One of my favourite poems by Robert Service is called “The Men That Don’t Fit In.” It opens with the following:
“There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve got gypsy blood. I tend to get restless very easily and eager to chase after the next adventure. I don’t like standing still too long. It’s a sure fire way of getting yourself into a rut. A couple stories come to mind about the dangers of standing still.
I got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around my waist. Exiting the bathroom I headed for my bedroom, which was downstairs. Before going downstairs however, I stopped to chat with my Mom, sisters and sister-in-law who were chilling out at the kitchen table.
Dripping wet, I stood at the top of the stairs chatting about this and that. Bad idea. While I was standing there, a small pool of water had formed at my feet.
Turning to leave, my feet slipped on the wet floor and my legs shot out from under me. Crashing to the floor I lay spread eagle on my back as my towel went flying. Lying naked on the kitchen floor in front of my mother and sisters, I wished the fall had broken my neck. It would have been more merciful than the mortification I was feeling.
The second lesson in the dangers of standing still was hammered home years later and across the ocean on the African continent. I had been volunteering on a refugee camp in Ghana. After a night of drinking at the local watering hole, White Flower, I patiently waited outside for my fellow volunteer, Alex, to finish her drink so we could walk back to the guest house together.
My patience was rewarded with excruciating pain however, as my feet started to feel as though someone was jabbing hot needles into them. In shock I quickly pointed my flashlight at my feet and revealed angry ants making a feast of them.
As I yelped in pain I desperately swatted the voracious creatures off me and began dancing around the yard. The bottoms of my feet were being bitten too so, like an idiot, I kicked off my sandals to rid myself of the rest of the ants. Of course now I was barefoot and further exposed to the incredibly aggressive insects, and dancing like a moron trying to escape the onslaught.
By now Alex had made her way out to the yard and asked me what the hell I was doing. My dance moves clearly didn’t match the beat of the loud, out-dated hip-hop music blaring from the speakers in White Flower. Before I could explain, Alex became my dance partner as the ants partook of a second helping of flesh. As we danced and smacked at our feet and ankles some of the locals stopped to watch our little show. They seemed to find the whole ordeal rather amusing.
“It’s Africa!” one of the laughing residents called after us as we fled from our miniature assailants.
Moral of the Story
“The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.” – Ellen Glasgow
I’m a big fan of habits and routines. It’s ruts that bum me out.
Like lying buck naked on my mom’s kitchen floor or being attacked by killer ants in Africa, standing still too long can have some negative consequences. In life, we can sometimes fall into ruts and feel as though we aren’t going anywhere, that we’re just spinning our wheels. When life gets monotonous and boring, when the ants start chewing at our feet, it’s time to get moving again.
It could be taking a trip somewhere, looking for a new job or new challenges at your existing job, going back to school, taking up a new hobby or even something as simple as getting a new haircut. Ruts rarely resolve themselves so it’s up to you to put the effort in to get moving again.
I probably have too much gypsy blood in me. But I do think a healthy dose of it can do a world of good and keep us from sinking into a rut.
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Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance”. Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.