Getting in touch with lurking fears that have been hiding in the shadows. I sense that they are what have been keeping me from living my dreams and desires full out. They speak to me in slimy, sneering tones “The more you take on, the greater the chance for mistakes, for stepping on toes, for expectations not being met, for letting people down, for messes to clean up, for the demands of being ON so much of the time. People will be angry with you if you don’t do what they want, what they expect, for having different perspectives, for speaking up and speaking out.” Rocking the boat, making waves, rattling my cage all at once.
As I am learning new processes, I am finding that just when I think I have it down, I realize that there is still something I missed. I attribute some of it to ‘menopause (mental pause) brain’ which just had me refilling the Brita pitcher after pouring water in a mug to make tea and then attempting to put the pitcher instead of the mug into the microwave. YIKES!
One of my biggest fears is feeling like I am ‘not doing it right’. I’ve never been sure exactly with ‘right’ would look and feel like. Perhaps like a score of 6.0 in figure skating or nailing a landing in gymnastics. Who is the arbiter anyway of whether I am successful? Is it about return on investment of my time? How about the digits in my checking account? What if it is knowing that my work reaches people in meaningful ways ? I think it has to do with taking a look at the end result and feeling satisfied that I am using my gifts. My cousin Jody reframed the word mistake as mis-take. It implies that a do-over is possible.
I am reminded of the wise words of my friend Liora Hill:
” I am a work in progress. I am where I am in my process and where I am in my process is perfect.”
Today, I was at my monthly women’s group, part of my work following The Woman Within training that I did last April, surrounded by powerful sisters who were able to hold space for me to explore these ‘cave feelings’. I began by relating a tale about having a panic attack recently while in an MRI which is not an uncommon experience. I was taking part in a research study for which I had signed up. I went through two conflicting processes while lying in the tube that felt like it was closing in on me. The first was to be self critical and then put on my coach-come-on-you-can-do-this hat. The second was to kindly and compassionately remind myself that because I had volunteered, I could UN-volunteer. So I did and dropped out of the study. I then went on to share that my other fears were as I expressed in the opening paragraph, as well as the feeling of being pulled in a million directions.
I then had an insight and asked two of my friends to each grab an arm and demonstrate physically the emotions that were swirling about. I asked one to repeat words to the effect: “Come on, hotshot, you have to do this. You wanted to be center stage. Here you go. You can’t let people down. You have to do it all….” and so on. The other was the voice of reason and rest, reminding me that it was ok to just STOP and veg, breathe and be. She asked me to slow my speech, rather than being breathless when I communicate. The other two pulled at me; one from behind and one from the front telling me that they wanted me to take care of them, do for them, rescue them. I held the image of Jesus in the scene from Jesus Christ Superstar in which he was healing the lepers and he cried out “There’s too many of you and too little of me.” Body wracking sobbing turned to laughter when I realized that all of these voices were vying for attention in my mind. They then asked questions like what would my life be like if I were on Oprah and became wealthy and famous? I responded that I wouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck as I do now and that more people would be touched by my work. Another was “At what cost? Is it worth killing yourself over?” She was referring to my health challenges over the past few months and the toll that stress had been taking on me. Yet another who has known me for at least 20 years, observed “You are in survival mode. I have never not known you to be in survival mode.” I would much rather be in thriver mode where I am doing more than just getting by.
I haven’t taken a vacation in years that wasn’t either about going to a retreat, or a workshop where I was either teaching or learning. Even when I went to Florida over the past several years, much was about taking care of my parents. I asked myself tonight what a ‘real vacay’ would look like. It would involve a whole lot of pampering, massage, hanging out in a hammock, being in nature, sleeping and waking when I want, with someone cooking healthy vegetarian meals, with no apparent schedule or agenda, time to read and write. I absolutely wouldn’t invite ‘the crew’ who take up space in my brain. They can stay home and clean up the mess they made.