Here’s the thing about feeling stuck: when you are in it, you are convinced that it is a black and white situation, that people are either stuck, or unstuck. A flight is grounded, or it’s airborne and going places. There’s no in between for the stuck mind. And when you are stuck, you are convinced everyone else is soaring, pushing ahead with grand plans, ticking off their bullet points and moving forward with a carefully planned life strategy. But awful as stuck is, when you’re based there you get to know it and it’s safe – boring, but safe. You might be stuck in a habit as mundane as going to the same café all the time, or wearing black jumpers every day, or you might feel yours is a big-huge-crazy, ‘my life needs to change’ form of stuck. No doubt they grow from the same seed. Having become acquainted with stuck at various junctures in my life – there have been occasions I’ve felt like an expert – I realise that it is just a word, and a lazy one at that. We can pass in and out of stuck-ness within 24 hours; it can be a superficial stickiness, like honey on our fingers, not superglue. As for those people who look as though they’re never stuck, well, they’re just making it up as they go along, coming at life with a lighter touch, giving their sticky fingers a quick rinse under the tap (or licking them clean, if you like honey) and not worrying too much about what happens. That’s key to it all: caring less. I don’t mean: ‘I couldn’t care less’, with an I-give-up shrug. I mean, adopting an attitude of: ‘I care, but less than I did before’. That is, learning to care in proportion to how much anything matters, which, when you strip away the layers of the game of life, is a lot less than we are made to believe. No stakes, no stuck.
There’s nothing like a crisis, the sudden imposition of a bigger problem crashing in, or a global disaster hitting the headlines, to snap us out of periods of self-absorption that we label, ‘stuck’. Realising that someone else is worse off, that they have fewer options and might really be in a corner, can force one to take a break from obsessing about the overblown nature of how stuck one is, abandon ruminating upon the meanderings of one’s life lighten up and wear pink for a change.
When ducks fight (I’m sure you’ve seen this) they have a flap, a squabble and a set-to – they’re all feathers and splash, then they beat their wings vigorously, have a furious shake to shed the moment and in doing so they unstick themselves from the fracas and glide off serenely. Ok, so I’m anthropomorphising, but I’m all for controlled shaking as a way of becoming unstuck. I know it works, because I learned it once at a Kundalini Yoga class. At the start of the class we were invited to get up and shake it all out (quite what ‘it’ was, was not specified). We had to dance around the room trembling and jiggling and quivering (and many, no doubt, were inwardly quaking and shuddering). Free the old lethargy, I think we were told, as we were invited to unstick the claggy build-up of life’s knocks through a bum-wobble and a hip-quake. I remember the embarrassment, the glances of shame, the awkward movements; then the letting go, the caring-less, the hilarious windmill flailing. Now, when I feel stuck, I move. I get on my feet and shake like a hypothermic cross-channel swimmer who has scrimped on the goose fat. Then I laugh. Because if you don’t laugh at yourself attempting to become unstuck through pogo-dancing alone in the kitchen, then you are even more of a lunatic than the jerk who’s jerking.
In uncertain times (are there any others?) we all need a boost to dispel despair and scatter spurious states of feeling stuck. A friend sent me a lovely article a few weeks back by journalist Gary Younge. It was a last column he wrote for the Guardian before becoming unstuck from life as a journalist and moving into academia. This is what he wrote at the end of his piece: “Things look bleak. The propensity to despair is strong, but should not be indulged. Sing yourself up. Imagine a world in which you might thrive, for which there is no evidence. And then fight for it.” It’s the end of January and it’s rotten outside (where I am), but for many we are only now tipping into the new year, so if Gary’s words don’t help you get unstuck, then get dancing – shake it up, baby.
Twist and Shout, Beatles
Well, shake it up, baby, now (shake it up, baby)
Twist and shout (twist and shout)
Come on, come on, come on, come on, baby now (come on, baby)
Come on and work it on out (work it on out)