I once literally got stuck in the mud. I was in third grade, walking home along our usual shortcut with my friend Patty. The route had been turned into a muddy, sticky path by several days of rain. Patty leaped agilely from rock to rock. Not as long-legged as her, I couldn’t do the same. Instead I walked alongside her which worked at first. The mud became increasingly sticky as we went, coating and pulling at my boots until I was stuck in place. There was no going forward and no going back. I had a flash of pure fear, imagining I would be stuck there forever.
“Patty!” I called to my friend. “Go get my mother!” Patty ran for help, and I waited for rescue. I can still see my mother, who arrived wearing knee-high rubber boots and carrying a long-handled rake. I wish I had a photo of that sight. At the time, I didn’t think about the amusing figure my mother cut. I grabbed onto that rake handle, and she pulled hard. With that help, and making great effort I extracted my heavy, be-mudded boots and managed to walk out of the treacherous path. Such relief! I promised myself I would never let that happen to me again.
I never again got physically stuck in the mud, and so kept that childhood promise in the literal sense. Yet there have been times when I have gotten stuck in metaphorical muck and had trouble making my way out. Usually I am decisive and able to resolve the dilemmas and quandaries that come my way, but some stop me in my tracks. Reflecting on how I have gotten unstuck in those situations, it is not entirely different from that childhood experience.
I think of the process involved as having three phases and brilliantly call these points “stuck,” “getting unstuck,” and “unstuck.” When you’re stuck, you are aware that something is wrong. You want to make a change, but you can’t figure out how. You might make some efforts, but they don’t get you anywhere. This is unpleasant and sometimes just plain scary. You can stay stuck for a short or long time. When you realize you no longer want to stay in this uncomfortable place you start looking for a way out. You are ready to start the process of getting unstuck.
Perhaps you can find your own way to get your feet out of the mud. Very likely you can use some help. You can envision how things will be better when you get unstuck and you might seek out help to get yourself there. With the combination of their efforts and yours, you start pulling free. Getting unstuck can take some intensive work, and it’s worth it. Each step you make gets you closer to freedom.
Suddenly the effort you’ve been making pays off. You’ve stepped out of the mud and washed it from your boots. You know where you want to go and you are moving in that direction. Becoming unstuck is the end of one process and the start of another, exciting one. You feel lighter, energized, excited and ready to move forward.
More to come on this topic!