Colleen Figg

Problems with no solutions

2008-11-21 09:51

Colleen Figg

We are taught from small that every problem has a solution, every means an end, every obstacle a way over or through. If you have a set-to in the playground the solution is that you report to the principal?s office and are subjected to a stern lecture and being frowned at over his or her spectacles.

As we grow older, reams of paper and now, virtual space, are dedicated to offering advice of one kind or another. If you raise dahlias and have a problem with rot or root decay, you buy a book or go online or consult someone at the Dahlia Club.

The odd dahlia may be sacrificed while you experiment with this solution or that one but at the end of it all, it is sorted. You get to the bottom of it. You eradicate it.

More serious problems such as financial debt or fiscal planning for your future can be addressed with the help of highly paid people in sharp suits who will come over with a slick PowerPoint production to show you the error of your ways and to recommend a very expensive path forward.

Teenagers who get out of hand can be taken to psychologists and teen experts can be paid who will patiently delineate the difference between quality time and quantity time for you. Soon you and your teen will be frolicking in sunlit meadows like those happy people in the medical aid ads do; a halo of light around their heads and Golden Retriever puppies lolloping clumsily after them.

Once you get around to planning your wedding you?ll have hordes of people at your door offering advice and encouragement on any subject ranging from the best man?s speech to what you should do if your prospective mother-in-law arrives in a hideous purple outfit with dyed ostrich feathers that clashes violently with your peaceful lime and tangerine scheme.

Potential minefields will be identified and negotiated in advance so that the situation of your maid of honour hitting on your newly married brother-in-law at the reception does not result in her and his wife tearing each other?s hair out under the main table as the evening wears on.

Conception, pregnancy, confinement, care of newborns, raising of toddlers, introduction to preschool and then primary and high school; career options for your university student, all of these decisions and options are covered in a myriad magazines and books.

When tragedy strikes your family, however, there is no advice, and no solution. There is comfort to be found from friends who want to help and there is understanding from people at work. At the end of it all though, when you have exhausted that avenue of support you are all alone.

I do not write this to pity myself, I write it as someone who has suddenly discovered an elemental and basic truth about the ways of the world and the real truth about helplessness.

I?d like to say I admire those others who have survived hearing the worst thing a parent can hear, the worst thing a spouse or partner can hear, the worst thing a young man or woman can hear and still find it in themselves to carry on.

If you could bottle that strength the world would lack for nothing.

Send your comments to Colleen.

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