You've driven into a muddy ditch in a big, heavy pick-up truck. It's raining a little bit and you think you'll be able to get out. It's just the right rear tire that's stuck. You take a deep breath, turn the wheels toward the road and push hard on the gas. The wheels spin and you move a few inches, but as soon as you take your foot off the gas, you feel the truck settle back.
Now both rear tires are inches deep in the mud. It's raining harder and you begin to wonder if you will be able to get out of this ditch before nightfall. You find some cardboard in the back of the cab and quickly tear it into two pieces, putting one under each rear tire, hoping this will help get past the mud. Once more you gun the engine but make little headway. As soon as you take your foot off the gas, you sink again into the mud.
By this time you've given up the idea that you'll make it home by dinner. Your shoes are caked with mud, your hair is wet, and you're cold. This isn't working, you think to yourself, I can't do this alone. So you pull out the insurance card from your glove box and call the emergency roadside assistance. They ask what the problem is and what is your location.
They tell you they will get there as soon as possible. You get back in the truck, text your partner or mother or friend, or none of them or all of them, and tell them your situation. And then you wait. There is nothing more you can do on your own to get out of the ditch.
The grooves your tires have made, the grooves all four wheels are spinning in helplessly, are like the emotional patterns we form in our lives. I am stubborn. I hate asking for help. I feel like a loser if I need to ask for advice or support. In my life, I've suffered unnecessarily by insisting that I had no weaknesses. And I've hurt other people too, by denying their help and support, by rejecting their efforts to be loving and kind.
As I've gotten older this trait has softened. But over the course of my life, this stubborn independence got me into a lot of trouble. I was the person who would sit in the truck, waiting out the cold and rain for days, hoping the rain would stop and the earth would harden so that I could get out of the ditch myself. There are those who are very much the opposite. They give up before trying-- victim to whatever afflicts them. Before even trying to get out of the ditch they call for help, dismissing their own abilities before exploring what they might be.
There is a middle ground though, a space between stubborn and passive, between hardass and victim. This is the place of acceptance. Accepting that you need help, but only after tapping into your own strength first. It is a beautiful place, a place of self-agency and inter-connection. In the height of my need to do everything on my own, when I rejected all help, all love, I was alone. Rejecting support deepened that feeling of aloneness, dug deeper grooves, muddier trenches.
For those at the other end of the spectrum, those who experience life more passively, there is a void too. It's lonely there. In that place, of sitting in wait, longing for someone else to take responsibility, make a move, create an action, there is no power. And in each moment of denying one's own abilities, giving it over to someone else, the loneliness grows, the truck wheels sink a little deeper, and getting out feels impossible.
People like me need to accept their limits, open up to help and support and love. It is through this new path that we make our way out of the mud. Those who believe that strength and power live outside of themselves need to go inside, experiment with their personal strength and power first. They might have an idea about how to position the wheels of the truck or how to use the cardboard. They might not need to call the tow truck.
We're all somewhere on the path to this middle ground, this place of accepting a way of being that is other than what we think we are. For me it's asking for help, letting go of the control. For you it might be taking the reins, having more agency over your life and your decisions. We're all learning something that will free us from the muddy trenches. And each time we try a different way, the less familiar way, we create different grooves, a way out of the mud.