Saturday, November 16, 2013

Surrounded by Rattlesnakes

When I was fourteen, our family spent a week on a houseboat on Lake Powell, a beautiful man-made reservoir in the desert of southern Utah.  My mom, not to be deterred from her traditional schedule, got up each morning and went walking/hiking through the rocks and sand and sagebrush.  She had to go early because it got very hot very quickly.

As she was walking one day, she heard a sound that stopped her in her tracks.  She heard the distinctive warning of a rattlesnake.  She knew the sound.  She knew what it meant.  She immediately froze to assess her situation.

One step in front of her was a rattlesnake, sunning itself on the warm rocks.  She pivoted to find a better direction to go and found another snake.  And another.  She was surrounded.  She has no idea how she got into that spot without being bitten.  But she knew she had to get out of it.

Very cautiously, she made her way back and out.  And straight back to the houseboat to share her story.  And the next day she changed her walking practice: telling others which way she was going, carrying a stick, walking a little more slowly and alertly.

I thought of this story as I was pondering the things that keep me frozen.  I have something I need to do or a decision to make.  I don't know how to handle it or if I am even capable of handling it.  But I feel like I have to do it before I can get on to other things because it's so important.  But I don't know what to do, so I freeze.  I do nothing.  Sometimes for a long time.

I freeze as surely as my mom did when she was surrounded by rattlesnakes.  My fear of making a decision can be just as powerful as her fear was in that moment.  She had a very real fear for her life; programmed by nature for her safety.  What am I afraid of?  Where did that programming come from?  Does it protect me?

Wouldn't it be great if I could answer all those questions right now?  Well, I can't.  I'm still working on it.  But I think that by asking the questions, I can make progress.

One thing I've found that helps when I am stuck like that is to make a different decision or tackle a different problem, one I feel capable of confronting.  That allows for movement.  It keeps me from being frozen.  And the tiny high I get from having done something -- anything -- can be enough to keep me moving sometimes.

But first I have to realize I am stuck.  And I have to force myself to trust that the thing I don't know how to do isn't a rattlesnake and I'm not surrounded.  I have to look for another path out instead of staring at the scary thing hoping it doesn't kill me.

I workin' on it.

10 comments:

Bonnie said...

I can really sympathize. I don't know why you are paralyzed, but I know why I am. Everything is CRUCIAL, and mistakes will be DEADLY. The whole Miss Frizzle "take chances make mistakes get messy" didn't make it through to me as a young person. Teaching myself that we can make mistakes has been the most vital element in my struggle to accept the atonement. I'm workin' on it.

KLPMiller said...

Oh boy. You could have been looking in my windows for inspiration for this post! Having two chronically ill kids with Juvenile Arthritis, I sometimes feel that way making decisions for their medical care. The doc guide me sure, but ultimately, I am the one making the decision for them- knowing that this chemo drug can cause sterility or pubertal disruptions, but that one causes such extreme nausea and fatigue that they wont get out of bed two days a week- or should I take my chances with the roulette wheel, and go with choice #3- that does neither but can cause perforations in the stomach and bowel? Yeah, I'm often frozen, and surrounded by rattlers too, but we always find a way to wiggle our way out. I can get frozen too- and like you Im working on not letting the decisions paralyze me!

Dawnelle said...

I'm grateful that you talk on the phone with me when you don't like talking on the phone. I'm grateful for your friendship! I've made the decision to avoid some more, but this time it's to the temple I go. I figure it's a step in the right direction. :)

Andrea Millard said...

Thanks so much for this post... I can't tell you how many times I have been "frozen" into complete inaction because of something I was too afraid to do, or didn't know how. Thanks for helping me look at these problems in a new way! Have a happy Sharefest, and thanks for stopping by my blog earlier! :D

Story Paige said...

For the longest time, "my writing" was circled by the same ring of rattlesnakes. Every time I think I'm going to share, I retreat back to a standstill and look up and away. My stories stayed in a drawer until recently I decided to just break free and run for it. I'm still running and going as fast as I can. I"m afraid if I stop, I'll never try to run again. Thank you for sharing your own insight in this post. Beautifully conveyed.

Julie Jamison said...

Great post! I can definitely relate, but I've been able to move forward much better with things now unlike in the past. One thing that I do when I'm feeling stuck about something is that I stop and reflect for just a bit, listen to my heart and then just act on whatever my heart tells me to do. It works wonders! It's amazing how we always have the answers deep down in us already. We just have to get rid of the noise, stop and just listen.

The Dose of Reality said...

It can be so hard in those moments to truly feel like you are not going to be stuck forever and that there is a way out. I definitely related to this post.-Ashley

Melissa G. said...

Whenever I get overwhelmed my first instinct is to freeze because I just feel pulled in a million different directions

Clairity said...

That's a good theory you got there. I freeze too when I'm overwhelmed and I don't think that's necessarily the most effective way to deal with things.

Stevie said...

Ah this can be the hardest thing. I love this line: "the thing I don't know how to do isn't a rattlesnake and I'm not surrounded." May we always be able to find another path.