Thursday, August 12, 2010

Get out of the holding pattern!

A Holding Pattern - an informal state of feeling stuck (Faith's definition)

Have you ever been on your way somewhere?  You know where you just left and you think you know where you are going.  You look around and realize 2 things: you haven't gotten to your destination and you don't know where you are.    Although you have directions, you don't trust your execution of the directions because the experience feels different from what you had anticipated.  You pull over to the side of thh road and call for help.

Sometimes it isn't even that you don't know where you are, but just that you don't like where you are.  Why must this zero miles per hour traffic be on the Tappen Zee Bridge while I'm on my way to the mall??  I remember looking at the faces of some students in a class I was teaching...I was momentarily distracted by the look of 'get on with it!'  While I wondered about my competence in communicating the material, I also recognized that these students were here by choice.  They knew the path to their goal (the degree) held this moment (boring letures) and they signed up.  So why drag through it?  Why wonder when it will be over?  The semester is 12 weeks.  The work day ends at 5pm.  The playroom session ends at noon.

I have a friend on vacation with her family.  There is one week left in the vacation and she has a nagging sense that she wants some specific expereinces and that she hasn't had them yet.  She ruminates on the experiences she has had and encourages herself to be remember all the positive things that have happened so far.  She is somewhere in her journey, but doesn't know where it will end up.

In all these examples, although time is passing, there is a distinct feeling of being stuck.

You know that you are feeling stuck when you think:
  • life is passing you by
  • you aren't getting to do what you really want to do
  • a myriad of toxic, complaining, whining thoughts
  • about when it will end so you can get on with....
  • "I'm bored!"
The idea of being stuck is simply that, an idea, a frame that we use to interpret what we are experiencing.  I remembered feeling stuck and bored in church as a child.  Someone gave me the wonderful idea to resist falling asleep by taking notes.  Since falling asleep would lead to some unpleasant consequences (my grandmother would definately not have that!) I decided to try taking some notes.  Guess what happened?  I didn't fall asleep.  I also found content I was interested in thinking about and I started to write my thoughts on the content.  Unstuck!

Recently, our family went on vacation to Jamaica.  We hadn't been in 5 years so it was a big to-do, relatives to see, things to do.  Before leaving, the children and I made lists of all the expereinces we wanted to have on vacation.  We arrived in the afternoon and stepped out of the airport.  I noticed the temperature, but the children noticed it a lot faster.  The sun felt like fire searing our skins and I heard the begginings of being stuck: "I'm hot!", "I'm thirsty!", "Aren't they here yet??" and so on.  When grandpa did come, we noticed that his car had no airconditioning.  As we piled in, I recognized that I was trapped in a car with  my family, including kids who were doing unhappiness big time.  Windows down, we started the slow trip up to our family's home, in rush our traffic, amidst the noise and exhaust of the street.  Did I mention that I have children that are super sensitive to both noise and smells?  Anyway, we finally got through the crawling traffic to our resting place and came out.  Mosquitoes!  Sigh.  Mosquitoes in Jamaica seem to be able to discriminate between the locals and the 'foreigners'.  While Isaiah and I may be able to pass for locals, the children were definitely foreigners.  I suppressed panic as I liberally sprayed insect repellant all over the children, even my oldest who seems to attract toxins.  I said a prayer as I doused him too.  Exhausted, stuck,sweating, stuck, hungry, stuck, I lead my troops inside to the bedrooms to settle in and get comfortable.  My heart sank as I noticed 3 things: there was no mesh on the windows, no fans in the house (it was in the hills and Jamaicans considered the temperature of early 80's to be cool) and a temporary cessation of running water.

It was about 2 am and I was still not sleeping.  Simonne, who was also not sleeping, listened to every chirp, buzz and whistle of every living thing inside and outside the house saying "What's that??? What's that???" over and over again.  Finally, she wailed, "Do we have to be here for 10 days???  I want to go home!"  At that point I didn't know how to answer her because the only truthful response was "So did I!"

I won't tell you all our adventures, but we had a fantastic vacation.  The turn-around happened the next day when I decided to give up victim behaviors and create what I wanted.  I got a hold of a few fans, had a cousin visit and take us to the beach, spent the following night with another relative who had airconditioning, rented a car with airconditioning and took ourselves all over the island creating the experieces we wanted.  Surprizingly, our family's house started to feel cooler (was that in our minds?), the mosquitoes became less enthusiastic and at the end of 10 days, we didn't want to leave!

So why did I tell you all this?  Jamaica is what it is, but I had the power to create what I wanted, and to enjoy the moment and instead, I did stuck.  I decided 10 days of stuck would be torture so it was best to do something else.

So, my suggestion to you if you are feeling stuck is to do something.  No, not the spinning your wheels something, the walking on the spot something.  Do something helpful.  I think everyone knows what will be helpful for them.  Doing, as Tef said in a previous post, can be internal or external.  Just changing my mind about something, deciding to have another thought, deciding to not be sold on all the thoughts that pass through my mind, that's doing something, even though it all happens in my head.  I can also take action.  Some actions change my external experience (like getting the fan), while some act as support for helping me change my mind (like hearing the waves at the beach and taking a few deep breaths while eating freshly caught fish cooked on the beach).

Whether the actions be internal or external, changing your frame from powerless to powerful is really important to getting going on your journey.  Time will continue marching on, but will you?   Like they said in Madagascar You've got to move it, move it!

Have fun unsticking yourself today!

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