How to Cope When Life Feels Stuck
How to Cope When Life Feels Stuck

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I really enjoy reading. I don’t have as much time to do it as I’d like, and I will sometimes opt for the mental ease of watching television before I pick up a book, but I do enjoy reading. I hesitate to call myself a “reader” in the same way that someone who jogs recreationally hesitates to call themselves a “runner”. To them I always say, if you’re running voluntarily, then you’re a runner. The same sentiment could apply to reading as well, I suppose.

Semantics aside, my favourite genre to read is non-fiction, specifically the survivor adventure-biography type of story. Think, treacherous ascents up Mount Everest, ultra-runs across Death Valley or boats capsizing in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s not that I aspire to do any of this in my real life, quite the contrary, but perhaps reading true stories of other people’s adventures gives me a fraction of the thrill, with a fraction of the risk.

When I’m on a reading kick, I check out from my local library whatever stories pique my interest. I’m like someone at an all-inclusive buffet line, selecting and devouring without self-control. I am also chronically forgetful of due dates. Despite modern interventions, from automated email reminders to an app for renewals, I cannot seem to consistently return my books on time. Perhaps that is why for a better part of last year my card-holder status was labeled “delinquent”.

My most recent pick is the story of a life-long sailor who, after successfully crossing the Atlantic ocean in a boat he built himself, embarks on a transatlantic race for the return trip. Unfortunately, his return is not as successful, resulting in his boat being lost to the ocean. Steven Callahan then recounts the harrowing details of his 76-days lost at sea. Two months. Lost. Floating alone. Barely surviving. Stories like this make me appreciate the mundane monotony of my current life stage. But something Steven writes resonates with me. Only 18 days into the ordeal he writes:

“The sun rises and the bake-off begins again. My past continues its procession before my mind’s eye. There is no freedom to get on with my future. I am not dying and I am not finding salvation. I am in limbo.”

I do not feel that being home with young children is in any way comparable to the struggle for survival that Callahan must have faced, and yet I empathize with him. Something about feeling lonely and trapped resonates with me. Wanting to be rescued from his current state, desiring to move on, and yet being unable to do so. I often feel that all we do is spend our lives lamenting about our current stage and wishing for another. When we are children we aspire to be teenagers. Teenagers long for the independence of adulthood. Young adults dream of employment, marriage, parenthood. Once those stages are attained we simultaneously long for the simplicity of youth and the freedom of retirement. Until, I can only presume, we reach our final stage (though we can never know when that will be), only to realize that we were there all along. Wherever we were was where the freedom was. There was no past or future. Only in our present moment can we be fully engaged and alive [tweet this].

What is your “limbo”? I do hope it is not as tragic or difficult as being stranded at sea, though for some of you it may feel similarly desolate and hopeless. What can you do to make the best of where you are, and find freedom? I love learning about how to stay positive despite struggles or how to use mindfulness to enjoy any moment, but sometimes I think the best you can do is buckle down, learn to get through each day a little wiser, a little more resilient, and a little less selfish than you were when it began. So don’t give up hope just yet. You might be in limbo for now, but keep your eye on the horizon, salvation is just a day away.

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