Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Theory of Everything (on a rutted road)

*not sure if the above pic is of Oklahoma, but man it looks like it.

The dirt in our neck of Oklahoma is thick and orangerust colored, beautiful for growing wheat but hell on wheels when it rains more than the ground can absorb. I have felt this, firsthand more than a few times, but most notably when Hunter and I went out for a "drive" (a.k.a. my 14 year old boarding school self sneaking off to smoke) only to get stuck up to the running boards of my 1968 beetle. Elbow-deep in that clay-shale mud, dragging armfuls of sticky paste away from the wheels and laying down wheat hay for traction, we were able to get that little car out of the ruts and back up onto the middle drier ground so we could creep our way home.

The ruts in Oklahoma rainy season are no joke, deep and jagged, the earth peels away in thick sheets and tire tracks push so deep that you worry about damaging the undercarriage of your car. You have two choices: to be in the ruts, go slowly, grind out the undercarriage and risk getting stuck or to find a way to flip your car up onto a space where you straddle the middle ground with one wheel while bouncing along the warshboard (yep, warshboard) side on the edge of the road with the other. One requires you to risk long term damage and breakdown, the other requires you to attend to what you are doing with laser attention, as falling back down into the ruts could cause damage worse than originally expected.

I first thought of this analogy when I was talking to a friend about behavior change in long term relationships, how it's so hard to change things when what you know is the rutted road, especially when you aren't sure if the road is going to change or get better or if this is it, turtles all the way down. It also applies to conditions in life that have locked you into patterns and beliefs and ways of being. "I'll just wait until the kids are out of high school to engage with the life I want to live" or "It's good some of the time, so until it gets really bad, I don't want to change ...(my job, my relationship, my habits)."

And so you keep going and going and going until one day you realize where you are, stuck in this wounding condition, and you can no longer bear it--the noise of the scraping and the tension of your arms having to hold the wheel straight. In essence, what you are doing to your very soul to stay locked in the pattern that is ultimately not where you need to be.

So you look for those few-and-far-between patches where the rut weaves and jags so you can work your wheels up onto the higher ground. And that getting up on the higher ground is not only difficult, but also in itself exhausting and unstable and new and naked. The ruts are easier to navigate but a painful destruction of your tender unexposed side, the higher ground scarier but ultimately probably better for long-term sustainability--the reality is that you just. don't. know. The truth is that sometimes you are in it and you don't want to be, but getting out of the car and into the thick muck on foot is not an option, you just have to ride it until it's done, wherever that leaves you.

I sat across from my dear girl Lara the other night laying out this Theory of Everything (on a rutted road), each of us feeling it in our hearts for the painful relationships we've been through, realizing also that this is just part of the human condition of change in life overall, from losing our mothers to thinking about our best selves and those parts of ourselves still waiting to be born. And we are still learning, and choosing, all of us.

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