How Do You Move Forward When You’re Grinding All Your Gears?

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As humans, we’re constantly in motion. But motion and movement are two very different things. Just because you’re in motion doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going anywhere.

Trust me on this, I know.

If I could catch a ride with Richard Branson on his uber-expensive Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, I’d easily be able to assess the difference between the two. But first I’d hit him up for drink. Specifically? A glass of 1907 Heidsieck. At $275,000 a bottle, it would help defray my ticket price while momentarily absolving me of the guilt associated with blowing the kids’ college tuition just to prove a point. BOGO at its highest and best use.

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

The second thing I’d do is settle in to check out the real estate, because isn’t leveraging my children’s future to see the world from a different point of view all about perspective? I imagine myself staring out the window at an earth below that looks less and less like the picture we all try to paint on a daily basis. Not so much a three-dimensional place anymore, but from way up above? A ginormous chessboard marked with clearly defined grids, gateways, and boundaries, as tiny balls of energy collide, advance, deflect, promote, dodge, gather, seek and recede in an endless effort to check the king.

Image via portwallpaper.com

Image via portwallpaper.com

Fascinated with the sparkly surface patterns of intricate motion that everyone on earth longs to be, and all happy-tingly-woozy from my six-figure, speed of sound buzz, I’d almost miss what I didn’t know I flew so high to see. Something small and seemingly insignificant situated inside the massive advance of energy that everyone else on board paid a lifetime of 401K savings to witness.

I’m talking about inert matter. Those pinpricks of light that mimic motion, but whose movement is an optical illusion: running in circles, dancing in place, and bumping up against imaginary walls. As everyone else on board focuses on the obvious, I’d be able to drill down a little deeper. But only because I’ve been there. Stuck. In motion, but not really going anywhere.

Image via trojantimes.org

Image via trojantimes.org

Looking back at my adult life, it’s easy to categorize it into a series of phases.

Phase 1/1980s: The Sussana Hoffs era of Big Hair and Big Dreams.

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Phase 2/1990s: The Yves Saint Laurent era of Big Black Suit and Big Career.

Don't look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Don’t look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via http://www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Phase 3/2000s: The Barbara Billingsley era of Big Belly and Big Bills.

That’s not me. OK it is. On the verge of birthing an alien.

I’ve always considered myself fairly stealth, able to move seamlessly in and out of various roles at-will to the beat of a metronome perfectly synchronized to my tune. But about three years ago, on the cusp of my 40th birthday, everything changed. For someone who’s always been confident enough to chart her own course, I suddenly found myself drifting. I was lost and knee-deep in the weeds without a compass, while a storm of my own design grew larger than it appeared in my peripheral view.

Somewhere between my career and the kids, buried in a pile of laundry or possibly lurking inside a box in the basement that I hadn’t opened for years, I lost my perspective and appreciation for the life I’d so carefully built. I don’t know how it happened, but it felt like I simply woke up one day yearning to be anywhere and anyone but who I was. Confused, I couldn’t seem to recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror when I washed my face every night.

No matter how enlightened I become, I will always hate matching socks.

It’s easy to get lost in a pile of socks.

I was that person who, although constantly in motion, wasn’t actually moving. Busy with my responsibilities as a parent and a wife, I had somehow forgotten about the inner workings that support the common denominator between the two, and then the kids went off to school, and could tie their own shoes, and make sound decisions without being told how, and I realized that I had unintentionally parked myself on an island and hadn’t taken the time to learn to swim. Even in the middle of paradise, isolation is lonely, and days on end of the most beautiful sunset somehow lose their color. Things that shine on the surface, like the tiny balls of energy you might see from outer space, sometimes look entirely different from the inside out.

Telluride, CO August 2011

When you’re stuck, you’re forced to stop. You don’t have a choice. And then when you’re ready to move forward, you have to look around and figure out where you want to go next rather than simply allowing the tide to sweep you along. That initial inertia and subsequent plotting of a new path has great value, even though in the moment it feels miserable, like treading water in quicksand.

One of the side effects of getting lost is the unexpected places you get to visit on your way to a new destination. Like for me? Writing. This blog is a direct result of a yearlong, step-by-step, rocky hike on a circuitous path. And I’m still going. I’m a constant work in progress, but I’m now comfortable with my ever-changing state of being because I’m doing the work to figure out where I want to end up. Plus I reserve the right to change my mind, which is a great back-up plan when all else fails.

I believe that in life, we all get stuck at some point. Whether it’s due to things like divorce, disease, death, or distraction, almost everyone loses their way. Sometimes we have to move backwards to go forward, or hit a bottom so hard that the force of impact acts like a catapult up to the top, but the a-ha realization at the end, when lessons are learned and intersecting lines actually connect, is priceless. It isn’t easy, but almost everything worth accomplishing in life is born from some type of hardship or loss. So what about you? Are you simply in motion or are you actually moving? It’s a question worth asking, even if the answer isn’t what you want to hear.

Taking the road less traveled and finding my way.

73 responses »

  1. Your post speaks to me Stacie. Learning that I want to be a writer after I had already chosen a career felt exhilarating and depressing at the same time. But here I am, six or seven months into it, trying to write every day. I don’t know if it will ever put food on the table and I am loving every minute of it. I am glad that I got stuck and had to choose a new direction. I am glad you got stuck too because I love reading your stuff.

    • Bryan,

      I think you hit it when you said “I don’t know if it will ever put food on the table and I am loving every minute of it.” It seems like the writers I’ve met who are solely focused on commoditizing their craft don’t get it. You have to do it because you love it, and everything else it is meant to be will fall in line. So let’s both keep going, and reading, and writing, and see where we end up. Deal?

      Thanks for your awesome words. I love reading your work too.
      Stacie

  2. You’ve written a post that will resonate with many. And how beautifully you’ve done it! I found myself rereading some of your sentences, so brilliantly crafted were they:

    “Things that shine on the surface, like the tiny balls of energy you might see from outer space, sometimes look entirely different from the inside out.”

    Really lovely and insightful post.

    • Carrie,

      A compliment from you carries a lot of weight. Thanks for your support, not only for this post, but each and every time you stop by.

      Writing love coming right back ‘atcha.

      Stacie

  3. First of all, excellent writing here. Being in perpetual motion is necessary for personal growth and it’s good that you’re working to rediscover that for yourself.

    Second and to answer your question, I’ve also felt that my blog plays a role in my own move back into motion. It’s a curious thing how even posting about the silliest things helps us as we dig deeper for more meaning and direction. It’s great to see my life moving (again) and being able to both create and maintain the pace I want. Knowing that I’ll be 40 next year certainly helps with the motivation but it’s really about choosing to be happy and being tired of regrets. Putting less pressure on one’s self here and there doesn’t hurt, either. As long as I feel and see myself moving forward and taking fewer steps backward as time progresses, life is good.

  4. Much prefer your eloquent turn of phrase to the footballer “drop back 15 yards and punt.”

    Change is a sign of Life – IMHO. Glad you decided to share your metamorphosis through blogging.

  5. You express this so well, Stacie. Really. I agree with Carrie that many people here will be able to relate to these sentiments. It’s easy to lose perspective when you’re just going with the currents, wherever life is taking you. But it’s great that you’re aware of that, so you can start rowing in a new direction, so to speak. Loved this!

  6. Girl get out of my head! 🙂 Amazing how some of us parallel each other and can learn and teach each other so much. I’m so glad we happened upon each other. (I’ve said that three times now. I need to go find my thesaurus.)

    • Me too. We sort of owe it all to Le Clown, but don’t tell him I said so. I like giving him a hard time much more than giving thanks.

      I’m so happy to hang in your orbit…looking forward to seeing where we both end up.
      =)

  7. Yes, this is me — moving furiously, going nowhere — I’ve been called a tasmanian devil and a human doing. Someone told me that I walk tilted forward with my pocket book flinging back in the wind like I’m perpetually off into urgency! Thanks for the reflections…

    • OK SCB,

      The comment “Someone told me that I walk tilted forward with my pocket book flinging back in the wind like I’m perpetually off into urgency!” is worthy of a character in a novel. Brilliant. I can totally see you racing against the wind. Coming by to see what trouble you’ve been up to…

      xoxoxo
      GG

  8. At the risk of being redundant, I too identify with your post and think it’s beautifully written. Those same thoughts have circled my brain for the past few years, though they aren’t nearly as eloquent in my cranium. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my journey. Good luck on yours…
    and watch Branson, he can get real grabby when he’s had a few glasses of Heidsieck. Perv.

    • Right. And he has, like, an entire CASE on board. I dig billionaires who play with a totally stacked deck and could care less if you know it though, so it’s all good.

      I can’t remember how I stumbled on your blog, but it was right when you started. You have an amazing voice, and are one of the funniest writers on wordpress.

      I wrote this post for the exact reason you mention…so that anyone feeling remotely the same would know that they weren’t alone. So now you know. You aren’t alone. Let me know if you ever want to talk. We can each pour a cocktail (Maker’s and gingerale for me when I want to go deep), put the kids on autopilot (Ninja Warriors or America’s Got Talent! here), and chat.

      =)

  9. So here is the thing. You know that I have loved your stuff since I found you on Freshly Pressed but this is without a doubt my favorite piece. It will stay with me because somewhere mid way through, it felt like I started reading with more than just my brain. Really really pretty writing and substance to match the aesthetics. I think what I am trying to say is that I liked it.

    • Awwww. Coming from you, Simon. I’m flattered.

      I remember you commenting on my Freshly Pressed post about being Freshly Pressed. It seems like ages ago and now here we are, blogging and commenting, living and learning, trying to figure out how Cristy does what she does on Paltry Meanderings and all that stuff. What am I getting at? It’s simple. You were my first, and as such, you will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart.

      =)

    • One more thing: I think you retweeted this post on twitter. I am a twitter moron, and can’t figure out how to tweet my twitter thanks (say that 10 times in a row as fast as you can). So thank you. =)

  10. Pingback: Summer Solstice Musings

  11. First SSG’s post, now yours – I think I can shut off WordPress for the day, because nothing will top what you two’ve written. If this is any indication of your usual ability to articulate, sign me up for more.

    • Thanks, Sid! I usually try to keep my posts a little lighter, but sometimes dive deep. Expanding my lungs into uncomfortable positions is good for me.

      I would love to sign you up, but if I had that kind of power it might go to my head. You can hit the magic follow button though, and if you do, I promise not to bite.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • Yikes. That comment sounds like it could be a blog post in and of itself. =)

        Not sure if the follow worked b/c I didn’t get a notice, but I only post once a week so if you don’t see anything next week check back. Enjoy the weekend and thanks for stopping by Sid!

  12. You’re 42? Shutup. You can’t be.

    I just got unstuck recently. I turned 30 in November, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t done a lot of things I had on my “Before I’m 30” list. Seriously…maybe I did 5 out of the 25 things. I started panicking, wondering what I had done with all the time between 20 and 30.

    Eventually I realized I was just living my life. I went places and made friends and partied and got serious in my job. I may not have done the things I thought I should do, but that didn’t mean I didn’t do anything great.

    Now I’m taking things one day at a time. I’m moving forward with the things that make me happy, and not holding myself to any standard other than having fun in life. My writing is better than ever because of it.

    I LOVE this post. Love, love, love.

    • I’m not 42, Jen. I’m 41 and 349/365ths and I’m not giving up those last 16 days until I have to. =p

      I’m so happy for you that you figured the whole motion / moving thing out over a decade earlier than me. I wish I could have started writing at 30, considering you go through what you go thorough whether you want to or not.

      But I’m glad to be where I am now and I LOVE hearing from you. Love, love, love. xoxo

  13. Great post GG. Brings to mind that it’s also okay to voluntarily stop, every once in a while, to smell the proverbial roses. Slow down. Stop. Relax. Breathe. [Note to self: breathing very important.] The world we live in seems bent on hardwiring us to “go, go, go, fast, fast, fast”, always Forward. So when we fall off the beat, even temporarily, we guilt up. Not good.
    Allow yourself to simply Be; immobility can be a good thing, on occasion. I know this sounds esoteric, it’s not meant to be. It’s just that, you know, Life is good, despite everything.

    Signed: [One of] your French fan[s].

    • Dear Inphiluencer,

      You’re my fav French fan but please don’t tell Le Clown or anyone else who pretends to have been raised on pom frites from birth that I said so.

      You’re also completely right on with the whole stop, relax, and breathe thing. I’m hardwired to multi-task, charge forward, and reflect in my dreams, but I also now understand the whole “stop and smell the roses” thing a little more than I did a couple of years ago.

      So happy you stopped by. It’s truly a pleasure. Incidentally, why aren’t you blogging?

      GG

  14. Lovely post. Thanks so much for sharing. It has recently occurred to me that my writer’s life is chopped into 3 distinct blocks: 1.) high school/college (when I identified myself as a “writer); 2.) married with children (working feverishly, spinning my wheels, and no longer a writer); and 3.) catching my breath with adult children (and re-identifying myself as a writer). Sometimes we don’t even know it’s time to stop and examine that lovely inert matter… until we’ve already done it and look back and think, oh! look at that! :>

    • What a thoughtful comment. I agree, if I hadn’t ended up exploring the unexplored I wouldn’t be here, and the world would sad. Just kidding. I had to say that because everyone thinks bloggers are self-centered. Thanks for the sweet support and keep doing what you do!

  15. i like you. i really like you. and i loved this post. yep, we all go there, sometimes more than once, whether we want to or not. but, it is only the most sensitive, intelligent, and introspective among us who analyze it and do something about it…like yourself. anyhoo, i’m glad you did and you wrote about it because it was such a great read. xo, sm

  16. Stacie,

    I personally found this post to be your best yet. You were fully open, and also, insightful, in the sort of way a philosophy major might be – rather than a young woman in commercial real estate. I may be wrong, but the 40’s are all about the ‘intersection’ – in other words, finding a deeper truth. Thank you for carving out a fresh set of words on this stage of life. Beautifully done. And, you are not alone, trust me. This, I KNOW.

  17. Beautifully written. It reminded me of a critical juncture when I was in motion but not achieving movement. I had to consciously make a decision for the latter – which resulted in one of the most painful yet eventually rewarding chapters in my life. Thanks for the reminder not to settle!

  18. Great post, Stacie! ….”treading water in quicksand”…that’s a great phrase. I know where you are coming from. Three years ago, I divorced after 25 years of marriage, left the house we build together, and went from being a stay-at-home mom to a full time teacher all at the same time. Through it all, it was Scarlett O’hara that I thought of…lol “….after all, tomorrow is another day.” I think I was awesome and you are awesome too. You need to write a book.

    • Awwww. I miss you Vickie and I appreciate hearing your open, honest thoughts. Based on your wonderful posts, I can tell you’re working your way toward getting to the place you want to end up too. Looking for to working our way there. =)

  19. “I had unintentionally parked myself on an island and hadn’t taken the time to learn to swim.” I love that sentence, and many others, as much as I realize that most of us do the same thing with our lives. The difference is that a few people — like you, for example — figure it out and then do something about it while they still can.

    There’s a lot of wisdom in this post, Stacie. “…Almost everything worth accomplishing in life is born from some type of hardship or loss.” Maybe that’s the definition of adulthood.

  20. I have worked out what I need to do to get back into motion. It is to spoil myself to the nth degree. So I did this. I don’t regret it. Well, much. OK Buyer’s Remorse is in full swing, but hang it, we only live once. Or twice. Or lots of times, but no one’s very sure, and what’s for DAMN sure is we only live once in this bit. So, er, I did it. And it’s going to be fine. I know it is.

    http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/i-know-i-know-stupid-insane-im-not-listening-la-la-la-la-im-not-listening/

    • By the way, I am sure it’s very hard being at all cheery in Colorado today. The rest of us have looked on in that sort of gutted, awe-struck “that could have been me” horror that afflicts everyone when things like this happen. I do pray that you are all fine, and everyone you know, too. Sometimes, the best we can do is just hang in there.

      • Thanks Stephen. I like your style, all the way around. I’m not quite sure why all the nut jobs seem to end up in Colorado, and my heart goes out to all of the victims and their families. The sad thing is, what happened in Aurora could happen anywhere, at any time, and again and again.

      • Maybe everyone needs to own a horse? My dad has the same issue that you do, although his horses will never race, don’t have any pedigree and aren’t even ridable. They’re rescue horses, and while they’re really beautiful, pretty much just eat… a lot.

        On a more serious note, I think, as a society, we allow people to become disenfranchised. Loners become more lonely, and add that to a large dose of mental instability (that grows over time), do something drastic to get people’s attention. It’s beyond sad. It’s tragic.

      • I agree 100%. In my opinion, life is about the combination of genetic mapping and experiences. It’s pretty easy to assume that his genetic mapping was off, and that his life experiences only added fuel to the flame. It’s a tragedy (literally) that no one helped him try to work through his issues.

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