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.