While having an above ground pool has been one of the most beneficial purchases I have ever made, keeping it clean can be a pain. I’ve taken steps to make it easier, such as installing a salt water pump and a sand filter (both highly, highly recommended), but with all of the rain we get, there is always, always trash, whether it’s the billion, billion bugs that have suicided in my pool or the leaves that have thrown themselves down in either mourning or suttee-by-water.

Sometimes there is sediment. Sometimes there is a lot of sediment. 

After two attempts at obtaining decent pool vaccuums, I’ve given up. The first one was a rechargeable one (through a USB no less. Who the hell thought that was a good idea?) that exploded in the pool. Literally. It burst outward. The second was  hose-powered and too heavy for me,  so now I take a broom, sweep the walls and floor, skim what I can out, and leave the rest for the filter.

The first time I tried it, however, after nearly a week of constant rain, the water was clear, but it looked like my pool had a brown bottom. (I know there’s a joke in there, but I’ll put it aside for the moment). I got in with the broom and started sweeping. All the junk and sediment rose, and it looked horrible, like I would never get it clean. I would skim some of it out, and the filter would clean some more. When I checked the next day, again, the water appeared clear but there was junk at the bottom and I had to do it all over again. In fact, it took me almost a week of doing it every day to get it really clean.

 

Just as there is no magic pill for cleaning a pool, there is no magic pill for life. 

 

There’s no magic pill for justice, either, or for peace, or  for learning how to play the guitar or write, or even for weight loss, despite all the advertisements to the contrary.

There isn’t a magic switch, either, its position either granting light or withdrawing it. There is no magic barn, one of those places that we can be locked into until we’ve settled our differences—even if our differences are within ourselves.

To settle differences, to fix what we may perceive as broken, to learn a skill, to lay down our baggage–all of those things take work. Sometimes it’s damn hard work. It’s not a straight line, and it often includes those backward-looking steps.

 This is one of my favorite memes from Facebook:

Sometimes succeeding at something looks nothing like we expected.

When attempting to improve anything about ourselves or our world, we must act, but we must do so with a deep patience. We need to understand that if this attempt doesn’t work, or that attempt doesn’t work doesn’t mean that we should stop working.

Some work means that things appear worse before they are better. Like an abscess, somethings must be drained before they can heal.

And that can be painful. Very painful. But we can’t heal until we are rid of that infection. 

When we first commit to the work of improving ourselves or our world, we may face opposition or resistance. In fact, we’ll probably face a LOT of opposition or resistance. I’ve found that those two things appear almost immediately to challenge my commitment.

Whether it’s overwhelming odds, critics, or physical barriers or doubt or fear or lack of funds or lack of support, resistance is almost a surety. 

How do we know if that resistance is a sign that we should stop? How do we know when we’re actually doing something–even if the results are not visible yet–and we’re simply beating our heads against a wall? 

We can ask ourselves three things: 

 

 1. What are our motives?

             Why do we want to do this work to which we have committed?  What is its purpose? What do we hope to                              accomplish by doing it?  What is its overall benefit?

 2. What would things be like if we didn’t do this work?

            What would our life be like if we didn’t do it? Better, worse, or the same? Would the world improve without              our  effort?  Would we be satisfied if we didn’t do it?

 3. Should I involve others in this decision?*

            This one has a really big asterisk by it–or at least as big as I can make it for now. Normally, this is a no-                          brainer  for me: for the most part, I’d recommend not asking for advice. I’ve found I tend to ask advice from                          people  who, while they mean well, just don’t get me or get what I’m about.  If you have a friend or friends with                    whom you seem to jingle along the same jangle, then you might want to ask them because  they might make                          good  sounding boards. 

              But…

             If we are working on improving the world, one of the best first steps we can take (doubt or no doubt) is to ask the                  people we’re directly trying to help if what we would like to do is what they actually need. Or, better yet, ask them                what would most benefit them. This strategy is called People-Centered Development.  

 

In the thick of things, sometimes it’s difficult for us to know when to press on and when to change tactics, direction, or even entire plans.  By being really honest with ourselves and searching for deep-down answers to those three questions, we can get at least a glimpse of how we should proceed. 

 

 

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