The Stupid Zone is a place where our wants over-ride the evidence the real world is presenting. It’s how we get stuck, injured, blocked. Time to wake up!
The Kitchener Update
We’re back home in Canada, looking for a place to live, having survived both the flights. More info about when and where I’ll working next issue!
We’re a few days back home — having flown out of the sun and warmth into an Ontario winter. We came home to snow, and today, it’s raining. Weird. Unpredictable.
And that’s the point, really.
You just don’t know, in advance, much of anything. We learn in the moment, and especially “in the midst of it” — in the middle of drama. Life lessons almost always involve adrenaline.
I just remembered a story that comes from multiple years ago — back when I had an office in the lovely beach town of Port Elgin, Ontario. Not such a lovely place for a drive in the month of January, however. I finished a long day of counselling, and it was around 8:30 pm, and I wanted to go home. I took a look out the window, and there were a few, cute flakes of snow coming down. I decided that the weather was good enough to drive.
I got 10 minutes outside of town, and drove into whats called, by the locals, a “streamer” — that’s a band of snow coming in off of the lake — in this case, Lake Huron. It’s like hitting a wall of snow and wind. I was engulfed, could only see 3 feet in front of me, and there was 8 inches of new snow on the ground, and a couple of tire tracks.
I proceeded, slowly.
Meeting cars going the other way was a treat. For a moment, I could see better, but then we each had to slow down to decide who got the tire tracks. This means that pretty quickly I had to find the (quite invisible) shoulder of the road. What was required: no panic, edging over gently and carefully, and no quick moves.
This seems to be, in business and in life, a good piece of advice if ever there was one.
More cars began appearing out of the glooming snow, but they were sideways, in the ditches. This, I have heard, is not good. I suspect that people get into this fix when they scare themselves. They lose sight of the little clues about where they are in relation to, well, the ditches.
What they forgot was what we just mentioned: no panic, scanning without fixating (look where you want to go, not at what you’re trying to avoid. When we fixate on where we don’t want to go, we end up hitting it) and allowing for keen observation. There’s a wealth of information floating around, if only we will get quiet and listen. (For example, mailboxes are just off of the shoulder, and before the ditch.)
Imagine. Gently scanning the path for clues as to our location, not panicking, and assuredly never aiming at what would best be avoided. I wonder why I’m writing about this?
I was beginning to question my ability to get home.
Now, there were tire tracks I could have continued to follow — indeed, trucks were heading south (toward home) and I could have followed one of them. There was just one problem with that approach. I didn’t know where they were going. What was their final destination? Why should I follow someone somewhere on faith? We could all end up in the ditch. Or in Sarnia or somewhere.
Having finally decided that carrying on would likely result in me visiting the ditch, I bailed and decided to head back to Port Elgin, via the country road I always take.
Except the country road was covered in virgin snow.
And the wind picked up. I drove very slowly, imagining the curve I’d have to navigate in order to cross the one lane bridge over the river. A farm loomed in the distance, lane-way snowed in. I stopped and thought about pulling in, turning around. I decided to press on. (Notice another pattern here?)
About a quarter mile later, I gave up. There was no way I could determine anything. I couldn’t even make out where the ditches were, and it was only luck that had kept me out of one. I needed to turn around. But how?
I rolled down the window, looked backwards at my tracks and realized I had a clear and elegant tire track path back to the highway. I could drive in reverse, and follow my own tracks back to the point where I knew there were other paths to follow.
I’m not John Wayne nor the Lone Ranger. Just because I’ve decided to try something, to head off in a certain direction, doesn’t mean I have to go full speed ahead when all I’m getting is lousy results. It’s tempting. Very tempting. I even had a little voice in my head, as I backed up, say, “What are you, a wuss?” Yet how often does disaster result from the endless repetition of what doesn’t work?
How often do we end up ass over teakettle because we refuse to stop doing what doesn’t work?
I made it back to the highway. Turned left. The snow was worse, more cars in the ditch. But I’d covered this part of the road before. Unlike the other drivers, I also knew that the tracks I could see to the left of me, in the other lane, were mine, and they led home.
An hour after I left, I got back to my office, having driven maybe 6 miles total.
I’d stopped at a Convenience Store to buy a magazine to read, as I’d be sleeping in my office. I mentioned my adventure to the nice lady behind the counter, who smiled and said, “Not from around here, are you?” I agreed that I wasn’t. She replied, “Locals call this part of town The Stupid Zone. People look outside, see clear skies and say, “I think I can drive south,” despite what they’re saying on the radio. Glad you got back safe.”
What a nice way to call me stupid! I love it! “I think “¦ you’ve entered The Stupid Zone!”
And she, of course, was right. I knew it was snowing, and snowing bad. I decided that I wanted to be home. My desire to be home outweighed my knowledge of the conditions. (Just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s always in your best interest.) I, in other words, made a stupid choice. I didn’t listen to all of me. I only listened to the one, dumb voice that wanted to go home.
So, lots of lessons here, most of which I’ve mentioned as I wrote.
Life is played out, for many of us, exactly the same way. We’re drawn by a silly little voice to do something (again!) that we know gets us lousy results, lost, stuck up to our bumpers in drifts, tilted over and in trouble. And like lemmings, off we go, doing it again. And again.
Yet, even though we chose to head down “the stupid path,” there are ways to turn around, to navigate safely to safe harbour (or, as Darbella puts it, “All you have to do is change your position.”)
- This requires a willingness to admit that heading down that path was dumb, just plain dumb.
- This requires focus and attention.
- This requires accepting our ‘mistaken direction,’ stopping, and finding a way to turn around. Going back has markers. Plunging ahead leads to the ditch.
- To do this elegantly requires working from a non-attached place of saying, simply, “This isn’t working.”
This is a place of non-judgement. What possible good would it have done me to beat up on myself for heading into the snow? I needed all my faculties to scan the road and find my way home.
I may talk about The Stupid Zone, but I don’t consider myself (or anyone) stupid. Stupid choices, yes. For sure and in spades. The wise soul is not the person who makes no mistakes.
The wise person recognizes the mistake and corrects. Immediately. Without whining.
From this place of non-attached observing, clues to “making it home” always appear. Markers. Hints. The signs are there, all the time, if we look. And then, we are required to act — to do something different.
One of my friends sent me an e‑mail. She wrote:
“I warmed myself reading your words. My how I appreciate you and am forever grateful. Everything you said makes sense. I had an interesting experience this morning, speaking of synchronicities,” I was in a meeting this morning and a co-worker and I were discussing the topic of perfectionism”¦ and guess who knows about that! I said, “I know about that, I am a certifiable perfectionist wanna be,” and just after I ended that sentence a light plate (one of those big clear plastic covers) fell from above me and missed my head by about a foot!! My colleague had a bird and I certainly freaked myself out! I immediately thought — what is the universe telling me here? TO STOP EVEN REMOTELY SUGGESTING THAT I AM PERFECT!!! Very amusing. Did I learn my lesson yet or do I need the bloody thing to hit me on the head?”
Neat, the way the cosmos works. I often want to give people’s heads a shake, in proper Zen fashion. Nice to see the ceiling beginning to fall in on what doesn’t work.
Have a look at your life, your dramas, the things you continually set in motion. Stop whining about how hard it is to stop. Just think, Is this path safe? Clear? Helpful? Does it lead where I want to go? Am I on it out of habit? Do I have the courage to turn around?
Then, turn. Just Turn.