photo: devra on flickr

There’s only one thing worse than being caught in a rut, and that’s not being able to get out.

When was the last time you found yourself in such a situation? What did you do?

Bury your head, ostrich-style? Attempt to scramble your way out, only to find yourself deeper in? Or did you convince yourself that the rut was prime real estate – that staying put was the best option?

Back in the day, I knew all about ruts. You wanna know why?

Because I was a farmer.

Some of you know about my exploits communing with the land. Some of you don’t. Either way, here’s what you need to know now:

One day, I got stuck in a rut.

Now, when I say “rut,” I mean that literally. I know that “rut” can be a metaphor for a bad, funky place. And I don’t mean “bad, funky place” like a Dance Fever finale.

I mean “bad, funky place” like a frustrating, trapped situation. Like a crappy job or an abusive relationship or a depressed state of mind.

What happened to me was a physical representation of that.

Check it out:

One day, I was out plowing a new field. In order to do that, I needed to attach a plow to my beloved tractor and dig deep furrows in the ground, one row at a time.

photo: Spike Dennis on flickr

This particular method meant that, as I was plowing a new furrow, one wheel of the tractor was up on the ground. The other wheel was down in the previous furrow. The result of this was that the entire tractor – with me on top of it – was tipped at a precarious 45 degree angle.

It was kinda scary and kinda fun, at the same time. It made me feel like a daring, rock ‘n’ roll Mr. Green Jeans.

I tell you what: Farmers know how to party.

photo: Gigi Elmes on flickr

This particular day, two things were true. One: It was drizzling. Two: No one was on the farm but me.

Eventually the drizzle turned to rain. The furrows I was creating became mud trenches. I decided it was time to stop the party and go back to the barn.

There was only one problem:

I couldn’t get the tractor out of the last furrow.

My beloved John Deere was a powerful piece of equipment. It could chop and mow and rototill like nobody’s business. It was a badass tractor and it didn’t take crap from anyone.

Still, it couldn’t get out of that furrow.

Again and again, I attempted to mobilize the tractor’s powerful wheels out of the ditch. But the more I tried, the deeper the furrow became. Not only that, but the rain was coming down, and the ground was pure mud. Pure, slick, I’m-not-letting-that-tractor-out-of-this-ditch mud.

My rock ‘n’ roll Mr. Green Jeans was seriously stymied.

At this point, I remembered that sometimes people use planks to help get vehicles out of ditches. I’d seen it on Starsky and Hutch or maybe Green Acres.

So I trotted back to the barn and found some old planks of wood. I brought them back to the tractor and placed them in the perfect spot. This was going to work, I was sure of it! I was going to be free!

But much to my dismay, the tractor wheels slipped and spun on the planks, just like they had on the mud.

I had no idea what to do. My head was spinning like the wheels of the tractor: I’m not a farmer. The real Mr. Green Jeans would kick me out of his barn. I’m totally stuck and there’s no way out!!!!!!!

And then, in the middle of all that spinning, I had an idea. A small, quiet idea.

Slow down.

That was it. S-l-o-w  d-o-w-n.

And I got it: It wasn’t just my mind that needed to slow down, it was the tractor. In my head, I saw a picture of the tractor wheel, moving v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y.

Without thinking, I put the tractor in first gear. I put my foot on the clutch and pulled back v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y, allowing the tractor wheels to do the same.

And, just like that, the tractor’s big, fat, powerful wheels dug into the mud and climbed out of the trench – slowly and methodically.

It felt like a miracle. But really, it was just the power of measured, unhurried action.

In my panic to get out of the trench, I had been scurrying and scrambling. But precisely the opposite activity was called for.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson that day, and I never attempted to scramble out of a jam again. But that’s not the case. Since that day, there have been countless times when I’ve tried to paw my way out of trouble, only to find that my frantic activity is making things worse.

But my bad ass tractor showed me another way.

photo: Steve Sand on flickr

It reminded me that I can take a breath. And another breath. And then v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y mobilize my way out.

I think Mr. Green Jeans would be proud.

When have you found yourself stuck in a rut? And how did you get out?

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