I was stuck in a rut.
Every single day, it was more of the same. Over and over again.
Now don’t get me wrong, for many people, it may seem like a great way to spend the day.
It went something like this.
Up in the morning. Meditate. Journal for 30 minutes. Write. Breakfast with family. Work out. Client work. Lunch. Client work. Pick up daughter from school. After school activities. Dinner. Family time. Last minute work projects. Sleep.
I worked for myself, so I could hardly complain. But I knew something had to change when I found myself writing the same things, over and over again in my journal.
Wasn’t journaling supposed to be about recording your dreams, your aspirations and your desires?
So why was I writing in a mechanical way?
Why did I have this blah, boring feeling that never seemed to go away? Nothing excited me. Nothing made me jump with joy.
And the more I lived this mechanical life, the more I wanted to crawl up into a hole and simply do nothing.
This feeling wasn’t new to me. If fact, I’d experienced it before. But I’m not one to sit still and just let it be. I’m the type to do anything just to bring about change. Yet this time it was different. I truly felt stuck in a rut; deeper than ever before. What was different? And more importantly, what could I do differently?
In today’s world, we’re all moving at lightening speed. The years roll by faster than we can ever control. The media talks in circles, pushing months, seasons, even years far faster than we can plan for. We’re supposed to be better, faster, smarter, happier, prettier, thinner than we currently are. And through all that clutter, we start to see a skewed potential of all that can never be.
That’s where I found myself one crazy morning when nothing in my world was right. I couldn’t meditate; I simply watched the clock go by. My journal entry was filled with things that never would be; I knew I could never achieve.
It was impacting me. It was impacting those around me. The negativity was overwhelming.
The funny thing about negativity is it’s far more “catching” than happiness ever will be. Because if it’s a “rotten” day, it’s easy to agree. If the weather “stinks”, the gloominess overwhelms. If someone makes you mad, it’s easy to escalate it to the most horrible experience you’ve had in a long while.
So negativity blossomed if only for a while.
I knew that wasn’t me, I wanted more. But how could I find it?
I read all the articles I could find on how to pull myself back from the depths of being in a rut. I wanted change; I just didn’t know where to look. People that had been there before said to meditate, write in a journal, pay attention to your heart.
But I was already living there. I was already doing that. My emptiness was deeper than that.
No matter what I did, no matter what I tried, the feeling grew wider and stronger. It became overpowering. It made me angry. It made me give up. It also brought torment and failure where there once was success.
Because when your mind is anything but happy, when all you do is exude anger, the only thing you’ll find in return is more of what you give out.
I was a walking self-help guru. I have read hundreds of books over the years; attended more seminars than most. Yet even though I could talk the talk, my walk was far off the path.
Why? How did I get that far off?
Is that what a midlife crisis is all about?
Slowly, I began to change. Slowly I found renewal all around. It wasn’t a delicate process. To say I went kicking and screaming would be an understatement. But eventually I dug myself back up from the darkness and into the light. And I did a lot of things to get there.
1. Get angry. Get very angry
When was the last time you allowed yourself the luxury of getting angry? When did you let your anger fly – and help you get your frustrations out? As women, we’re taught to bottle in a lot of the negativity, and take care of those around us, not tell people exactly what you think. Holding it in can in some cases do more harm then good. Give yourself time to find out what you’re angry about. Be specific. Get to the root of the problem. Only when you know what it is can you make attempts to get it out of your life for good. So get angry. Get very angry. And let it go.
2. Stop being a good girl
I recently spoke with Annmarie Kelly on her radio show about reinvention and taking a gap year. We talked about what held back Gen X and Baby Boomer women from doing what they have passion for; from doing what they’ve always wanted to do. Annmarie mentioned that many women are recovering good girls, trying to live down the “good girl” message drilled into them from a very early age. Bingo. One look at my report cards from my school years will tell you I’m a classic good girl. “She’s such a good girl, very quiet, does her work without a second thought, gets good grades, never a problem. ” Yep, I’m a good girl at heart. A people pleaser. Always putting everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. Can you relate? Being a good girl holds you back from being who you are meant to be. Being a good girl constrains you, locks you into a certain behavior you feel is necessary to keep the peace. Because if you release how you truly feel, it may alter everything around you forever.
Yet isn’t that what holds us back; prevents us from becoming all we can be? Let it go. As a recovering good girl myself, I can ensure you the peace of mind that comes from allowing yourself to be who you really are is the most freeing thing on earth.
3. Listen to your heart
It’s amazing what your heart will tell you if you listen. The problem is most of us never listen to it. Mine kept giving me keywords on a new direction. Move. Experiences. Travel. Teach. Live your life, not what is expected of you. The more I listened, the more I told my story to those around me. In some cases, people told me I was crazy. They even pushed me out of their lives the closer I came to making my hearts desires a reality. But the more I listened, the more I liked who I was becoming. The more action I took, the happier I became.
4. Take things slow … keep things in perspective
Rome wasn’t built in a day. I like that saying. For me, it means patience is a priority, as long as you are making headway with your vision. It’s okay to build up your dream over weeks, months, even a few years, especially when you are developing a plan to live out the rest of your life. If it takes you two years to put your new goals into action, imagine all the time left you have to enjoy the results?
It took me two years to put my gap year concept into place. I knew I wanted to move and see more of the world. My husband was up for the challenge, and quickly built his dreams around mine. Yet when things failed and we weren’t ready to make the move quite as quickly as we anticipated, neither of us gave up. We took the time necessary to refocus on making them a reality.
5. Stop the chatter
What impacts your world every day? The radio on your way to work, the television all night long. The newspaper as you read about the daily horrors. Magazines as they tell you to be thinner, younger, better looking. Why do we do it? I stopped. I haven’t read a traditional newspaper in a long time. I very rarely take in online news. I avoid the political tactics and the celebrity news. I read what I choose to read, and listen to podcasts that help me be who I want to be. If something is truly important, it finds a way to my awareness; if not, it doesn’t matter. And for the first time in a long time, I’m happier. Because Kim Kardashian, Bruce Jenner, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have little bearing on what I do with my life. So I choose not to listen.
6. Get rid of things … a lot of things
We accumulate a lot of things. A LOT. That’s why we need bigger houses, larger garages, and storage units all around us. Yet when was the last time you used everything in your life? I’d read a lot about minimizing and downsizing. But it wasn’t until we decided to move from a 3300 sf home to a 1200 sf apartment that I took all of it to heart.
I remember one of the first listings I added to Craigslist; a curio cabinet we received as a wedding present. Getting rid of that also meant getting rid of the things inside the curio cabinet. Could I really do that? I did. And it sold.
Then it became almost addictive. We looked at the amount of couches, loveseats and armchairs in our possession – a great deal of them with three living spaces in our home. We listed them, sold them, and kept only the two that would fit in our new space.
Closets became my enemy, and I loaded up bag after bag of clothes and accessories to take to Goodwill.
Did I miss any of the stuff after it was gone? Nope. In fact, it felt invigorating. Because the more I got rid of, the more meaning the remaining things had.
I currently have around 80 blogs listed in my RSS reader. I visit every week and check out what my “friends” are writing. I have a few podcast subscriptions, and listen to the updates each week. I have a stack of books by my bedside, and even more on my iPad. I read all the time. Fiction and non-fiction. A little bit of everything. If someone I follow recommends a book, I read it. And I grow a little bit from everything I pick up.
Now I may not finish everything I pick up; if it doesn’t capture my attention, why spend the time seeing it through. But even a chapter or two influences you in great ways when you’re stuck in a rut. It can give you the courage to start something new. Or to take away something that isn’t serving you to your greatest potential.
8. Get rid of the nay-sayers
One of the hardest things to do is to get rid of the people who are holding you back. They may be followers on your newsfeeds, making comments you don’t agree with. They may be friends without similar goals. They may be family members that don’t see you for who you really are. Yet when you come to realize they are holding you back in many ways, the reality suddenly kicks in that they have to go. Unfriend them. Say no to the lunch invitations. Put distance between you. Because as much as you need support in your life to be who you need to be, the wrong support is worse than any at all. By letting go of the people who don’t support your dreams, you open up your mind and your time to resources that will.
9. Give yourself a chance to heal
Along the way you’ll fight, you’ll cry, you’ll scream, you’ll mourn, you’ll change. It’s all a part of the process; there really isn’t any other way. Because sometimes you’ll want the stuff you gave away. You’ll want the relationships that can no longer be. You’ll want to retreat to the life that no longer brings you joy. You’ll want to go back to the old way because it’s the familiar way. Yet in reality, you know it will never be. Yet in that moment, give in and let yourself have the time you need to heal.
As you move forward, tiny victories will begin to materialize. You’ll be happy with the little things. You’ll see things clearer than ever before. You’ll not only want to move forward, you’ll know the steps to take and how to find the perfect resources too. When the tiny things materialize, celebrate them. Give yourself the applause you deserve for allowing new things into your life. Because even the tiniest ray of hope can sometimes put you in a better place, and give you even more reasons to move forward, and do what you’re truly meant to do.