The Rut Antidote

By Janey Womeldorf

What if you wake up one day and your mood seems different? For no reason, an overwhelming sensation of feeling “unfulfilled” in life, tugs at your soul. You press on with your day, desperate to ignore the growing discontent corroding your normal, positive mood. You try to shake it but can’t; you try to smile but it’s fake. You scold yourself for being weak and ungrateful – after all, your life is blessed, and you have no right to feel this way. The self-punishment works for a while until the gnawing feeling returns, insidiously sucking the personality out of you.

I’ve learned to call them “rut attacks.” Most of the time they wash over you; sometimes they even motivate you to spice things up a little. You try a new recipe or buy a new outfit and all seems well. Other times, the rut attack is so overwhelming it slams into you like a tsunami. You rack your brains desperate to understand what is happening. In worst case scenarios, it leaves you agonizing over one scary question: If this is as good as my life will get, what if it’s not good enough?

Looking back, the signs were there. Routine has consumed you, stripping your life of any pizzazz that once existed. You have become victim to what I call “rut development.” You struggle to remember how your rut happened but it was a slow-creeping journey, not a recognizable moment.

Then it hits you – you were just too busy being busy. You cook the same tired meals week after week because somewhere in the course of your life, your need for stress-free and simple dissolved your zest for diversity and excitement. New and different – a prospect that once inspired and energized – now generates groans of effort and complaint. Change is almost scary. The truth is, it is neither your closet nor recipe collection that have become stale, it is you. And what eats you up more than anything else is that you allowed it to happen.

Your life is in a rut, and only one antidote exists. It will clear the cobwebs, re-ignite your spark, refresh your soul, and it works for women everywhere.

What is it?

A good night out with the girls.

Nothing lifts a sagging spirit like a pair of heels, a knockout outfit, and howls of laughter so belly-aching and continuous you are crying with laughter, you have stomach cramps, and you just peed your pants. And it only requires one thing – making the effort – but therein lies the problem. The truth is nothing happens unless you first make the effort; the irony is making the effort seems to get harder as you get older.

Somewhere in our thirties, we give birth to the “homebody” within us. As the years progress, our inner homebody lurks behind every decision that necessitates deviating from our safe, cozy and dependable routine. The one-pot dinner in front of the TV beats out obnoxious wait times at crowded restaurants; early nights with a gripping book replace dancing ’til midnight and sweats and slippers become our new best friends. Then, to make matters worse, weather takes on a whole new meaning. Spontaneity flies out the window at the first drop of rain, and the prospect of “going out in this storm” instills dread and disdain.

Fortunately though, not all age-related changes spell doom. As the desire to deviate from the normal routine dwindles, a bizarre sense of age-related entitlement develops. For me, it started when I turned 40.

Take wine for example. When I was young, I could have three or four glasses and get up the next day like it was club soda. As the years progressed, something changed – even one or two glasses left me embarrassingly sluggish the next day. So over the years, I chose to refrain because there was always “stuff” to do the next morning. I was in my rational thirties, and sensible, safe and serious seemed more important than impulsive, spontaneous and fun. Then, I turned 40 and suddenly, my “get-a-life” sense of entitlement kicked in. 

Now, if I want a glass of wine, I have one – even on a school night! Why? Because I’m older, I’m entitled, life is short, and I’ve earned it. No longer do I feel the need to justify every decision and always follow the sensible option. I say “No,” to invites without explanation; I splurge without guilt, and if I want to order dessert first, I will. It is naughty, it is nice, and it is my savior on rut-attack days.

My friend recently discovered the decadent taste of avocadoes in sandwiches. Years ago, she would never have added something so expensive or high in fat grams (even the healthy ones) to her grocery list. Now, she has avocado in her sandwich every day. She does not question, she does not justify, she just buys and enjoys. Why? Because she has earned the right, and it makes her feel good.

Gerald Burrill once said, “The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.” I’ve come to realize that at some point everybody feels their life is in a rut, and I have learned to embrace it. Now when my rut attacks hit, I know what to do. I call up a friend, pull out my heels, and plan an evening out. If there’s a storm looming, we go anyway – that’s what jackets are for. Then, I come home, put on my slippers and sink in front of the TV. My life is still the same yet I feel rejuvenated and refreshed.

My rut may be tried-and-tested, but it has taken a lifetime to develop, and it is my constant and my friend. That in itself is cause for celebration. Speaking of which, not that I’m justifying it, but maybe a glass of wine might go down well tonight; two even – and perhaps a little something decadent to nibble.

Hmmm. I wonder if I have any avocadoes.

“The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.”

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf is a freelance writer who drinks too much coffee, loves elastic and can no longer wear high heels. She scribbles away in Orlando, Florida.

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