During a morning of Scripture reading, I (Cherise) came across some passages where Job is comparing his former “glory days” to currently feeling like an outcast. Job’s words resonated with me. I understood what it’s like going from feeling respected and valued to feeling left out and miss-handled.
In Job 30:19, Job speaks of feeling as if God had thrown him into the mud. Although I initially nodded in agreement, the fighter in me immediately thought, “Well, I guess I better learn how to swim in mud then.” How does one swim in the mud? Not being a swimmer myself, I consulted Google, and of course, I found answers.
Kylie Ann Kobelt’s piece, 5 tips to Keep on Swimming (even when you are in mud), wasn’t really about swimming. But neither is this post… It seemed as if Kobelt had been looking over my shoulder as I journaled that morning. So, here’s my take on some of what she had to say:
Keep moving, even if it’s at a snail’s pace.
It’s important to remember that some movement, no matter how small, is better than no movement at all. Unfortunately, when we feel stuck or that life has become stagnant, we tend to spend way too much time wallowing. We mull about in guilt and regret over what we aren’t doing or what we still aren’t experiencing. None of this is useful.
Of course, we aren’t talking about being busy for busyness’ sake. No. If I learned anything from watching old Tarzan or Lone Ranger movies, is that it did the stuck person no good to frantically thrash about when in mud or quicksand. Slow and planned movement gets us closer to a goal. So, both are true, it’s better we don’t give in to despair or wear ourselves out by wasting precious energy and time.
Let go of the past.
So, why in the margins by Job 29:1 is there a note in my handwriting that says, “The past is in the past?” Was this me reminding myself that both the good and not-so-good of yesterday are neither to be celebrated nor lamented for too long? Yes! Yes, of course, that was it. What we did or didn’t do in the past can’t really predict what can take place tomorrow. The past is in the past for a reason.
Spending too much time focused on the “What if’s” or the “If only I hadn’t” moments does nothing to prepare us for what’s next. And there is always something next! One of my favorite sayings is, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” It hung on my office wall to remind clients that: 1. Our past is a part of our development, not the totality of our identity, and 2. Our past can’t serve as a roadmap for what’s ahead of us.
Be present in the now.
I’ve written a few times about the importance of mindfulness. Being fully aware of where we are, what we’re doing, and how we are impacted emotionally in any given moment, keeps us from spending too much time in the past or in the future.
Like Job, many of us gauge our current successes by whether they stack up to previous accomplishments. Or we look at what others have or do as a blueprint for what we hope will happen for us in the future. When we assess our present conditions as being “as is,” nothing more or nothing less, we are less likely to pass judgment on ourselves and react with negative emotions.
Now, let’s turn to something that looks closer to what I meant by swimming in mud. The YouTube video Swimming In Mud!, is an account of people taking on the physical challenge of dealing with wet, muddy terrain. Watching the video of people trudging through their messy environment, helped me add to what we need to do when swimming in mud.
Be okay with getting dirty.
All the runners started off with clean clothes, but after some time, their clothes became extremely dirty. Shoes were no longer useful, shirts and pants were unrecognizable, and their skin and hair were caked with sludge.
There are times when it feels like life is hurling mud pies. To combat the urge to flee, we must be okay with sitting in that mess from time to time. When all around us is slippery, and we are weighed down with the yuck of everyday living, it’s important to remember that it is all temporary. Just like those on that challenging run, our bumpy course has an ending too. The sun will come out, and the mud will dry so it can be picked or washed off.
Have the right gear.
No matter the challenge, it is always important to come prepared for the task at hand. I doubt that anyone would show up for a triathlon dressed in an evening gown and stilettos. I would hope not. When life gets muddled, it may be time to check our gear.
Do we have what nourishes us? Are we wearing the right armor or protective gear? Are we bogged down by excess equipment? Are we lugging about the stories or expectations of others? Is what around us there to help us or merely serves as a distraction? How’s our breathing? Do we need to make any adjustments? The answer to that last question is probably, yes. Just sayin’.
As I watched the runners stuck in trenches reach out for the hand of others, I was reminded that even when in murky situations, there are others willing to help. No matter how slow I think I’m going – no matter how hard the race seems to be – if I look up, and reach out, there is usually help that is available and accessible. And note, what (or who) helped in the past might not be the help we need for what’s coming.
As is true for the other tips and strategies, accepting help means we come to terms with the role our pride plays. Being focused on our speed, past endeavors, unwillingness to get dirty, or asking for help can indicate that pride is in the driver’s seat of our emotions.
Pride, being too focused on saying we did it our way and through our own efforts, can get in the way of collaboration and success. Sometimes our personal success can only be achieved through the assistance of others. In that video, I saw people choosing interdependence rather than the lonely path of independence.
Navigating uncertain settings or circumstances can be made easier with honest assessment and accepting what others have to offer. Whether it’s mud, quicksand, a quagmire, or an ongoing pandemic… don’t panic. With calculated steps, we can overcome what seems to bog us down.
Life cycles are just that, cycles. It may seem like you have been stuck in this mucky place for an eternity, but you haven’t. In addition to the muddy places, there have been party places, singing places, and basking in sunny, breezy places. Yet, when you do find yourself neck deep in the mud, remember the six tips above. Oh, and one last thing… Keep your head up!