A long time ago on one of my first trips to Cambria, long before dear friends lived there and it became a favorite haunt of mine, I was there with my mom. We were driving around the country roads on the outskirts of town when a turkey ran out from the bushes into the middle of the road. I had seen turkeys at the zoo as a kid, and certainly I had seen many a turkey at the supermarket but never wild, loose and 5 feet from the bumper of my car. This sucker was tall, feathery, big and very agitated, or at least he appeared to be—who knows with turkeys they could be drama queens by nature.
He darted out and started running. I slowed to a crawl so he could get off the road. The problem began when he ran straight down the road. Not to the left or right, just down the middle directly in front of my car. There was nowhere for me to go but stay behind him and go very slowly. He ran a long time it seemed, with me on his tail. I am sure his little turkey heart was about to explode. It was comical to watch and it seemed to go on and on. He ran like that a good 3-4 minutes before finally darting off into the bushes again. The whole time he was in front of us we were laughing and marveling on his choice to stay just a few feet from trouble, running hard but staying on course. If he had chosen left or right he would have had relief sooner but he didn’t.
These days I find his behavior less amusing as I have noticed that I too have made that same damn choice. Humility comes with the realization that I have and sometimes still do display the behavior of a beloved thanksgiving treat. No, I am not talking about a tart here, but that would also be true. I am talking about the turkey trot. I make a choice, albeit not that bright and try to run it out. There are times where the right decision is to veer off, make a different choice anything but what I am doing to find relief but I stay fast holding tight to my blinders. Sometimes I am in a groove and think, “ah this is a slump I need to walk it off and keep pushing.” You know, “walk it off–don’t be a cry baby” type of thing. Other times I am moving so fast I don’t even notice that what I am doing is creating more fear and uncertainty. Those are the times where I am unconnected, with a ‘to do’ list in my hand and making check marks like crazy.
Those are also the times I am so incredibly disconnected from my body that I could be Underdog in the Marcy’s day parade. I am so intent on moving forward with an idea that I have stopped looking for feedback about my choices to see if they are working for me. If you disconnect the feedback mechanism in your life you have no point of reality, reference or context which bottom line makes for major nut-dom. That feedback could be quiet time to reflect and just see how you feel. Ah yes the “F” word, “danger, danger Will Robinson.” But your body and your feelings are the core to your life’s navigation system. It could simply mean standing still and taking a breath. It could look like a talk with a trusted friend, writing in your journal, taking a walk or a yoga class to slide back into your skin.
Getting more done is just that, getting stuff done. That does not say it is important, meaningful or valuable to us. I have to say sometimes it is, but more often it isn’t. More often it is what others need done, what we think we ‘should’ do, or we are doing things to fill the void inside instead of diving down into that abyss and looking at how we feel, who we are and what we need. Running down the road just might get you further along a path you don’t even want to be on. I have done this more than I care to admit in my life. It can reside in any arena too; I am flexible in my bad choices. I have stayed in bad jobs, bad relationships, bad family situations, even volunteering my time. The litmus test is not that I landed in a place that does not serve me. Like the turkey everyone runs into an unhealthy situation here and there, it is part of being alive. My job in trying to hold tight to my sometimes sketchy mental health is to recognize that I am in a bad spot and that I need to move in a new direction.
That is not to say I need to bolt at any sign of being uncomfortable, that is a different kind of crazy that I am not talking about here. There is a fine line of working hard at something true, good and healthy which can be frustrating or challenging and something that brings out our damage. A bad place is somewhere that does not serve us and where our most unhealthy behaviors blossom like the need to please, to control, or to be a victim, to name a few. Those are some of my red flags—the indicators that I need to stop, pause and feel what the hell is going on in my body, which I am sure at some earlier point in the unfolding of said situation I had told to shut up and move over, “I am in the driver seat”. As many of you know I am not the best driver, I strive for average and in this instance it is not any different. Faster isn’t always better, mostly it’s just faster and done unconsciously, which does not bode well for me or those around me. The best I can do when I feel the need to kick up the speed is to get just a few more steps away from that dented, rusty bumper inches from my ass as I exit stage right to take a breath from doing the turkey trot.