Unstuck: The Language of Letting Go

I was walking across the street at BSU, right in the middle of lunchtime when the crowds of undergrads, grad students and teachers seem to converge on this main crossing.  A sea of a thousand people waits for the computer voiced crosswalk to say “walk.” 

If you push the button, it’s going to yell “wait” at you…so we all just stand there.

I was listening to Rob Dougan play “The Matrix” theme music on my iPod, thinking that at any moment, Neo and Morpheus would cross my path and I’d be proven right – there are some days that are just dream like in their quality.  Suddenly, we were all walking because the computer said to, like lemmings with our own audio GPS devices, weaving in and out of each other in the sunshine of a fall afternoon, somehow not running into each other, the bicycles, the occasional skateboard…it’s like a moving puzzle.

Then the computer starts to count, like I do with my youngest daughter when she is in “trouble.”  I never get past the number two.  I am not sure what happens at three or four, and I don’t care to have to find out.  Still, as the counting starts the pedestrian speed increases.  Will it come out and spank the person that is still mid-crosswalk when the counting ends? With some of the highest combined IQ’s in the state awaiting it’s hollow command, the crossing guard has a four word vocab – and normally after hearing his voice, I think a four letter word.  Yes, I’ve spent the day preparing my research proposal for the IRB, but I hear that chirping crosswalk and want my bat. But I digress.

We’re talking about being stuck…not unlike being stranded on the corner with your iPod on, waiting for a voice to come out of nowhere, telling you to go on.  Only, the voice isn’t speaking up.  It’s just you and the street, the traffic and your own music.  When do you walk?  When you know it’s safe? What is safe?

I had a beer at a local place on campus with a friend who needed to talk.  She’s “stuck.”  I thought about that word that I hear often in counseling classes, from licensed practitioners, even in my own sessions with the psychologist that is helping me unravel the mess I had made of myself giving pieces of my soul away and all.

It’s a popular word – stuck.

She is stuck on the memory of a man that seems to haunt the edges of her mind, just enough to make her inert; not enough to be apparent to the rest of we human types.  She lives with a splinter under the fingernail of her heart, a paper cut that makes her wonder if she’ll bleed out.  It is all done and over now, this romance that was not, and part of her remains waiting.  Like so many men and women, she is still waiting for him to come back, to wake from the matrix only to find that he’s her Trinity. I remember that feeling.   There is actually a psychological term that can be applied: psychic numbing.  Ergo, when we feel to much for too long, we may repress and depress emotions in a way that we go….numb.

Numb is a defense mechanism for those that have lost loved ones, human disasters, natural disasters….kinda anything that brings out a post traumatic stress type of response in the human emotional schema.  Logic doesn’t always tie in: with myself for example, I can write you a thirty page dissertation level paper on why the former love of my life needs a nuclear warning sign, a twelve foot electrified fence and the defense grid of Global Dynamics between he and I – I get the point that he’s way toxic for me.  Heart? Learning, but usually totally clueless. Every so often, it creeps back into my mind and I feel it stab through my heart like a knife through soft butter.  No defense.    Good rule of thumb: you might love with all your heart, but take along your brain. You’ll need it time and again.  And then, I remember….me.  The real me, the phoenix from the fire, the girl unstuck.

Am I though, really?

To be truthful, in many ways like everyone that I know……I am still stuck.

I’m stuck in this cycle of license and hours, making my way to the term “Dr. Rodgers.”

I’m stuck in my heart breaking when I hear the stories of the 5 -17 year old kids that come to the clinical setting, from the people that are trying to help without hurting – it’s humbling , some of the people I work with.

I’m stuck, waiting, doing, waiting, being.  Being absent from my first church family and getting to know my new faith ideals – things that I actually understand now that I’ve studied….and waiting to go back to that again. Somewhere along the way, I misplaced God, blamed the divine for humanities many failings, confused him with the presence of the pulpit. I’m still stuck, looking for my way back to the faith that used to fuel me, the passion that I used to know.

I’m finding myself walking slowly forward, letting the grief that I had gripped so hard slip from my fingers.  It’s been a year –  my birthday is here once again.   I remember a birthday in the past when people I never met changed the course of my life forever.  There was the sound of the sky falling in, massive tears and a total and complete inability to breathe – but survival is more suited to me.  I am more aware of the music that I hear now, more aware the that words come from the depths of me, ready to launch into the future.  I was tired of being stuck.  No one with my life should feel stuck – but then, there is that useless word again “should.”

I thought on this for a few hours, moodily shifting my music between writing and thinking.  I found this one song that sounded right for me – a song that makes me think about my life, my choices, my place in the world….all of that stuff we get “stuck” in.  The song isn’t to another person – it’s to my own process.

Gravity, sung by Sarah Bareilles.

gravity -sara bareilles

How do you get unstuck?

That is the trip, isn’t it, recognizing that in our mental and sometimes physical paralysis, in this learned helplessness, that we can’t let go of the very thing that is bringing us under the water to drown.

How to be unstuck?

Idea One: Change Your Song

I am a firm believer that you become what you focus on.  I encourage you to think about what you’re thinking about. When you’re falling into the gravity of what has you, it’s your choice – you can be where and when you chose, with a few really drastic exceptions.  Realign your life with what edifies you, and let the darkness fall away from you.  I remember that stuck can often feel like an invisible presence has you by the chest, making it slightly colder than the world around you, slightly harder to breathe.  That’s when you surround yourself with new music, change your direction and firmly reach out to those dreams that you’ve been ignoring. What I think about? I listen to music that supports my emotional strata, and deliberately keep myself on track with writing, my family, and the love relationship with my husband, Brian.  I want it to be the central relationship of my life, and such, it’s got the majority of my attention.  I focus on my job – being a great “stay at home” Mom as well as a graduate student. I focus on my studies to be a great psychologist.  Moreover, I give myself affirmations of self and worth, build my own esteem through self care and talk with people I trust when my emotions get the best of me.  I’m not afraid to ask for help.

Idea Two: Acknowledge the “Stuckness”

What had/has you by the toes? Are you stuck in denial? Loss? Unhappiness? What emotion is your drug of choice?  Journal it without giving it permission to reside – acknowledge your stuckness from a place of strength, not weakness.  Maybe you’re stuck in a dead end job with a life that you don’t like.  What steps got you there, and how do you execute a left or right turn to improve?  Apply for college, change positions, volunteer at a job that you want to intern in?  Make an inventory of your strengths and really think through how you can apply them.  Are you negative? Do you know? Ask people you trust.  If there is no one that you trust – that might tell you something.  Focus on life affirming, building exercises.  Developing a positive mindset is one of the most powerful life strategies you can have.  By developing positive thinking techniques, active forgiveness, visualizations and positive affirmations, it is possible to achieve whatever you want.

Idea Three: Move to the Music Inside You.

What are your strengths, dreams and passions?  I realize that is redundant to step two.  Did you really inventory them? I’m not asking you to employ magical thinking – for instance, I am in my forties, and have a past that would make most people blush.  I’m not thinking running for President is in my goal setting range – but then, I have literally no interest in being President, so “anything is possible” is still accurate for me.  My life looks like the life of an author,  full of roads to nowhere, people with colorful stories and lots of twists and turns.  I include in my list of strengths a new item: wisdom to be grateful for the life that I’ve had, do have, will have.  I think of the blessing of waking up this morning, and I am filled with intense curiosity, wonder, awe about life.  I don’t feel the need to medicate myself with any substance when I’m into life this way.  I don’t feel the need to be hard on myself or to be disappointed with less than the most stellar possible outcomes in every situation. Sometimes, 2nd place is good enough and I’m happy to be on my way home.  Sometimes, it’s worth staying in for the fight – but not as often, now that my priorities are straight.  I top my list of strengths with that – grateful. Where I set goals and how I live my life all stem from that one thought.  I am grateful for my life.  I dance to the music inside of me, authentic and real.  The people who love me encourage me to grow, and I them.

Idea Four: No Excuses.

I once was really upset over my stuckness with life. Great change requires great courage. You get exactly one life and the clock is running. No, launching into the deep was not a painless process. It didn’t all work out the way that I had planned.  In fact, there were some really hard lessons in my “new life.”  I am who I am both because of the stuckness and the good times, the heartaches, and the glory.  None of the good or bad times abdicate my responsibility to continue on with life, to be the most healthy and whole person I can for my husband, daughters, friends, family…..no excuses.  When its time to do the work, do the work.  When it’s time to stop, stop.  When it’s truth, it’s truth.  Nothing buried alive ever dies – be present in your life. Let go of the past in whatever manner it takes for you, with a counselor, friend or even in prayer.  Your future is in the windshield, not the rear view mirror.  Let go and let the past fade into yesterday.  Embrace tomorrow.  I realize that there are huge issues in the past – and you can face them down a step at a time.  No hiding them under the bed or relying on codependency to get you through.  No excuses.

A tough word, eh?

I’m headed back to my lovely little second story parking space with lots of homework to do.  I’ll be thinking about this as I poke at the crosswalk button and then commit the gravest of sins – I’ll look for traffic all on my own and cross when it’s safe.  No more stuck for me; I’m going to look both ways, even if the voice says “walk” and make my decisions count.

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