Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Benefits of Being Stuck

Recently, a student asked if she could come talk to me privately in my office.  I asked her to schedule an appointment, and she got on my schedule for the following afternoon. The students have just returned from their winter break, and a new semester has begun. This young woman began by telling me that, after a semester in college, she went back home and it seemed as if nothing had changed with her parents, but many things had changed with her friends.  As I listened to her, I thought about my first break after being in college for one semester.  I thought I was GROWN, and my parents couldn't tell me what to do.  I remembered how different things were with my high school friends, and how eventually we weren't as close as I became with my college friends.  As a counselor with a knowledge of college student development theory, I knew her experience wasn't unique.  I could relate, and she felt understood, but I had to keep listening.

What was unique about this session was, of course, the individual.  Since she's not a student I've ever interacted with on an individual level, I sensed she was there for more than the normal angst of the transitioning first year college student.  We talked for awhile, and I got the sense that she was in limbo - her relationships were in conflict, she wasn't sure she was in the right environment, and she made the statement that people in limbo often say: "I just want to be happy."  So I said to her, "You feel stuck."  The lights went on, and I heard the "YES" that often comes when person feels understood.

I knew "Stuck".  I've lived with Stuck for a very long time.  Stuck likes to come along when we've lost something or someone dear to us and can't get over it.  Stuck stays when we decide it's easier to put up our guards than to risk our hearts being broken.  Stuck takes over when we become isolated and believe that life is happening to us, rather than allowing ourselves to live life fully.  I KNOW Stuck.  Stuck sucks.

However, speaking from the experience of a person who's been stuck, I also know that Stuck means something else is coming.  That Stuck won't be around forever, especially if we're hating being stuck.  And there are some great things that can happen when we're stuck.  For example:
  • When you're stuck, you begin to identify emotions that you may have been avoiding.
  • Being stuck allows you to take a break from the work it takes to maintain relationships so that you can work on yourself.
  • When you're stuck, it's the best time to take an inventory of what YOU believe is important, as opposed to what others have told you is important.
  • Being stuck shows you who and what needs to go and who and what needs to stay in your life.
  • The time spent being stuck shows you what you like and dislike about yourself, how to appreciate what you like, and that you need to change what you don't like.
All of us, at one point or another in life, have been stuck.  I was stuck when I was married.  I remember how painful it was.  I even told my husband he was killing my spirit (I understand now that my spirit was dying, but he wasn't responsible for that.).  Then we separated, and I did something I had been wanting to do for a long time: I went to graduate school.   I became passionate as I went through the counseling courses for my program, and in the process I was healing and becoming who I am today.

I was stuck in my relationship with God.  I was stuck in ministry for the sake of showing people how spiritual I am.  I was stuck in religion.  When I was hurt by several people in my church, I realized how human we ALL are.  That propelled me to not try to appear spiritual or seek the approval of those at church, and to seek an authentic, intimate relationship with God, where I could trust Him with all aspects of my life. 

I was stuck in my own rules.  I believed that I had to do things a certain way, that I had to be a certain person so that my life could go the way I wanted to.  Then I reconnected with an old friend, the one who has broken my heart a few times in the past couple of years.  He didn't fit any of my rules or standards, but he saw me for who I really am, and held a mirror up to me so that I could see myself for who I really am.  Through his blatant disregard for rules (something that irked me to no end), I learned to get past my own rules and not to stay stuck.  Yes, my heart was broken, but sometimes you need to be broken so that the beauty that is inside can pour out.  I am experiencing the beauty inside of me and learning to LIVE my life as an active participant.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

When you're stuck, good things can still happen.  They may come in packages you don't recognize, and may even cause pain, but they motivate you to leave Stuck and move forward to new and exciting adventures.