Merigian Studios


The Muddy Path

I worked as a clinical toxicology fellow in Cincinnati, Ohio a mid-western city with a southern flair. While I was there, the Medical School and University Hospital were going through great expansion. It was a natural unfoldment -- the old gave way to the new like a snake shedding its skin.

During the campus ' phase of capital improvements, a large parking garage was constructed. It was surrounded by surface parking and bordered by a wide lush bed of grass. The architect designed wide sidewalks that led east, west, north and south to allow patrons to walk to and from the structure in any direction. If a parking area could be considered beautiful, this was the one.

Six months after construction, large wide paths had emerged in the grass where people chose to walk instead of the sidewalks. It appeared as if the sidewalks were seldom used. The dirt paths were a dark gray-brown color. When it rained, the mud became thick and gooey. I called the trails bubble gum alleyways because it sounded like chewing gum cracking when one walked in the thick mushy mud. If you weren't careful, you could easily lose your shoe in the thick ooze. Rain or shine, everyone walked the paths. I thought the sidewalks were perfectly constructed linear pathways that were out of accord with human nature. They were useless.

A beautiful middle-aged woman revealed to me that she had a life filled with making decisions that never quite seemed to turn out in harmony with her intentions. She had an unusual worldview, as well as significant health problems. She had seen seventy or more physicians in her lifetime, all of whom gave her advice on what to do and how to correct her illnesses. She almost always researched their advice, and in doing so came up with her own approach concerning how to help cure her. Her plans didn't work well at all. So, she decided that she would no longer make any decisions about her health. She came to me to get a different opinion about her diagnoses, expecting that a therapeutic plan would be laid out for her benefit. She sat in front of me and professed, " I'm done making decisions. You make them for me. You have my power Doc."

I smiled. Then I remembered the parking lot. People walked on thick muddy paths instead of clean, dry, linear sidewalks. I often wondered why the project designer hadn’t just built the parking lot, placed sod around the entire structure, and watched where people walked. And based on their paths, cut and poured the sidewalks to match human behavior. I believe a perfect solution was at hand.

I graciously refused her power. She just needed solutions that were in her worldview. There were a number of treatment options for her. I was certain she could embrace at least one of them. She did not want to be non-compliant with allopathic therapy, but she preferred therapeutic options that were considered alternative. I realized she wanted to walk in the mud. That was fine with me because I walked in the mud on numerous occasions. I encouraged her to continue her mud-spattered therapeutic adventure with a few minor modifications. She did well.

When you come across a problem and can't follow the sidewalks because they don't feel right, have the courage to make your own trail in the mud. Just find someone who also prefers to walk in the mud with you. Your natural tendencies will benefit you, and compliance with your plan will sky rocket.

Make decisions. If they fail, make another until you find your way. Experience the art of walking through mud if there's no other alternative. Maybe someday, they will pave your trail so it won't be so muddy for others to follow. Then again, maybe not.

Posted by Katie Reed at 4:13 PM
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