I recently did an internet search for “Getting Unstuck” to see what would come up in the search. I had been feeling like I was racing around in circles without much forward motion, and I knew I needed to find a new roadmap as I was getting depressed with the same scenery.
Granted, I am a full-time single mom to 5 children and the pace of each day seems to keep me busy from 6am-11pm without much time for reflection, but I knew the circular path needed to change.
It was interesting to discover that there are a multitude of books, quotes, and inspirational messages all designed to motivate one into action. Messages of “Let Go” or “Make a To-Do List” abound; however, nothing really clicked for me. I was looking for something concrete…something like “Drive 1.5 miles and turn right at the stop sign. Your new path will be on the left.”
As I continued to read and look for a set of directions I could follow, it hit me. My divorce and financial devastation had me running from my old life in a panicked sprint, but I had never stopped to figure out where I was going. My immediate needs to find a home, find an income, and resettle my children guided my frenzy and I became stuck in a circle of activity with no vision for a way out. I realized that in order to move forward, I had to stop. I needed to stop and pause for a moment so I could take it all in, breathe it all out, and appreciate the wide-open path ahead of me.
When I did stop, I recalled the feeling I had when I was fresh out of college. I remembered back to those days when I felt like I had a bright future ahead of me. I had a college degree, I was young and fearless, and I was ready to take on the world. Somehow, though, looking at the same wide-open path at the age of 46 left me feeling less exuberant.
Maybe it is the life lessons I’ve learned along the way or the toll of the divorce, but I had to admit to myself that the big, bright world felt a little scarier this time around. I wanted to be fearless and exuberant again, but I didn’t know how. And then my wise mother gave me some advice. She told me that she stills sees the positive, fearless young girl inside of me, but that I needed to do some work to reconnect myself to that part of me.
I used to have a quote hanging on the wall of my old house. It said: Every Day Holds The Possibility of A Miracle. So I went to storage, dug through some boxes, found my sign, and posted in my room. I also found a new sign the other day that I hung next to my old one. It says: Have Adventures, Smell The Roses, Be Kind To Yourself, Go For Long Walks, Daydream, Create Something, Explore, Tell Stories, Look At The Stars. It’s a Wonderful World.
I wake up to these messages every morning and they remind me of the fresh-out-of-college-attitude I had many years ago.
I’ve been taking baby steps, but I feel like I’m finally moving in a new direction, and it’s exciting. For anyone else who feels stuck and without a real sense of how to take the very first step, I offer the following suggestions. They are homegrown and based on my experience, but they are what keep me moving forward.
1. STOP – I often think about the fire department message of stop, drop, and roll. Stopping for a brief second to end the panicked running can save your life. Stopping can also provide you with a break in the old action, so you can begin again in a new direction.
2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SIMPLE INSPIRATION – Try finding a coffee cup to start your day that has a quote/picture that inspires you. Mine is the one my sister-in-law sent me that says, “Believe in Yourself”. My friend loves post-its and writes short, uplifting messages to herself and leaves them everywhere: her bathroom mirror, her computer screen, and even in her car.
3. SEEK OUT QUIET TIME TO REFLECT - Take 15-20 minutes a day for one week to think or write. I had to get up earlier in order to make this happen, but I did and at 5am, it was my inspirational coffee cup and I staring at the blank screen on my computer. I started writing down dreams, things I’ve always wanted to do, places I want to take the kids. Then I began to write about things I want to accomplish, books I want to write, ideas for my documentary film. Looking at my notes at the end of the week helped me feel positive about what is still out there for me explore and accomplish.
4. WEED THE RELATIONSHIP GARDEN - When moving through a transition, it is crucial to have family and friends around you that can offer support and understanding. It’s like the transition phase in labor, that last phase before you give birth. You can’t really stop to take on other people’s problems or feel guilty about not returning phone calls. You need to protect your thoughts, your time, and your energy. If you find you have relationships that drain you or are negative, pull them from your life.
5. TAKE REALISTIC ACTION – After feeling stuck, being able to think and plan again had me filling notepads with ideas and mile-long to-do lists. However, it is unrealistic to accomplish 500 tasks in a day, so I forced myself to make a daily list of no more than 10 things I had to do and then 3 things I wanted to do to in order to move myself forward. I began to feel empowered rather than overwhelmed since I took it in smaller chunks.
Do you ever feel stuck? What are some first steps you take to get yourself moving again?
Kristy Campbell is a writer, actress, and mom of 5. Her column, "Saving The World One Teen At A Time," appears on Mommytracked.com. She also contributes to ModernMom.com and The Huffington Post. Her thoughts on modern midlife are offered in her blog, "Juggling On The Journey." You can find her work at www.kristycampbellcreative.com.