I’ve been ruminating a lot lately about my need for a career change and the fears going along with it. It hasn’t served me well. The rumination I mean. Not the realization that I need to change careers. In fact, ruminating about it has amplified my fears instead of calming them, reminding me of a poem I once read about bad habits: There is a hole in my sidewalk.
Autobiography in Five Chapters by Portia Nelson I I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost... I am hopeless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out. II I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I'm in the same place. But it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out. III I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in...it's a habit My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault. I get out immediately. IV I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. V I walk down another street.
It’s one of the most poetic and succinct analyses of the trappy nature of old patterns of behavior I have ever read. I can’t count the many times I have resolved not to do a certain something anymore, only to find myself doing it again. Sometimes I even observe myself as I’m doing it, fully aware of what’s going on, yet still unable to catch myself in the act.
Mind you, having resolved not to do it again implies that I’m already in chapter III. Which should be reassuring because at least I know where my hole is and can concentrate on getting out faster and entering chapter IV next time around.
The thing with rumination, though, is that while I’m ruminating on a certain subject I tend to forget that I’m ruminating. Because the subject of my rumination takes center stage. I only realize what has happened when the effects of rumination start showing up: anxiety, restlessness and a hopeless, if not depressive mood.
Rumination is unhealthy, it does not solve any problem. It just goes around in circles and wraps you a heavy fog that prevents you from seeing the mundane but beautiful things in life. You tend to miss how blissful a morning coffee can taste, how healing the soft touch of sunshine in your face can feel, and how much more you could enjoy the many small and big pleasures and miracles that life has to offer on a daily basis.
At least I have decided not to stay stuck in that hole for the entire day. I crawled out of it about an hour ago and started writing this post. I can feel the fear subside. Finally. And I so can’t wait for the day I enter chapter V.
But mind you, there might be more than just one hole…