Joe Rutland looks at how staying in a comfort zone for too long can become a nightmare and looks at how to avoid this life trap.
People will often say “I’m stuck in a rut” when their lives aren’t showing much movement. In fact, their lives might have a scary resemblance to the classic Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day.”
In the movie, Murray has his alarm clock go off at 6 a.m. and Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” plays. He smashes, crushes and tosses the alarm clock down, only to have it reappear the next morning. His day is just like every other day. He’s stuck in a loop.
For us, every day might be similar, too. The alarm clock goes off at the same time. The coffee maker starts at exactly the moment we set the timer before going to bed – at the same time – the night before. Turn on the TV and watch the news. Take a shower. Go out, get in the car outside our home or apartment, and drive to work. Get to work, sit in the same desk or cubicle, see the same people, work, have the same conversations about the woes in the world, and play office politics. Go to lunch either alone or with an office friend. Sit at the same booth in the same restaurant every day during the week. Go back to work. Add similar activities from the morning while getting work done, then 5 p.m. rolls around and you head home. Get home. Fix dinner. Sit down. Watch TV until 10:30 p.m. Go to bed.
The next day, that alarm clock goes off at the same damned time and, yep, our own version of “I Got You Babe” plays.
Wait a minute. Is this really living? I mean a robust, full, joy-filled life where you and I take a look around, see the stars in the sky at night, watches sunrises and sunsets, enjoys a deep sense of fulfillment and lets it be expressed far beyond our five basic rudimentary senses?
I say no.
There is something that is good and nurturing around having healthy rituals. The key word here is healthy. Whatever that might look like to you is your vision of healthiness. Not every man or woman has a built-in “health-o-meter” when it comes to rituals.
Sometimes, rituals can lead a person toward zoning out and being totally oblivious to his or her surroundings. The hue and cry of others’ calls that say “help me, help me, help me” drown out that inner voice which might be leading you and I toward a better life.
If life becomes stale, monotonous and dull, then what can a person do about it? Well, there are choices.
Choices. You and I have choices on how we want our lives to be. Sometimes, people are so afraid to make different choices because the ones they’ve been washing, rinsing and repeating for years feel so good. It’s comfortable, like putting on your favorite slippers right by the recliner each night. This is not taking a risk. On the contrary, it is risk aversion … and never taking a healthy risk in life means that comfort and joy get really old really fast.
Making the same choices can also bring harm to the mind. See, if men and women stop learning and growing, then their minds get stale. There’s no growth. Follow this analogy, OK. Go purchase a plant, put it in a big pot or in the ground, fill up the area with dirt, and leave the plant alone. Don’t water it or give it some plant food. Just go out and yell at it every day, “Grow, damn it. Grow!”
Is that plant going to grow without any care, love, support and nutrients? Hell no. The same can be said for living with the business or lifestyle logic of “we’ve been doing things the way we’ve been doing them for 25 years and it’s worked just fine.”
Oh God, when I see or feel this type of energy (said or unsaid) around me, I admittedly sense my inner The Thing from “Fantastic Four” in me. I just want to start taking my not-so-powerful fists, hit brick walls and yell “It’s clobberin’ time!”
Look around, people. How many places in your world do you see or feel this type of mindset taking root? It’s all over. Just look for it.
So, here comes a philosophical question. Is that issue about the people and environment around me … or is it a reflection of something going on within myself?
What I’ve come to notice is that these situations are big mirrors reflecting back to myself some part of my own life that calls for attention.
“But I don’t want to pay attention!” yells the petulant little kid in me.
“It might be wise if you do, grasshopper,” says the wiser adult in me.
This sounds like a call for a lifetime of navel gazing and not being aware of what is going around your own world, both inside and outside. Nope. I am suggesting, though, some type of “checking in” with your own self on a regular basis.
Is change something that feels joyful to think about or scary as hell? It can be both. At the same time, if a man or woman chooses a life without some type of variety in it, then the plant – remember the plant that we put in the ground and yell at every day? – wilts and dies. Cause of death is listed as “failure to thrive.”
That is an actual medical term used for people. It is an awful state to be in. No matter how many times a person who loves them can encourage, pull, cajole, push and carry them in their arms toward healthy lives, the spark of life just isn’t there.
What may have been there before many years ago has now faded into the sunset.
I can admit, looking back, that “failure to thrive” may have been my motto. Not on the outside, meaning my personality, etc. Yet on the inside, what felt comfortable … well, felt comfortable. It wasn’t living fully, embracing each moment with a fullness of energy. Admittedly, I have these moments crop up here and there today.
Yet I’m not liable to stay there for a long time. I have some awareness that it’s settling in and, well, I do have healthy choices.
For me, it all starts with awareness, then choosing what actions I want to take around it. From being still and quiet to going outside, taking a walk or going for a run, having a healthy meal, reading a good book, talking with a close friend about what is going on in my life, being vulnerable enough to reveal some uncomfortable side of my soul … these are all options.
There are different choices, too … those that turn life into, well, “Groundhog Day.”
While every day might have your alarm clocks going off to “I Got You Babe” and having the same-old feeling, it doesn’t have to be the final answer before laying your head down at night.
Life is full of wonderful choices and delicious opportunities. Taste them for a change.
Photo: Groundhog Day/Screenshot