Repetition is the creator of ruts. Think of drawing a line in the dirt with a stick. Each time you retrace the line a bit more dirt gives way, the line gets deeper. If you do it long enough you eventually have a ditch, a river bed, a canyon.
I drew that first innocent line in the dirt when I was 9 years old.
At a store one day I saw a huge stuffed animal, a dog, and I wanted it so badly. It was $25. That was a ton of money. But I learned about working hard and earning money. I worked and saved for months. When I passed that store window I always worried the dog would be gone. But it waited for me. Every night I would count my dollars. After what seemed an eternity I had $25. I got the dog. My dream came true. The exhilaration of working hard and attaining my goal surpassed all other feelings of happiness I’d experienced. I was hooked.
I had a regular job by age 13. All through high school my friends had fun. I worked. Nothing was as important as earning money and a sense of achievement. I woke up at 5:00 AM to work at the local TV station for 3 hours before going to school all day. I was driven. I loved it. During college I worked three jobs simultaneously. Then I worked my butt off to pass the stock broker’s test on the first try, which I did. Yes, I was quite an over-achiever. Still striving for my first million, I decided to start listening to my heart and get a job in something I felt “passionate” about, which was making movies. For five years I worked for a production company that produces wedding videos. Then I started my own business making family documentaries. According to our culture I was successful. And for a while it was fun.
But two years ago the fun began to wear off.
All I did was work. I didn’t know how to be a good mom to our two beautiful babies. I didn’t know how to be a true friend to another person. And I had totally lost myself as an artist because I was making the same movie over and over, only the characters changed. I experienced the most massive case of burn out possible. Work and achieving stuff had taken over my identity. Whenever I had a week without work I was a mess, not knowing what to do with myself. Meanwhile I was getting so BORED. One of my movie projects kept blowing up but I kept pushing to get it done. It kept blowing up and finally I listened. “Why am I doing this?” I have no clue what is going on in my kids’ lives. I never see my husband. All that matters is this stupid movie that’s going nowhere fast.
Cutting the Cord
This was 2 months ago. I made a terrifying decision. I pulled the plug on that project. I stopped working. Those first few weeks were awesome. I relaxed. I cleaned the house. I hung out with my kids. I drank tequila. But the next few weeks were pure panic. Without work I have no clue who I am. It WAS my identity.
Our lives are so full of busyness. We cling so tightly to the roles we define ourselves by. Why? I think it is because we are terrified of what we might see if we let it all go. What if we strip it all away and there is NOTHING. (ummm, yes, that IS what happens by the way). At first I was terrified of this NOTHING. But I’m getting used to it now. I’m beginning to see that if you sit with the nothingness for a while you begin to hear delicate whispers…the authentic self begins to peek out from behind the rock, beginning to believe it’s safe for her to start coming out. This is the ultimate RUT DISRUPTION.
The moral of this story is this: I firmly believe the thing that takes the most of our time, our most highly prized role, is probably the ONE that is clutching us deepest in our own rut.