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It’s like a foot stuck in the mud

As I move along this little journey of mine, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. Some of them have been easy and some of them have been gosh darn difficult. So difficult in fact, that it seems like I’m learning them over and over and over again.

One of these is what to do when something has hold of you - a thought, a feeling - especially if this thing at first seems fairly trivial, benign, but that for whatever reason just will not let go.

It’s like you’re just moving along down your path - you’re going somewhere, you’re making progress, and it feels good! - and then all of a sudden, you get your foot stuck in the mud.

Once that happens, you’re totally preoccupied; it’s all you can think about.

And it’s so uncomfortable. You can’t go anywhere. You just have to sit there being stuck.

You have to sit there with thoughts like how could I let this happen? Aren’t I better than this? You rail against others who didn’t warn you this mud was here. I mean seriously, just a head’s up would’ve been nice; how hard is that? You also curse the circumstances that brought you here at all. If only I’d chosen that other trail as I thought about doing!

You might after a time get so uncomfortable that you just can’t stand it anymore so you try to distract yourself. You might check out the birds moving in the trees - a nice way to not have to think about that pesky foot. Or, despite it feeling awkward, you might try to sit down, give yourself a rest after all this terribleness.

You might even have people pass by that offer to help. Hey - that looks tough, can I help you out of the mud? No, no, I’m ok, you assure them. You’re embarrassed by being in the mud at all; it would only be worse if you had to admit you couldn’t get out of it. I’m strong, you think, I can weather this.

Eventually though, the distractions don’t work as well. It takes more and more distractions to keep your mind off your foot - still stuck in the mud - and when you’re forced to think of your foot it feels even more terrible and hopeless than ever. What if you’re here forever? Unable to finish the trail and move on with your day; on with your life?!?

At any point in this scenario, however, you might start to remember that you’ve been here before. You’ve been in this position - foot stuck in the mud, frustrated, uncomfortable, unwilling to accept help - and somehow you ended up ok. It didn’t end in anything scary or dangerous, you just found a way to get unstuck and keep moving.

So you ask yourself: what did you do then that you aren’t doing now?

Well, you might answer, last time I considered WHY I was stuck in the mud. The one time it was because I didn’t tie my shoe tight enough, so that every time I pulled, my shoe threatened to come right off! The other time it was just that my shoe was much too big; I was never going to be able to pull my foot out, I had to dig it out.

The ability to focus on why you’re stuck can bring understanding. And once you understand the problem you can start to apply solutions. I just need to twist my foot this way or that way to compensate for the loose shoe strings and that I can do alone. Or, I need to start digging, but I’ll have to accept the help of the next person that comes along for that to work.

Ignoring being stuck, however, rarely works.

It may seem like a small thing, but the very fact that it’s got you stuck probably means it’s not. And even if you feel like you were successful in pushing it away, I’d venture a guess that you weren’t really, and it will come back likely stronger than ever.

Paying attention to what’s got us stuck is not always easy, but it’s rarely not worth the effort. It’s how we get to know ourselves, how we understand what’s really driving us so we have the opportunity to make better choices.

It brings a sense of freedom and empowerment. You are not beholden to what’s got you stuck. You don’t have to stay where you are. You can move forward on your path.

There’s strength in that, my friends. There’s strength in unsticking ourselves.

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