Sunday, May 20, 2007

Efficiency in Problem-Solving

Pretty Lady is feeling pretty darn pleased with herself. She will go so far as to say that she is feeling Smug. She just 1) scored a bicycle off of Craigslist, suited to her specifications, for $100 cash (instead of the $500+ retail for a lightweight hybrid 12-speed, her steed of choice); 2) ordered The Swimsuit from J. Crew, at half-price (she had to be flexible as to color, but she got the St. Tropez! With the bamboo ring!); 3) discovered that, perhaps for the first time in her life, she made a transposition error in her checkbook last March which resulted in her being $900 to the good, instead of Not Quite Scraping By, as she had previously thought.

Which means she will be able to renew her yoga class card, bike to the beach all summer, and generally Romp Around, instead of bloating up whitely indoors, due to Extreme Poverty.

Thus buoyed by a sense of Good Health and Plenty, she will bravely tackle the seemingly intractable problem, presented to her by her bad-ass buddy, JWYW:

Bullying was a finely honed weapon. There were many emotional casualties. Those that could fight, did, by any means possible. Those that could not did not have their parents, nor the school administration behind them....PL- can parents without those skills really help their children? It seems those without enablers to sue their way out of the school system are doomed to fight or flight, just as when I was younger.
Pretty Lady has a bit of experience with attempting to teach and mentor inner-city Youth At Risk, who were besieged by Horrible Problems on every side. She failed miserably. Pretty Lady is now the first to admit that she is not equipped to deal with situations like this; she simply hasn't the background, the credentials, or the attitude. At this point she has pinpointed a certain brand of cynical, evil sadism in the Powers that Be, who take the best and the brightest of sweet, sheltered, idealistic, bright and enthusiastic young college graduates and lure them unsuspectingly into such travesties as the New York Teaching Fellows program, where they get eaten alive.

For idealism, energy, intelligence and Good Intentions are simply not sufficient to overcome the gargantuan problems facing the underclass of our society. When you take a core group of idealists, provide them with minimal training and hurl them into the most incorrigible, underfunded classrooms in the Bronx, the ones that the professionals will not touch with a barge pole, you may get a minor miracle or two, but mostly what you get are shell-shocked idealists, who morph quite rapidly into burnt-out cynics.

Ahem. So why is Pretty Lady addressing the issue at all, if all she has to offer is burnt-out cynicism?

Well, the fact is, that Pretty Lady is not in a Special Education classroom in the Bronx. She is comfortably in her Home Environment, where her Special Skills may shine. One of her Special Skills, as it happens, is that of a Librarian. And the one thing a Librarian knows is that if a person does not know the answer to a dilemma, that person can still do Research.

Yes! The secret to being an effective and efficient Librarian is to be as lazy as possible. One does not have to solve everything oneself; one does not have to Know All, Do All, or Be All. One merely has to know who to ask, or where to look.

So, even though Pretty Lady is pretty helpless when it comes to bullying, she offers a few generic steps to take, when confronted by a seemingly insoluble problem.

1) Identify the problem.

One primary skill any good Librarian must have is in getting the petitioner to state the issue which is actually concerning them. All too many people become stressed-out and confused when approaching the Lady Behind the Desk; they try to second-guess her, or play games, or leapfrog to a premature conclusion. When attempting to assist these people, Pretty Lady had to first patiently tweeze out the true nature of the problem, using such repetitive statements as, "What is your question? What is your concern? What do you need? What is the real problem? What are you trying to do?"

In the extreme example above, the Primary Concern is that the child get a good education, free of excessive bullying. This may seem obvious, but all too often, people lose sight of the Main Issue. They go off on wild tangents involving the expense of lawyers, self-defense training, or the evils of Administrative Stonewalling, without even thinking to check the phone book for other educational options in the vicinity.

2) Brainstorm about different angles to take in approaching this problem.

All too often, persons under stress fall into False Dichotomy mode, with the resultant spinning-in-circles and Hopeless Despair. "Well, I cannot do This, and That is completely out of the question, so I am Definitely Screwed," the petitioner is wont to state, stoically. The possibility that one of their options might very well be None Of The Above has never occurred to them.

3) Perform exploratory searches.

Oftentimes we don't know what we're looking for, because we have no idea what is out there. Getting a notion of what sort of resources exist, and how they are categorized, can often lead to a sudden insight as to a possible trajectory.

4) Network.

When you have a problem, tell everyone. You will have to fend off a great deal of useless advice, but there is always a possibility that one person, usually the least expected, will say something like, 'Oh, I have this friend who homeschools in exchange for yard work...would that be of any use?'

5) Sleep on the problem.

You do not have to fix it Right Now, usually. And many times, the best thing to do is nothing at all; then a week later, the solution descends in a blinding flash of light. The subconscious mind is an extraordinary thing, as are the workings of Grace, when it is allowed to tackle the task, unmolested by panicked attempts to control its methods.

6) A truly, truly insoluble problem is God's problem, not yours.

Pretty Lady is never one to advocate divesting oneself of Personal Responsibility. But when you have tried, and tried, and approached things from every angle, and gotten advice, and gotten help, and worked and tweaked and prodded and sewn, and studied, and trained, and advertised, and applied, and gone to therapy, and done yoga, and seen a doctor, and prayed--then you have done pretty much all you can do. If it is still not working out, that seems to her to be a clear indication that it is time to Let Go.

And Letting Go, Pretty Lady has it on good authority, is the thing which induces miracles.


k said...

That was really fine.

Pretty Lady said...

Thank you, k. Pretty Lady was beginning to think that all her friends had gone somewhere else to play, and were never coming back. Sob.

k said...

Oh, they've all gone away from ALL of us. It's spring. Daylight savings time started three weeks early and threw the Nielsens totally out of whack, as people used the extra hour of late daylight to do their gardening instead of watching TV.

Or commenting on blogs.

Even when traffic is fine, no one wants to say much.

It's the whole 'sphere.

Which is why it's a really really good thing that at least one's fellow bloggers still like to talk back atcha!

Pretty Lady said...

Oh, this is true, the weather here has been so fantabulous that it seems downright criminal to sit in front of a computer. And Pretty Lady has neglected most of her blogging friends too, so she has no grounds for complaint.

And all the garden she has is a postage-stamp-sized fire escape, and she's still gardening obsessively. Or rather, sitting and watching the morning glories wind their way around the railing.

k said...

And since there're few better ways to spend some time, I'm happy to hear you're spending it while you can.