“Wow! Isn’t that cool?!” I said. “We don’t have anything like that in Michigan,” he said. It did look cool and stylish and southern in the backyard of the house we were looking at and eventually bought. When we told our oldest son what was growing in the backyard he was excited and jealous. “I want that, Mom!” is what he said.

Turns out it wasn’t so cool. In fact, the beauty is skin deep and the roots are not only way deep but more prolific than any fast food chain. What is this beautiful, mysterious, awful monster that makes me feel like I am in the middle of the movie Tremors? Bamboo.

Bamboo? Yup. It turns out that bamboo grows DOWN before it grows up and it springs up (just like the snake like underground monsters in Tremors) when and where you don’t expect it. In the vegetable bed, on the other side of the fence, and even in the middle of the yard! Even better – or technically worse – is you can’t get rid of it. “Bamboo,” I said to a landscaper at a Memorial Day picnic. He was still laughing when I picked up my plate and walked away.

Chop, poison, chop, poison, dig up, and lay a concrete barrier (for real??) is the advice to curtail (not remove) the life force of this gentle looking plant. We thought we should add a voodoo ceremony to cinch the deal. Do I need battle fatigues for this war? Wait a minute. I don’t want to go to war with a plant. Or with anything or anyone for that matter. But, I do want it to be manageable.

Something has happened in the last few weeks that I know happens to everyone but feels like it – when it is happening – that it’s only happening to me. A close friend, my best friend’s father, a business partner, and someone else’s child have cancer or are very sick. Sprouts are popping up where they aren’t expected. It feels unmanageable and I want to do something drastic (I have no idea what) or run and hide. Just like with the bamboo.  

Is there another way? Another way to enjoy the beauty and maybe not stop the spread but have some control? Turns out there are ways to manage the maniacal, tricky, aggressive expansion such as: eat it, build a river, mow it over and dig deep trenches to cut off the shoots at the pass (the Wild West method?). Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? Not really. More like, make love not war.

Do you ever feel bamboozled? Maybe not by actual bamboo but by sneaky shoots that pop up and threaten the very ground you walk on? I do both in my actual yard and in the yard that is my friendships, my work and my life. If I wage war my chances of losing are high but if I manage – draw some boundaries – there is way to enjoy the beauty and be actively involved in spreading love not war.

99 Coping Skills

When you cope, you don’t give in and you don’t fight. You adapt but within the boundaries you set. If you don’t set any boundaries you feel like a doormat. If you shut everything out, you are a cold fish. Let’s talk about it a little bit.

Q: What is coping?

A: Coping is a conscious effort to solve a problem in order to minimize or better tolerate stress & conflict. Coping most often requires a change in personal habits, thinking and type of problem resolution.

Q: What if you can’t fix the problem?

A: Most of the time you can’t. Coping isn’t about fixing. It’s about staying with the situation as it is (mindfulness) and strategically deciding on the best course of action.

Q: So, what do I do when my friends are getting sick and there are problems at work I have little control over?

A: You don’t wallow and you don’t run. You embark on a positive (or series of) activity to clear your mind, gain perspective, and decide on the next right step for you. Look for where you can comfortably be in the situation (bring soup to a friend), or where you can be a positive influence (say hello to feuding people at work), or how you can prepare yourself for the challenges ahead (exercise). I found this list of 99 coping skills http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/pages/tip-99-coping-skills.aspx and not one thing on the list directs you to fix anything but only to cope – stay positive – with the way that it is.