Stuck in a Rut

How to ride rutted out trails

Have you ever felt like you were?

In a rut, that is…

I know I have. Not just felt like it, but actually in a rut. Not just once, but many times in my life. You’d think I would learn how to avoid those traveling traps.

“Constantly focusing on the limitations, instead of all the possibilities, is how people become stuck in their lives. It only serves to recreate the same old reality from day to day. And soon the days turn into years, and lifetimes.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

I guess it doesn’t help when you can’t see over the edge of your rut…

People, myself included, get stuck in ruts for a number of reasons. I don’t think we intentionally aim for that rut. I’ve woken up at times and realized that I’m not going anywhere because I’m stuck. I also know that sometimes I have stayed in a rut instead of making hard choices and doing difficult work to get out. Staying in a rut can be thought safer or more comfortable than taking the risk to change or move forward. That’s hard to believe.

Sometimes, people find themselves in a rut because of their own mistakes or self-destructive choices. This is the obvious answer. When we hear a story about someone being stuck, the first place we go is a quick examination of their poorly followed road map.

Sometimes, people find themselves in a rut because of choices made by someone else. We all live in a connected world. Our families, friends and work world keep us intertwined with the lives of other people who are making decisions that affect how we act and think. Right now and for years.

Sometimes, people decide to stay in their rut because it’s providing the essential attention, connection and love that they have always needed but never received. That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Many times, people aren’t even aware that their life in a rut is producing something they deeply need.

“But there was a difference between being stuck and choosing to stay. Between being found and finding yourself.” ― Martina Boone

Isolation Can Produce Ruts

While some age groups are, not everyone is returning to their churches in these post-pandemic months. If there is such a thing as post-pandemic. Some reports indicate that the return rate is at approximately two-thirds. Going back on a regular basis will do wonders for you on many levels. The weekly “live” connections with others have kept me going in so many ways. During the week we use technology to stay tethered with each other. This has kept my focus on what means the most to me.  Praying, encouraging, sharing our journey has all worked to keep me from that familiar rut of paralyzing self-pity.

“It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are finished.”Debbie Macomber

Don’t Overthink It

Maybe during the locked up period of time we’ve come through, you noticed or even developed some bad habits. Some might even qualify as a rut. I’ve been reading some research about how to replace bad habits with good ones. Very eye-opening. Instead of beating myself up about my lack of will power or low motivation, making a good habit is mostly about changing circumstances and getting into a new routine. Habits, both good and bad, happen because we spend so much of our mental processing on autopilot.

My new routine of walking the neighborhood each evening has hit a summer snag. It never seems to cool off until almost ten o’clock! By then I’ve gotten side tracked with something else. So, I’m working on the timing of this routine so I don’t have to make a conscious decision, it will just happen. Wish me luck.

What routines do you need to fix? Make a change in the right direction, give yourself a reward, make it something you don’t have to think about, and you will probably end up out of that rut sooner rather than later.

“If you continue to dig the same hole in the same place in your life, eventually you will be standing in a grave.” – Shannon Adler

Relationships Need Tending Like a Garden

Don’t you have friends who are in relationship ruts? It’s very difficult to break out and build new friendships, especially lately. Even dysfunctional relationships work for us when they keep us on familiar scripts and protect from the risks of rejection.

Your relationship is in a rut when:

  1. Communication isn’t bringing life
  2. You’re drained most of the time instead of energized
  3. Trust has been deteriorating over time

There are many other signs. I think these are significant. Relationships don’t usually fall apart quickly. Some poisons can take a long time to kill. Everyone has difficulty jumping into new friendships and learning different scripts. Such a hard jump to make – these also take time. We hurt and want relief quickly. I think that’s why some people just stay in their relationship ruts.

“People who have been deeply hurt in their relationships will often devalue love so it doesn’t hurt so much. And they often become resigned to never loving again.” ― Henry Cloud

Getting out of a rut takes an understanding of what got you there in the first place. Helping someone else get out of a rut will probably mean going past the immediate circumstances and addressing larger problems and/or people. Most people, even your close friends, will never let you near enough to have those kinds of conversations. That’s an unfortunate part of life and people these days.

The number one reason that people stay in their ruts is because they try and go it alone. It’s hard to admit failure. Even more difficult to let someone else see mistakes repeated. But the only way up and out is mostly with the help of others. Sometimes, we stay in ruts because we can’s seem to lift that heavy brick of pride up and over the edge.

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” ― Khalil Gibran

What Did You Promise Yourself?

Driving home down that same highway
Sun in my eyes this time
Trying to find a song on the radio
A tune I haven’t heard a million times before
Something that resonates with my mood today
Reliving today’s missed opportunities
What’s at home for dinner?
This life is still strange to me
I don’t have the right rhythm yet for this new dance
I promise I’m going to figure this out
And continue to become who I’m supposed to be

“Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.” ― John Green,

Twice over the past six months I’ve heard different people say that the promise of a marriage was worth breaking if happiness was at stake. This was hard for me to hear. My wife and I were married for 35 years and spent the last five of those years fighting cancer together. She was so strong and valiant. While I wasn’t always a very nice caregiver (think Nurse Ratchet), I never thought about jumping ship. We weren’t very happy during this battle. But leaving our marriage never crossed my mind. Now, over those 35 years we had many ups and downs. I honestly don’t think either of us spent much time tossing around the idea that abandoning our marriage was one of the choices we could consider. Regardless of how happy we were at any given moment.

“A good marriage is supposed to be one where each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal.” ― Anne Lamott

The more I think about it, I wonder if it’s the promise to someone else that’s easier to back out of?  Don’t you think we live in a world where commitment is never certain in anything anymore? People back out of contracts, loans, friendships, etc. every day. Maybe it’s always been like that?

Are most people living together rather than getting married today because they area afraid to make promises they can’t keep?

cohabitation 1

My subject is marriage but the promise that I think is essential here is the one we make to ourselves first.  I believe it’s the promise we make to ourselves that makes the promises to others possible. Relationships work – even when it’s terrible – because we’ve first made a deep internal promise that affirms who we are and what we actually believe. People who can’t make that kind of promise or at least start the process, don’t make it very well in the relationship journey.

“We make promises to live, not to keep.” ― Marty Rubin

In order to start a relationship on the right foot and keep it heading in a healthy direction – each partner must be able to make a promise and keep it. The first thing to understand about making promises to other people is that they never work if you can’t hold on to promises you’ve made to yourself. I don’t think my wife and I would have made it for 35 years if we hadn’t, prior to marrying, each carried within us the promise that marriage was permanent. Then we could make the same promise to one another. I think keeping a promise with each other depended, in a large part, on our promises to our selves.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ― Ernest Hemingway

You already know that you can’t change someone else. You can’t make other people keep their promises to you. What you can do is make certain you keep your own promises. The place to start is to be certain you are true to the promises you’ve made to yourself. Most of these promises center around who we believe we are (and are becoming).

What kinds of promises do you make to yourself?

  • to live up to your roles (parent, spouse, friend, employee, etc.)
  • to put others first
  • to keep changing , growing and learning

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”  ― Rainer Maria Rilke