My father was always studying, taking notes, learning. So much so, that my predominant memory is of the back of his head, bent over a book. He spent each evening reading, studying, working on projects he brought home from the office. At home, his workspace was also our dining room. We knew to clear the table quickly after dinner, slide the table back into the slot in the wall, and leave my father to his work. He was neither a tyrant nor a pal. He was, in fact, a rocket scientist.
Occasionally, he would become briefly involved in one of his children’s lives. One afternoon, I was destroying a slice of bread, tyring to get cold peanut butter on a freshly-baked slice. He surveyed the scene, took in my frustration, and said, “Take care of the edges, the middle will take care of itself. ” He was right.
The sturdy crust helped the edges hold onto the cold peanut butter, and as I carefully applied it up to the edges, the stiff peanut butter warmed and made it easy to spread to the soft middle.
Turn out that this advice works well in the rest of life as well. Fitted sheets attached by the corners pull the wrinkles out across the middle of the bed.
Start the glue on a collage at the edges, work it carefully toward the corners, and the middle won’t be overworked and buckle.
Start a story at the edges–with research, character development, a plot line, and the middle of the story won’t be a problem.
And while we are talking about problems, they, too, are best solved from the edge in. When we jump in without thinking of the cause, trying to fix the heart of the issue, we allow it to pull at the soft belly of our pain. Work at the edge, at the cause, and by the time we get to our pain, we understand it better and are ready to let go of the pain and see the growth.
My father has been dead for more than 28 years, but I never scoop peanut butter out of a jar without thinking of his clever aphorism that has served my sandwiches–and me–well.
—Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who helps people through transitions in life and re-invention. She is also a life coach and workshop leader. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) Quinn McDonald 2007-9. All rights reserved