Kids.  They have the oddest way of getting themselves into the most precarious situations.  Take my daughter, Kya, for example.  Years ago, we were on vacation, enjoying the majestic hills of the Appalachian Mountains.  Kya, just 5 at the time wanted nothing of the hiking or exploring, but rather, she wanted to find a playground.  That, to her, was vacation.  Some other awesome playset other than the boring one we had at home.  I can still remember seeing her eyes lighting up as we approached our condo that we’d be staying in for the week and there was a gigantic playground nearby.  We ditched our luggage and I left Keri to sort things out at the condo while I took the kids to the playground after a long van ride.  Everett immediately went for the slide while Eliana headed for the swings.  Kya toddled around the playground looking for the funnest thing to do.  And then, she saw it.

It was a large contraption, you know, the big toy thing that kids crawl around on for hours.  It’s usually the central part of the playground.  This particular contraption had poles and slides and bridges and tunnels and, well, it also had a jail looking thing.  The jail looking thing had specifically placed vertical bars of steel that kids could play ‘prisoner’ in.  And wouldn’t you know, the said specifically placed vertical bars were just big enough for Kya to poke her head through and wave to me on the other side.  I waved and smiled and was sure to head over to Everett to make sure he was doing ok and to give Eliana a push on the swing.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kya’s head was still poked out from the bars.  “Odd” I thought, “Wonder why she’s not playing on something else by now.”  After a few moments, it clicked.  Kya couldn’t play on anything else by now.  She was stuck.  Her head somehow easily went in through the bars, but she was having a heck of a time getting her head back out.  That’s about the time my biggest fear set in…  “How am I going to tell Keri about this one?”

I was old enough to know that if I freaked out, she’d freak out.  So, I chose to remain calm, but inside, I was picturing sparks flying as a welder had to chisel through the steel.  I pushed, she pulled…I twisted, she pulled, I put my foot on the top of her head…oh wait, no I didn’t, but I thought about it.  Then, the unthinkable.  Before I had exercised all the options of extracting my daughter from the playset (ok, I was about out of ideas)…out of the corner of my eye, Keri was coming.  “Oh crap” I think I said out loud.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing.  Yep, so, Kya here, ya, she just really likes to play prisoner.  Wow, look at her really hamming it up!  She’ll make a great actress someday!”

Kya smiled and waved, head winched to the side to grab a glimpse of her mother.

“Is she stuck?” Keri asked.

“Stuck?  Oh my, no, she’s just having the time of her life here.  Oh look, Eliana needs another push over there on that there swing.  Maybe head over there for a little while with your back turned towards me.”

By now, Keri could see through the lies half-truths.  I reminded her to stay calm because if we freaked out, she’d freak out.  At this point, my inner Clark Kent entered my cerebral cortex and I thought about how easy it would be to just pull the bars apart, allowing plenty of distance for my daughters head to exit.  I put my left hand on one, and my right hand on the other.

“Ok, when these inch and one-quarter thick iron forged steel bars bend outward, I want you to pull your head out.  Ok kya?”

“Ok daddy.”

I pulled.  Perhaps I was just still weak from the many hours long van ride.   I stood up to gather myself and conjure up some adrenaline.  By now, a group of playground kids had figured out what was happening.  They all were in the space between ‘wow, that sucks, glad that’s not me’ and ‘man that’s funny’.  Then, some parents began to meander over as well as they processed the situation and saw me doing calisthenics off to the side as I prepared myself for my second attempt.

One dad asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to try to pull those inch and one-quarter thick iron forged steel bars apart.”

“I’m thinking I’ll head back to my condo and get some soap.”

Soap?  Oh, ya…soap!  We could grease her up like a fair pig and she’d slide right out of those bars like a newborn baby.

But not before my second attempt.  By now, a crowd had gathered.  Each dad sizing up their muscles as to who could free this innocent young girl from the death trap of a playground we’d fallen victim to.

“Ok, Kya, I’m going to try again.  When these inch and one-quarter thick iron forged steel bars bend outward, you pull your head out.  Ok?”

“Ok daddy.”

The crowd cheered, whooped and hollered while my face turned red and I pulled those bars with all my might.


I stood up immediately unwilling to admit defeat.

“Is the guy with the soap back yet?” I reasoned.


Kya’s head did eventually exit the bars.  It was more to do with sweat than soap.  And, she was able to figure it out herself.  While the group of parents were all gathered in a circle coming up with a game plan, she magically appeared by my side… “I got out, Daddy.”  The event was over, we hugged, and we all dispersed to our respective condos, ready to enjoy the balance of our vacations.

Ever been stuck?  No, I don’t mean literally…like Kya.  I mean stuck.  Unable to make progress.  This could be as trivial as a mental hurdle.  Or as big as an abusive relationship.   As small as a difficult boss.  As monumental as a chronic addiction.

We’ve all been there.  Stuck that is.  On the spectrum of ‘stuck’, some situations may not have impacted us much, and we’ve been able to dislodge ourselves and move on.  Some of us are still stuck even as we read this today.  What, then, shall we do?

Shall we retreat?  Throw our hands up in defeat… “It’ll just always be this way.”  Shall we give up?  Throw in the towel?  Wave the white flag?

May it never be!  You were made on purpose for a purpose.  You deserve better than where you are right now.  You’re stuck?  Grab some soap!  Do the work.  Pull, push, twist, turn, as for help, beg for assistance, shout it out, swallow your pride.  Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.  No matter how small or big your stuckness is, you needn’t stay that way.  Keep your headspace right.  This is figure-outable.  Stay above the line.  Express gratitude.  Then, slowly, but surely, you’ll shake loose the bonds that have served to tie you down.  Your mental aptitude will break the chains that so easily have entangled.  And, you’ll once again make forward progress.  You’ll become unstuck.  And you’ll be stronger for it.

May you, like Kya, break free today!