On one of the roads I frequently travel, there is a depression where a manhole cover is set too low. You can tell who drives this way all the time by whether or not they swerve a little to avoid it — people in the know will never actually hit the hole.
That started me thinking about the metaphorical potholes in our lives: the sore spots and wounds we just avoid because it would be hurtful or damaging to go over them. This might be the relationship where something isn’t quite right, but it feels too dangerous to address the problem. Or it could be the job that isn’t satisfying but it’s too overwhelming to think about looking for a new one. It could be the health problem that isn’t going away, but we don’t want to hear what the doctor might say.
The human ability to avoid confrontation is phenomenal. We would rather drive around the pothole, live with superficiality in a relationship, take an aspirin for our pain, or trudge reluctantly into work every day than take the necessary action to live more fully and joyfully. I’ve only known a few people who have moved on from a situation before it got totally miserable — the people who see the pothole and immediately find a way to get it filled.
The rest of us make the calculation — is it worth tearing up the road to fill the hole? What if we open things up, and find more damage underneath? Can we wait for somebody else to fill the hole for us? Do we really want to see whatever is in that hole?
I’m reading a book called The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown, in which one of the characters says, “We all have stories we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves we are too fat, or too ugly, or too old, or too foolish. We tell ourselves these stories because they allow us to excuse our actions, and they allow us to pass off the responsibility for things we have done — maybe to something within our control, but anything other than the decisions we have made.”
What story are you telling yourself to excuse inaction, to pass off responsibility for the things you could be doing? Do you tell yourself that you are too old to make a career change, or that the problems in a relationship aren’t your fault, or that someone else will come to rescue you?
The start of spring often motivates us to clean our houses, air out our rooms, and prepare our gardens for new plants. It might also be a good time to clear out the old habits of mind that aren’t helping you live your fullest life. What’s dragging you down, what’s energizing you? Can you use the clarity of your nice clean windows to see a hole that needs filling?