This morning, driving to work there was a faint smell coming into the car from the interstate that reminded me of the smell of the race track my brother and I used to have when we were kids. I believe it was made by Tyco and it had a red Trans Am and a Police car with working lights. The track was an electric race and the smell of ozone filled the air as the Trans Am and police car chased each other around in a circle along the track. We’d play with that thing for hours until some part inevitably broke or we got bored.
The cars is stayed in place by directing a small plastic piece, part of their undercarriage, into a groove along the lines of the track that they were in. Sometimes they flew off and we laughed with the delight as the car went barreling into the carpet. But sometimes they went around real fast, making a fantastic whizzing sound, taking the corners like a professional racer might. Sometimes we put up obstacles they had to crash through. We had a blast!
There’s an old saying that a rut is a grave with the ends knocked out. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not know where to go, continually going around and around the track, again and again and again. A lot of it has to do with how you view the current predicament. Do you see it as a rut, are you do you see it as a groove? It depends. Are the race cars in a rut? Or are they in the most perfect groove to allow them to be exactly what they were meant to be?
The race track has an obvious symbolic resemblance to life: samsara, Yin and Yang, alpha and omega, dark and light. Pretty much any metaphor you want to put with it.
Round and round. Round and round.
The cars were meant to go round and round as fast as they could, with as much precision as they could, supplying as much fun as possible to two young boys. They exhibited their divine purpose. Should they be judged? Should they judge themselves?
No. There is acceptance. A knowing.
I once saw a cartoon drawing of two fish in a bowl. A daddy fish and a baby fish. The daddy fish says “You can be anything you want to be – no limits”. The irony being that the fish could not obviously get out of the bowl. It was meant to strike a chord, one way or the other, of either sympathy or realization. Yes, it sad that the fish has limitations – it cannot get out of the bowl. And if did get out of the bowl, what would happen (assuming he’s not taking Nemo’s route to the Pacific Ocean)? Likely it was shortly die. it depends on the bowl. Synchronistically, the bowl depends on the fish as well (a bowl with out a fish is, well, just a bowl). This goes back to the glass half-full half-empty scenario everyone is heard of 1 million times as well as the interconnectivity of all things. But perspective can sometimes be illusive and we tend to ruminate over our current lot in life. Or situation. Or eating habits. We say things like “this is just me”. “I can’t change the world”. “What good what it do?”. “Who am I?”.
Any rut can be at groove. And any groove can be a rut.
This is not to say that you should simply be satisfied with what you’ve got, what’s been handed to you, and the direction you’re going. Sharks die if they are not constantly moving. Joie de vivre! Victor Frankel did not settle on the fact that he was a prisoner of war during the Holocaust. He was in the groove, while the rest of his compatriots were in a rut. The groove doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be manicured. You must be an active participant.
The monotony of daily life, the 9 to 5, daily traffic, the “rat race”, crib to coffin. Can you imagine a lifetime in prison? Of being a person constructed of the daily barrage of: “I should do this”, “I shouldn’t do that”, “I could’ve done this”, “I could’ve done that”, “I wish”, “I hoped”. If these words have become part of your vocabulary, it may be a subtle hint that you’re in a rut. Maybe not entirely, maybe only for the moment. But it’s a signal to help guide you on your way to the next big thing, to the change that you were looking for in your life to get you into your groove.
The groove doesn’t have to be bells and whistle’s, roses and birthday cake, all the time. It has ups and downs. What it has, however… what it has the rut does not have, is mission. Is purpose. Is hope. Is an ease.
My challenge for the reader today is to look for the places that remind you and hold you in your groove. Notice where your language takes you, and how it can turn you away from the groove (or towards it). And when you notice it, don’t judge, don’t beat yourself up, don’t pat yourself on the back.