Stuck In A Rut

Stuck in a rut. Hmm…what does that mean?

A rut: a path, a channel,a track, a trench. When it comes to creating ease, a rut can be a good thing. Those first few runs down the snowy hill with a sled are tough going, but after multiple trips that pack down the snow – wheeeee! Getting into a groove- we want that. In the 60’s “groovy” meant filled with cool, ease and, like man, way fun.

Learning is like that. Establishing patterns is like that. So what happens to make an established pathway, a safe and well maintained superhighway, you might say, feel – er, not so super.

One thing that happens is our life situations change, and while we change and grow along with those situations,  the  pathway we established to support the “old” us, doesn’t help us anymore. In fact, since other parts have grown and this part hasn’t, it can actually hinder forward motion. This can feel like struggle, frustration, even anger, and this saps our self-esteem.

Another thing that happens is we lose sight of the meaning of the routine. We get complacent. We had set up patterns (consciously or unconsciously) to help us feel safe during change, but the routine becomes an end unto itself, instead of a series of steps to get us though something difficult or on to somewhere new.

Before we know it, we are “going through the motions.” We are no longer participating, but we’re are hoping that the motions will stand in for meaning. Nope. Boredom, apathy and lethargy can be signs that this is what’s happening.

Stuck in a rut can look like a small thing, like realizing that the, walk to kitchen -> make coffee while grumbling,  morning routine used to set you up for the day, but now, you don’t even notice the taste of the coffee. Or it could be bigger, like waking up to the fact that the work you dreamed about doing and thought you would be buried doing, no longer makes you feel anywhere near good anymore (that was me two years ago).

What to do? First, change something. Change something small. Have tea. Get a new mug. Practice paying attention. Small changes beget bigger ones. Ask the part of you that dismisses the small thing as pitiful compared to the big change that’s really needed, to please take a break while you play a bit.

This video is artist Levni Yilmaz ‘s take on getting out of rut – it’s funny- and you’ll understand how it applies to you, cause you’re smart.


That Indispensable In Between Step

Arabesque saute, glissade, grand jete *(arabesk sowtay, gleesahd, grahnd zhetay)

That’s french for, “jump off one leg with the other one extended high and behind you, transfer your weight from one foot to the other in a gliding motion, and then make a large  leap,” in the language of Ballet.

Glissade, that little gliding step in the middle, is the connector. Officially called a “transition” step in dance, it the indispensable mini-step without which the dancer cannot get from the first jump to the second. Well he could, but it would be awkward, uncomfortable, jarring, and overly demanding physically. Sound familiar?

As we go through our daily life there are very few moments that feel final; it’s more like we lurch or spin from one thing to the next, called on to keep going and usually thinking ahead to the next requirement,  rarely aware of our ground.  Not only do we need to create mini steps that get us from one event to the other (our transition routine) but those steps can both slide us into, and prepare us for, what’s coming next.

Yesterday, I wrote about the seemingly simple transitions that aren’t always easy.  Today, I questioned writing about it again, but I have more than a suspicionn that paying attention to the smaller transitions might just build the necessary “muscle” for  encountering the biggies like, job change, moving, divorce, grown children moving out, grown children moving back in…

Some examples:

My husband’s friend Rick, an artist, had a studio in the downstairs of his apartment. Every morning he got dressed for work, walked out the front door, around the block and back to the other entrance to his apartment (the studio) to start his day. He did the reverse at the end of the day. He says that this is how he managed to leave work alone when it was time to be with his family. Brilliant.

A client created a collage of the ways she’d like to transition into the house from work. She made two, and posted them where she will see them when she walks in the door.

Going to BAT with Good Night Move Into Change is in its third night. I’ve been putting away the evidence of work, metaphorically kissing the files, notebooks, iPad, and computer on the forehead and tucking them into bed.  Last night I felt the pull to look at email one more time – but I didn’t. I’m sleeping even better than I usually do. Now about those mornings…

*Yes, I know that there are accents aigu needed, but I couldn’t figure out how to get them on WordPress.

Say Good Night Gracie or Who Says Simple Transitions are Easy for Adults?

Remember the book GOOD NIGHT MOON? 

Quick refresher: in it, author Margaret Wise Brown gently nudges children from waking towards sleep by simply saying “good night,” to the everyday objects and people in the child’s room.

Transitions…here and there green leaves are showing hints of yellow and orange. The school year has started. Right now the Days of Awe, which for practicing Jews, are the ten days of  passage from one year into the next.

Transitions have been so much on my mind  that when creating the new installment of Sunny Ideas for a Rainy Day for 2-6 year-olds, I found myself writing about the power of routine to support daily transition times in young children’s lives.  And clients too, have been asking for help getting to bed at a decent hour (regularly), re-entering home after work, managing interruptions to their flow, taking time for a non-work during lunch weekday, wondering how to put their work lives to bed at the end of the day –  the transitions embedded in everyday life.

Interesting, because by the middle of last week I was fairly wrung out. The Listening From Your Body of Knowledge:For Parents workshop is coming up and after practically downloading the curriculum from my brain, I  searched music for the awesome playlist; collaborated with Adman on the brochure (more writing); composed and sent a series of email announcements; rode around White Plains dropping off brochures; and created new contact lists (importing contacts into distribution lists, one by one, not my idea of bliss). This in addition to seeing clients (whom I love – hello clients), blogging, writing, finishing and then announcing the new Sunny Ideas books (see last sentence for emailing, list making tedium ) and well, I haven’t even mentioned the legions of repairmen that have been showing up here at Casa Garfinkel.

So what? Everyone is busy. So true. What I’ve noticed is that part of the exhaustion coming from all this busy-ness is a direct result of forgetting that a stopping place is needed. And, that I need transition support to get to that ending too. I need my own GOOD NIGHT MOve Into Change and my own hello day.

There’s something powerful about setting up routines that truly guide a transition. And, something necessary about consciously participating in the routine instead of going on automatic. I think mindless routine is usually a bad idea. So as an experiment, I’ve been doing this. I’m calling it the Brown Approach to Transitions of BAT ( as in go to BAT) in honor of Margaret Wise (don’t you just love her middle name?) Brown.


  •  Setting a reasonable time to end – in my case, stop working
  •  Saying (aloud, if no one’s around) “Time to put the work day to bed”
  •  Deliberately pick up each item and find the right place for it. Write down what needs to be remembered for tomorrow.
  • Saying “Good night Move Into Change”
  • Walk away

Obviously, you’ll need to tweak this for your specific transition, but you can see how it’s applicable, yes? And, in case your inner critters are sniping that this is so silly cause you should just be able to just stop working and move on – let them know that this is sophisticated self care.  And, as this is an experiment, I will report on my observations (and therefore, have proof). Wanna join me?