Lately I’ve been working with a couple of people who say they are stuck. I empathize, deeply. “Stuck” is one of my personal themes. I’m fascinated by this idea of “stuck.” In truth, I don’t think we are ever actually stuck. I think what happens is we stop moving, and we get scared. Because we have a lot of “shoulds” around the idea that we are supposed to look like we are in motion, all the time.
This reminds me of a boyfriend I had in my twenties. He liked to beat himself up for “procrastinating,” and he used to say to me, “Jill, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest.” “I am not an object!” I would yell at him. “And neither are you!” (Could it be more obvious I was actually yelling at myself?)
The fact is, our lives — our creativity, our relationships, our work — have ebbs and flows. We like it when things are flowing, but when they stop flowing for a while, we label this “bad” and “wrong.” What if they never start flowing again? I think this is the point at which we begin to think we are stuck. But this is just a thought. Like any thought, it can be questioned.
Sometimes it helps to look at areas in our lives where we do not feel stuck. I’d be willing to bet that it’s impossible to feel “stuck” in every single area of our lives at once. Even if everything “big” feels like it’s in a state of endless stall, I bet you can find one thing that feels like it’s flowing. 2008 was a big year of “stuck” for me. I’d finished graduate school and for the first time I had a summer where I wasn’t working on my thesis or taking a class and it felt like everything had stopped. And to top it all off, I felt horribly uncreative. And I was supposed to be this writer.
Looking back, I realize Iwas burned out. I needed rest. But I fought against the feeling that things weren’t moving for a long time. I am not supposed to be feeling this way, I thought. Guess what fighting against it did? It made me feel more stuck, and it extended the process of feeling stuck. Even so, I was able to, at some point, finally look around and notice that there was an area of my life where I didn’t feel stuck. There was an area of my life where it felt like things were flowing: my friendships. I had good ones, and they were alive and vibrating. I can’t tell you how focusing on this aspect of my life, this aspect that felt like it was working, helped me move through the stuck.
So there are a couple of steps that emerge here:
1) When things aren’t moving, let them be still. Embrace the non-movement, the ebb. If you find yourself labeling this “stuck,” accept the feeling of stuck.
2) Look for an area where things are moving. Notice the flow in that area. Ask yourself if you are making things flow in that area.
The next step is noticing what creates movement for you. Is it true that you really must force yourself to move? For me, “Just do it” has never been a particularly helpful mantra. It adds pressure to my already-pressured and battered soul that has its reasons for wanting to be still. Try doing nothing for thirty minutes and you will see how difficult it really is to actually not do. So I question the idea that we must force ourselves into movement. What can be helpful, however, is to notice what inspires us to movement.
For me, movement starts with giving myself full permission to not move. To be exactly where I am and fully embrace that. This can require a lot of trust. In myself, in the process of life. In movement itself. Natalie Goldberg wrote in Wild Mind that in order to write some word, there must first be no word. It’s the same concept.
A small physical movement — one that feels manageable and doable — can really help. That might be a walk down the block. Or, if you are a walk-a-holic like me, that might mean an hour-long daydreamy walk. The key is that whatever the movement is, it must feel manageable and doable to you. It must inspire you to say “Yes!” If that means the movement is a cat-like arch of your back with your hands and feet planted on the floor, and that’s all, great. That is enough, for now.
In Part Two, we’ll delve more into movement — when to create it, and when to accept that maybe you do not want to move right now.
I’d love to hear what inspires you to movement. What steps do you take, and how do you treat yourself in a way that inspires movement?