Stuck in a Rut

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, it’s midsemester – that means tons of tests, tons of papers, and bitter cold. You’d think, with so much to do and nowhere to go, I’d be super productive… But not at all. I’m stuck in a rut, and it’s terrible. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the stress. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t actually had a weekend to myself in a month and a half. Whatever it is, I know that I need to buckle down and get to work before spring break – I just don’t know how. I’ve tried all my usual tricks – reading my favorite books, eating tasty snacks, self-indulgent writing – but none of them have helped. All I have to show for it are empty chip bags and a bunch of half-finished sonnets (three of which are about how dumb sonnets are).

Have you ever sat down, stared at something, known you’d needed to handle it, and just… Not cared? In some vague, shadowy corner of the back of my mind, I’m freaking out about the sheer volume of things that need to be attended to. But that deep inner panic manifests itself as an impassive inability to focus on anything. There’s so much to do and see, but I’m bored out of my mind, and unwilling to do anything about it. Schoolwork, personal projects, and even blogging seem to have lost their appeal. It’s hard to imagine that just a month and a half ago I was energized from going viral and ready to take the blogging world by storm. Just a month ago, I was enthused about my classes and teachers, and dedicated to doing my best work for them. Just two weeks ago, I was driven by the need to prove myself at a debate tournament in Chicago, all bustle and blazer and carefully-worded questions.

But now what am I working for? Spring break? Somehow, those two weeks feel like years. At this point, I’m just slogging through a mess of midterms, sapped of my strength of will and personality. My texting skills have withered to “What are you doing?”, asked religiously every three hours in the hopes that the answer has changed. It never has, the answer is always “Not much, how about you?” I’ll give you three guesses as to what my reply is.

It’s a strange place to be. Imagine that every moment seems to last a lifetime, but the days slip through your fingers like sand, and you don’t feel compelled to stop them. Imagine everything bright and beautiful you loved now seems gray and distant. Even the most pressing matters seem unimportant, for no real reason. The worst thing is, I doubt any of you have to imagine that. It’s something that, in my experience, we all go through. A few weeks of detached apathy, impossible to escape – a rut.

I’ve seen the suggestions for how to get past it. I’m supposed to take a bubble bath and then wrap up in a soft blanket with a mug of tea and a good book. I’m supposed to eat my favorite snack while watching a movie from my childhood. I’m supposed to do soft, sweet things to make myself soft and sweet again. But sometimes that sugar-coated self care just isn’t enough, and sometimes you need tough love. And sometimes you have to be the one who does it for yourself.

So today, I sat down and I wrote a blog post. Halfway through, I got discouraged, so I stopped and cleaned my room instead. Started sorting the laundry that’s been piling up in my closet and arranging all the scattered papers from my floor into the right accordion files. For the first time in ages, I made my bed. Cleared off my desk, moved the laptop over there (instead of in bed, where I’ve been wallowing) to finish the blog post. And when I was done, I pulled open all the blinds and flooded the room with light. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair:

There's something strangely satisfying about a made bed. I don't understand it.

There’s something strangely satisfying about a made bed. I don’t understand it.

And you know what? I feel good right now. Maybe not perfect or wholly myself, but I better than I did. Does that mean I’ll make my bed every morning? No, probably not, that seems like a lot of work. But when I get home from class, I just might. So, my new go-to method for getting out of a rut is not

  • snacks
  • movies
  • blankets
  • tea

But instead

  • clean desk
  • sorted laundry
  • made bed
  • blog post

What do you do to get out of a rut? Do you need tough love to get back on track?

  • Thanks, Elizabeth!

  • Those things are exactly what I do when I’m in a rut, but they’re not always the things I think I need when I’m in one. Nice 🙂

  • The floor is a wonderful place for thinking. At home, I have a table with glass panels in it, and when I think, I like to lie under the table and look at the ceiling. I would explain that, but I can’t. There’s nothing better than that feeling of actually being excited for things, after feeling stuck for so long, though – I’m glad you’re getting there again!
    And thanks! It keeps me warm and makes me think of stars, so I think it’s pretty great.

  • tiffzny

    This post resonates with me so much. I’ll let you know that my recent rut involved laying on the floor for about an hour, but, alas, that couple-of-days has passed and I’m actually excited to work on physics presentations. Crazy.

    Wonderful, wonderful post. I love your bedspread, too!