"Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life." — Unknown
What does it mean to be stuck? In its simplest form, being stuck means knowing what you want. But not knowing how to get it. It can happen in relationships, jobs, or just a general feeling of dissatisfaction as you fall asleep or when you wake up. It can feel debilitating. However, you can also be stuck and not know it. Perhaps you are in a rut? Or maybe you have sunk so far into your routine that you neglect to notice life passing you by like a river.
When I feel stuck, I often find myself drawn back to Richard Bach's book, Illusions. Hand-written pages stained with motor oil precede the book's formal typed beginning. The pages tell a story of creatures clinging to a rock. Above them, a swift current flows past to unknown seas. I will attempt to summarize it here.
The Fear of Letting Go
Some are drawn to the current above, but by nature, they are creatures born to cling. As the current gets more robust, they cling tighter to avoid being swept away. One day a creature desperate to escape its monotonous life of clinging let loose its grip.
The others chastised the creature for its folly. They predicted the creature would be tossed about, smashed upon the rocks, and possibly die a quicker death than that of boredom. The creature did not listen. It let go and tried to force itself into the flow of the current.
The other creatures watched and waited for death. But they were to be one-third disappointed. The creature flailed in the current, and it was tossed about and smashed upon the rocks. But it did not die. Soon it grasped onto more debris to protect itself from the pain inflicted by the rushing current.
The creature clung as long as it could stand it. But, eventually, boredom once again raised within, and the creature simply let go. This time it did not fight the current. It allowed the current to lift it up. The creature traveled above the rocks and into the flow of the stream. Carried swiftly towards its destiny.
Creatures down river saw the floating creature and envisioned it as a GOD. The creature implored them to understand that they were no different than it. That they were capable of doing as it was doing. Explaining that the real purpose of life is voyage and adventure. But the creatures turned away and expressed doubt to one another. When they turned back to the mysterious creature, it was gone.
The rest of the book tells a more extended version of this story with different metaphors. But this short story tells it all. If we are to get unstuck, we must let go. Find our own current and lean into life. Clinging to it is tantamount to death. This shows up differently in each of us.
How to Get Unstuck
If you are still reading, chances are you are feeling some form of stuck. The first thing to do is understand what works for you. While you can seek others' counsel, it's best to go within to discover what you need. What works for someone else may not work for you. It may end up having the opposite effect.
For example, a friend may reconnect to themself through running. Whereas you may subscribe to the theory that one should only run when being chased by a singing warthog or fluffy bunny guarding a castle!
At a high level, introverts often need alone-time to recharge. Whereas extroverts may require immersion in a crowd of people after sitting alone at a desk all day. Within those broad definitions are an infinite amount of variations.
To figure your way out, you must first recognize where you are at. Are you clinging too hard? Perhaps you are flailing around, searching? How you react can be the difference between living a life of bliss and being smashed into rocks.
You do not want your life to end, only to find you never moved. But instead, clung tightest to that you least wanted. Be assured that each bruise from each rock brings significantly more joy than the single regret of a road (or a river) not taken.