In a rut?

Gary Lester

Our beloved local historian, Chase Putnam, helped kick off the new session of Leadership Warren County recently. Great history lesson and a little pithy editorializing. He showed slides (yes, slides, not a powerpoint) of the early days of Warren and the surrounding area. Some places, like downtown Warren, look very different then they did 150-200 years ago. Did you know that in the original plan the center of town was going to be at the corner of 4th and Market? But the river drew the commerce back then. So much for planning, in history and in the present. (See, I can get a little pithy too….) We saw original views of “the city.” A few old buildings were recognizable. Also, there are remnants of century-plus-old buildings evident in Russell, Sugar Grove, Youngsville, and Sheffield.

One thing that was common among all the 19th and early 20th century scenes was dirt roads. In some places it’s amazing they got built at all. Amazing, too, that they accommodated horse-drawn vehicles and early cars and trucks. Think about the wheels on those old vehicles.

Wagon wheels and early motorized vehicles had very narrow, large diameter wheels. I think that was necessary engineering to accommodate the tremendously muddy conditions on dirt roads. Narrow tall tires had a chance of gripping more solid ground under the layer of mud. (Odd that today people who like to play in the mud with their vehicles like those big wide tires…. Well, they look cool, I guess. More pith….)

I kept thinking about those old roads and the mud and the ruts. Must have been pretty sticky. This thought pattern must be what fuels my recurring dream about slogging through deep mud, being slowed by the viscosity, and watching others go by as they seem to float along without effort. A topic for another day….

It’s a rare person who doesn’t find herself/himself in a rut once in a while. Some people spend all their time in them. Some are so deep and sticky that people can’t tell where they are even if they are moving. Could be a job they hate, a relationship that isn’t working, failure to find rewarding, fun activities….

But remember, even the ruttiest roads change over time. Just the change of seasons can be enough to dry things out and make the journey easier. I think the thing to remember is that somewhere, maybe at the bottom of a deep, sticky rut, there is “bedrock,” that solid stuff that can give traction and initiate momentum.

Solid people, solid activities, a solid and positive attitude… all these can help us keep moving. I can guarantee that the very second you feel like you’ve bottomed out, the very second you feel yourself bouncing off the bedrock, you can start making positive strides.

The key, of course, is thinking and acting differently, even a little differently, in some way. It may seem odd, but sometimes some people get so comfortable in their rut that they don’t want to change. Yup, even if ANY movement would be helpful, some won’t take even the first, tiniest step. Comfort in a rut? Yup, that static familiar place is less scary than possible alternatives? Happy in a rut? Yup, sort of. Happiness for people in this frame of mind varies from zero to just a tiny bit and pessimism is so great that happiness as a result of change seems to be an impossibility.

If you’re in a rut, give yourself a break. It’s unrealistic to believe everything can change from total misery to wonderful happiness immediately. What you can do, though, is take inventories of where you are and where you would like to be. Consider who could be helpful and give them a listen. Sometimes you need a tow to get out of a rut.