After thorns snagged my flesh for the 127th time, I sat down. (Yes, that’s just an estimate), The discomfort of being repeatedly flayed by blackberries gave rise to endorphins; the temporary retreat to philosophical musings. Namely, the recognition that dealing with blackberries is similar to confronting the problems that arise in our professional and personal lives. And there are some such challenges that also make us feel like we’ve getting skinned alive.
If you’ve never encountered them (blackberries, not problems-this blog is intended to describe real life, not fantasy), let’s pause for a brief description. Blackberries are classed as a noxious weed in the part of the Pacific Northwest I call home. The thorn-studded muggers can grow taller than an NBA Center, reaching fifteen feet in height. The lateral canes extending from the central ‘trunk’ may have a wingspan of up to forty feet; those too, are covered with thorns sharp enough for surgical use.
After some years’ experience dealing with blackberries, I’ve found there are three keys to effectively controlling this pestilential plant-keys that also apply to other problems in the tangled thicket of professional and social encounters.
First, patiently assess your best approach, enlist assistance if possible and cut the problem down to size. Instead of making a single cut and trying to drag the whole ornery mess out of the thicket, cut them in one to two foot lengths. The canes will be much easier to handle, and less likely to bend back and snag you. Patience, persistence and incremental problem-solving will literally save your skin. It works with other problems as well.
Next, once you are left with the remaining stubble, look for the roots, and dig them out. All of them. If you leave the root, the blackberries will grow back, re-invigorated, ready to tear your flesh again. Satisfaction with short-term ‘solutions ‘ simply isn’t productive. Recurring problems steal time and resources from more satisfying and productive efforts.
Finally, blackberry plants do bear delicious fruit. They’re delicious in desserts or on cereal. Similarly, look for the ‘fruit’, the teachable moments, offered by your challenges. The insights may center on your response, that of others, or on the situation.
The alternative is to simply walk away and leave the mess to others. Some of my neighbors have enlisted goat wranglers; their charges have tough mouths (and skin) impervious to the thorns. But goats don’t get to the root of the problem, and they can make a mess of a workplace or home. A b-a-a-a-d mess!