Is This Your Han Solo Year?
By Jacey Eckhart
Everybody has a Han Solo Year at least once in his or her life—a year you are more than stuck. You are stuckety-stuck. You are frozen in agony, with your hands stiffened into little claws and your legs rigid in your wrinkly pants and a scream frozen on your gasping lips. Through no real fault of your own, you can’t get out of your situation until time passes. You are totally stucked up.
I call this a Han Solo Year—like when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite for a year in The Empire Strikes Back. It is a year you just have to bear one way or another, and the only cure is a passage of time. Or paying Boba Fett the money you owe him. One of the two.
I was thinking of this when a woman I was interviewing told me she was stuck in her bed a lot because she got a concussion from a skiing accident and had to lie completely still. She was going crazy because she could not look at a computer, a book, or a TV, much less drive or go to work, until the concussion healed. Many of my girlfriends in Norway felt just as stuck because so few of us could find jobs in the local economy. Twenty-four hours makes a long, long day.
Even Teddy Roosevelt once had a Han Solo Year. When Teddy was stuck as vice president to McKinley, he had no real responsibilities. Even though Teddy knew before he started that the vice presidency was a notorious dead-end career role, he was going crazy with his own uselessness. He wrote to his friend, “I am not doing any work and do not feel as though I was justifying my existence. More and more it seems to me that about the best thing in life is to have a piece of work worth doing then do it well.”
Yes, Teddy. We know that feeling. We know the rumination. We know the boredom. We know the blinding anxiety that does not change a thing. Just because this happens to everyone at one time or another doesn’t make it any less painful
The question is, what do you do about it? Start by asking yourself these questions:
1. Are you frozen or glacial? Before you can call it a Han Solo Year, you have to take a step back and decide whether you are truly irrevocably frozen or your movement is just slower than you want. Sometimes you are making progress, carving the face of a mountain and the bed of a river, and you aren’t giving yourself enough credit because it goes so slowly.
2. Is this a Han Solo Year or a Big Between? A Big Between lasts only a few months. It is characterized by the fact that 1) you know your Next Door will open but you just have to wait; 2) you have few monetary resources to while away the time; and 3) you are paralyzed with indecision about what to do with your time. A Han Solo Year, on the other hand, usually lasts 12 – 24 months, you have some resources, and the things you are trying are not working. Seriously. NOT. WORKING. And will never work. For anyone.
3. Is this really impossible? Are you stuck because the thing you want to do is impossible, or does it merely feel impossible? There is a big difference between not being able to drive because you have a concussion and not being able to drive because you live in a foreign country and you are scared to try driving on the wrong side of the road. A little coaching could help with that.
4. Are you making it worse by comparing? Are you comparing yourself to other people who are not stuck? Or are you comparing yourself to your old self who was not stuck? This comparison can make things even more painful. Trust me.
5. Can you give in to it? Can you accept that this year of being stuck is what it is? Can you take pleasure in the little things you do to make yourself happy? (This skill takes more character than I usually have.)
6. What would it mean to overcome? As E.M. Forster said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Sometimes your Han Solo Year is the thing you have to go through to get to your Next Door. Do what you can to make the time go faster and walk on.