Last week, my sister and I made plans to clean the pergola covering my parent’s back porch. It is a cream color and gets covered in grime. Every year there have been three or four of us come together to tackle the job. This time, there was just the two of us — myself and my sister. In the past, someone (never me) went up on the roof and sprayed a cleaning solution on the top of the pergola. It seemed like an important step.
I grabbed the big aluminum ladder on the side of the house, carried it to the back yard, set it as close as possible to the roof line. There are many obstacles to getting a ladder up against the house in the back yard. I climbed the ladder, moved down the roof line and perched next to the pergola. The hose and bottle of solution hoisted to me, the solution sprayed, then rinsed. The bottle refilled. The solutions sprayed, rinsed, repeat. Back to the ladder I go.
Everything has gone just fine until I attempted to get back to the ladder — reaching the ladder from the roof was different from reaching the roof from the ladder. Due to the raised flower beds, the ladder was a distance from the roof. Now, halfway on the roof and halfway off, I cannot squarely place my feet on the ladder. By this time my hiking boots are wet, the ladder rungs are damp, everything feels slippery. Wobbly, wet, way far away. As I hung off the roof reaching for the ladder with my feet, I knew there was no positive ending to this dismount.
After some hanging and a boat loud of laughter from my sister (don’t worry, I’m used to it), I hoisted myself back up onto the roof and tried to think. My sister moved the ladder to the porch where it could sit on solid concrete. All I had to do was swing myself around the edge of the pergola to make contact with the ladder. Anyone taller than 5 feet 3 inches could do it. Did I mention I’m 5’3”? Some say 5’ 2-1/2” Again, I attempted. Again, I hung half on the pergola and half off but was unable to connect solidly with the ladder. Again, there was excessive cackling from below. I’m without a doubt stuck.
I’ve done the work to get here. I’ve done the work required while I was here but I cannot seem to move on from here.
There is one way, short of calling the fire department, for me to get unstuck. I have known of it all along, just never planned on taking this route. If I climb to the peak of the roof and move half way down the other side, I can drop myself down onto a much lower roof above the shop. The ladder can be placed on the concrete outside the shop door and I can dismount with ease. (Let me emphasize, we have long since passed ease!) The climb to the peak of the roof was something I wanted to avoid. After the failed dismount attempts, excessive analyzing, and the consideration of just making a home on the roof, I’m crawling like a cat to the peak. I lay my body flat across the peak (yes, my sister is doubled over with laughter, completely unfit for relocating the ladder), swing my legs over to the other side, begin to descend, again like a cat but without the grace.
Later that day I was thinking about how we get stuck in life — in a job we don’t like, an organization that isn’t effective, a routine that’s not helpful, a dysfunction that’s destructive, a pattern that no longer serves, a reaction that brings no benefit.
We try several things to get unstuck. Until finally, we resign ourselves to this "stuckness" knowing all along there is a way to get unstuck but we’re just not willing to go higher. Imagine the absurdity of living on the roof because the first two ways you attempted to get down didn’t work. So often, we’re not willing to face the fear or push the envelope or challenge the obvious. We simply settle for STUCK, like it’s a geographical location.
Where are you stuck?
What are you pretending you don’t know?
What action step is required for you to take the higher route?