Posted February 8th, 2011
Have you ever had one of those days – or weeks or months – where you have a pile of work to do and yet you just stare off into space, stall and allow yourself to be distracted? Yeah, me too. More often than I care to admit, actually.
My friend calls it “chasing after shiny pennies”. A colleague used to call it “alphabetizing her rolodex” (yes, I’m that old). I prefer to call it purgatory. As a working mom running my own business, I need to be uber efficient. Caffeine is my friend and I admit I love that feeling of crossing things off my list (yes, I have been known to write down things I’ve already done so I can get “credit” for doing it…there, I said it)
There are plenty of references to this chronic affliction. It’s most commonly referred to as “wasting time” (what does that mean exactly?) Abby Seixas wrote about “The disease-of-a-thousand-things-to-do” and how it results in us chasing our tails. Carl Honore claims it is a logical consequence of the addiction to the “cult of speed” that has run rampant in our society. My sister, who teaches yoga to children, calls it “the monkey mind.” My clients – busy, fast-moving, women – visit this place of being stuck so frequently, I jokingly tried to make it a cooler place to by, saying “stuck is the new black.”
You know the place, right? That sensation of spinning your wheels and not being productive? Having nothing to show for your time? In a society that values doing, measuring, and moving, it’s only natural that we want to avoid this place. Wasting time=bad. I used to buy into this, but not anymore.
Last fall I saw an intuitive that totally reframed this notion of “wasting time” for me. She said, “Oh, you create ‘stuck’ for yourself as a way of slowing yourself down.” I create stuck? She went onto tell me “I do stuck really well”, meaning when I get stuck, I respond quickly by dropping down into it. I simply surrender. So this place – this purgatory – is apparently by design. My design. It’s not some fatal character flaw as I had long-since suspected. This was good news. In a bizarre twist, I began to actually take pride in my proficiency at “creating stuck”, rather than feeling shame and beating myself up when I had trouble focusing.
When I thought about it, it made perfect sense to me. I move fast through life – one person referred to me once as a comet. But what do we know about comets? They burn out. As I tracked back my thoughts leading up to this “stuck” place, I noticed I pattern. Right before that moment of disengagement, I was lamenting how tired I was, how much I needed a break, how I couldn’t keep going at this pace. So my body, mind and spirit, in all its wisdom, responded to my request and created some “stuck” for me.
Sometimes I would get sick. Sometimes we would have a snow day and I would have to cancel all my plans to stay at home with my kids. Those are the obvious ones and I tend recognize those easily enough.I gave myself permission because they were “good excuses.” But it’s the subtle ones that were tricky to sniff out. The times there was no apparent reason I wasn’t able to focus. I would try and muscle through those places, cracking the whip and berating my inability to produce one measly thing of worth. It used to turn into this long and drawn out day-long battle, complete with sweat and often, tears.
Now my sniffer is more attuned to those subtle hints that I am in a stuck place. I recognize them easier and have come to expect them. I actually – and this is the cool part – have come to value them. Rather than kicking and dragging my feet, I treat that “stuckness” as a menu item I have specifically ordered with my needs in mind. And I eat it up. Every crumb. Because it nourishes me at the times I need it most.
Could this be a massive justification for procrastination and sloth-likebehavior? Sure. But I think we both know it’s not. Try stuck on for size and see if it fits. They say it’s the new black.