I remember my times of irreverent youth as a sort of experience cascade. The unfolding of each day moved in no particular direction. There were times of velocity that felt like the tightening of sequences in a film about to end, but not much in the way of directional movement. That velocity felt like the height of life, and I embraced it.
The Rut Ate Me
I was eaten for the first time by the dreaded rut right after college. It was a mental, emotional, and geographical cycle. I got up, got ready for work, worked, recovered from work, did some inconsequential thing, then went to bed. I laid unconscious in this first rut for about a decade of commuting, Starbucks, and company meetings. It wasn’t hell at first because I had a loving wife at home and believed I was paying “career dues.”
When I finally noticed I’d been sleeping, I found that the rut had devolved into something far worse. Instead of just faking life, I spent all my off-time coping. The gateway drugs of television, fast food, and alcohol had led me to darker addictions. I left home each day whole, but came back craving oblivion. There was nothing left but crumbled bits of myself after work.
My wife will probably never forget the day I quit my job, we threw away everything that didn’t fit into the car, and we moved to a campsite. Velocity, remember?
The Dreaded Rut Ate Me Again
Eventually I ran out of ways to make money and returned to a cubicle. The dreaded rut promptly ate me again. This second great sleep was young and fresh, and the artificial little motions I made toward individuality during my off-time felt more intentional, results-oriented, and experienced.
I had a child. When I saw my reflection in his eyes, I noticed that I’d been sleeping again. I began reading in spirituality, then started meditating regularly. I learned to recognize the tracks of the dreaded rut and the siren calls of mindlessness. I discovered the lies I’d been telling myself about all those little things I’d been doing during my off-time.
I began to understand the nature of the battle I’m engaged in. It’s a fight for consciousness.
I had always built my days so that I’d have nothing left by the time work was over. I didn’t think of it that way, of course. I threw every mental and emotional resource I could into my job. It’s how I’d gone to school, it’s how I thought life should be. Velocity. None of my half-hearted motions after work meant anything beside such a warpath.
I Broke Out… By Doing More
I still put my helmet on and bring my intensity to work, I still go to war. I still see myself as one who accomplishes more in half a day than most do in an entire day. The buckling-in and starting-of-engines is now a consciously-controlled expenditure, though. When I’m done working, I almost always still have fuel. I wake up miles from home and tear open the sky in a mad flight back, but the ideals have all crumbled and now I travel back to my heart.
I stop working early because I start early. I rest my aching limbs from just over nine hours at a standing desk, then my son and I play for hours. We build castles to destroy, we lock dinosaurs in zoos and then set them free to attack the visitors. We wrestle, we put puzzles together, and sometimes he’ll let me read to him.
Then I come write. I used to write before the first rut, then I lied to myself about it for fifteen years. In my writing, I’ve found healing beyond what meditation offers. Honest writing is spiritual.
I still cope with issues. I still struggle with the addictions I used to dream while I was sleeping. But now it’s a battle of the motion of the day. I don’t fly from home and shake to pieces. I wake up miles from home and spend the day flying back. I slow when I feel myself starting to shake. I pace myself because no day is done until I reach home – until I play with my son and I write.
My intensity and output are higher than they’ve ever been. More importantly, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. My awareness from meditation and the reprioritization of my life have changed me. Each day’s a healing flight.
Our fight must first be for happiness and meaning. It is a fight against our own conditioning – for that is where the dreaded rut is born. As the battle for awareness is won, the struggle for success ceases to exist.