the surface again, shook the last of the dirt off her back and looked at Pete as if to say “What took you so long?”

The moral of the story, you knew one was coming didn’t you? That moral is that sometimes when we are down in the bottom of the pit and they are trying to throw dirt on us we need to keep shaking it off and stepping up a little higher.

So if you have been feeling like you were so far down you would need to climb up just to find ground level this story may be for you. Keep on shaking it off and let’s see who is standing on top next time.

Sometimes we get to thinking like those minors, they couldn’t get that mule out of the pit and so they were gonna give up on her. But Betsy, she did what she needed to and got herself out by using that dirt to form a bridge to her future.

So if the way you have been going about trying to solve those problems and the solutions of those around you are feeling like so much dirt in the face, like old Betsy what other uses can you think of for that dirt?

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Coming soon, a post about how to find solutions for your problems that involve using your mule sense.

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