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When You Get Stuck

For starters: Get off the perfection train right now.

Nenad Cavoski / Shutterstock
Nenad Cavoski / Shutterstock

Suggestions for when you get stuck:

Empty things out, give stuff away, throw out what’s useless. This may apply to thoughts, feelings, relationships, attitudes about yourself, and/or actual objects which you no longer need.

Lisen to music.

Put things away. Put them where they belong.

Praise others. Listen to others. Encourage others. But also, don’t spend your whole day on others.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Are you confused? Depressed? Scared? Take a breath. Do the task right in front of you, however mundane it might be, and however distracted, tired, or frazzled you might feel. Take out the trash. Do the dishes. Walk the dog. Return the call.  Keep on keepin’ on, in the words of Bob Dylan.

Don’t tell other people what they’re doing wrong. Make the change yourself. Is your kid on his phone too much? Spend less time on your own phone. Is your parent disregarding COVID-19 instructions? No problem, focus on your own adherence. Whenever you’re tempted to point out what another is doing wrong, take a hot second; see whether you can redirect your energy and make the corresponding change in your own life. This is also known as, “Be the change you want to see.” At the very least you’ll be marginally less annoying to friends and family.

The less you try to control people or events, the happier you will ultimately be. That’s just a fact. Notice when you are trying to control others. Stop doing it.

Stay in touch with people. Call your damn mother.

Try each day to help someone else, even in a tiny way.

Ask for help when you need it. You deserve it. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of intelligence and resilience.

Try to get to know — and accept — each and every part of yourself, even the ostensibly ugly, dangerous, destructive, or petty ones. Greet each part with respect, gratitude, and acceptance. Each is there for a reason. Each is actually trying to help you, even though it might look the opposite. If you get in the habit of accepting every part of yourself, you’ll feel more relaxed, and you’ll get along better with others, too. You’ll see that they’re basically doing the best they can. We have no idea what others are going through.

Remember that you are allowed to be happy. Don’t put up forever with a situation in which you are fundamentally unhappy.

Just do your best. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to make everybody happy. Anyway, you can’t make everybody happy. So just be yourself. Figure out who you really are and then … go for it.

Slow down. Take your time. Do one thing at a time. And while you move through the day, be a detective about your thoughts and emotions. See which ones rise to the surface as the day unfolds. When you notice one, look at it, say hi, and … let it float away.

Be kind to yourself, always. Take the nap. Eat a decent meal. Go for a walk outside. Notice any moments when negativity or self-criticism take over your inner dialogue. Say hi to that, too — the negativity, the shittiness — and then let it float away. See if you can make room for a quieter, more positive voice. (Maybe use the words which NHL goalie Braden Holtby said to a struggling teammate — You’re doing great, babe.)

You are doing great, babe. You’re doing the best you can.

When it’s time to try, try hard.

When it’s not … take it easy. Tidy up the room, take a nap, try meditating. Try journal writing.

Listen three things you’re grateful for today, no matter how small or trivial seeming.

Remind yourself once in a while that you are important — not just important but essential. Without doing or accomplishing a single thing, without a single achievement or credential, without wearing a certain outfit or holding a certain job, you’re one of a kind. You’re in the world for a reason. Contemplate what the reason might be.

For the sheer hell of it, try praying, too. You don’t need to believe in God. Whatever you believe in — however random or non-spiritual — just pray to that. I pray to the hockey gods myself, even on non-hockey topics. Occasionally I’ll throw out a line to a dead ancestor or two. Anyway, pick someone or something to pray to, and … try it for a few days. If it feels authentic or potentially helpful, cool. If not, discard.

What if today were your last day alive? Seriously, what would you do? Who would you reach out to? Not that you need to act on the information, but: A) You can act on some of it; and B) It’s a good exercise for discovering what’s most important to you and whether your current life is radically out-of-whack with those priorities, or just a little out-of-whack.

Take an honest look at yourself.

Put down the fucking smartphone.

Our phones — and our resentments toward other people — are often tools of avoidance. Take a moment to ask, ‘What might I be avoiding? What might be too scary for me to say to myself or others?’ Again, you don’t have to act on the information which arises, but you’ll be stronger for having the knowledge.

Don’t worry so much about hurting other people’s feelings, about wanting to be liked. It’s futile. And it slowly sucks the soul out of you. If you believe strongly in something, say it. Stand for it. Build a life or identity around it. Live with the consequences of it. Aim here for Mark Ruffalo’s vibe in You Can Count on Me, especially the speech he gives to his 8-year-old nephew:

I mean, I know I messed up, OK? You think I enjoy getting thrown in jail? Because I wanted you to face that prick, your dad, like a little man, and show you what kind of guy he is? All right, I got a little carried away, I know it. And I lost my temper a little bit. Which is not the end of the world.  For future reference.

Ruffalo’s character is troubled, but also noble and courageous, a truth-teller. See whether you can be some of those things. If you wind up in jail, so be it. Someone will bail you out. Hey, depending on the bail amount, I might do it myself.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote one of the best letters of all-time from jail.

Speaking of MLK … every once in a while, sit down and dream the biggest dream you can. And then let go of it. Let it float away. This is a good exercise in self-knowledge, but may also trigger tiny events which snowball into the dream becoming real.

Take a walk outside. I know I already told you this. I don’t care. Take a second walk. COVID-19 will drive you crazy if you don’t leave the house.

Pet the dog. If you don’t have a dog, go find one.

Now pet it.

This is good for both you and the dog.

Whether you are 17 years old or 70, look for a career or pastime which you actually love, or are fascinated by, one which may even seem random or trivial. Look for something which lights you up inside, like pheasant poaching does for the father in Roald Dahl’s Danny, The Champion of the World.  

Get off the perfection train right now. I can speak from experience on this one. The more you try to be perfect, and even if you occasionally succeed at it, you will just become more and more cautious. You’ll become risk-averse and a complete pussy. Experiment with ‘good enough’ and ‘close enough.’

If “close enough” works for jazz and government work, then it’ll work for you, too. Plus, the mindset will free you up for inspiration and occasional greatness, not just good-enough-ness.

In the words of Son Volt frontman Jay Farrar, “When in doubt, move on/No need to sort it out.”

Do your best. No need to be perfect. You’re doing great, babe.

Originally published on Kit Troyer’s Blog.

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