“It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways of doing things, but it’s that place in between that we fear. It’s like being between trapezes. There’s nothing to hold on to.” ~ Marilyn Ferguson
In that betwixt and between mode in which I feel like a trapeze artist in mid air. I know I need to let go of the swing I have been on so that I can stretch out and grab the one ahead of me. Doing my best to see it as free flight rather than free fall. Not always easy when in the past nearly two years, I have experienced shingles, a heart attack, kidney stones and adrenal fatigue and as a result, find myself in a mode that looks almost nothing like it had 24 months prior. Back then, I was working full time and then some as a social worker in a psychiatric hospital and after leaving that job to save my own sanity, was employed in an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab. That led to 12 hour + days seeing clients who were in the throes of addiction and then coming home and writing for hours. Sleep was spotty at best and I used to claim that it was ‘highly over-rated.’ I cheated myself out of vitally needed rest, even forgoing naps, since I thought I wasn’t being productive if I wasn’t active. I worked twice as many hours as I slept some nights. Even the most resilient body (and I thought I had one) rebels when not given the attention it requires.
The next step was to accept a dream into reality job offer as a full time web content writer in the field of mental health and recovery. It was perfect since I could work from home, was in a realm in which I was intimately acquainted, both as a professional and person in recovery from workaholism and co-dependence. All through out as I marveled at the seeming perfection of this situation, there remained a lingering thought about waiting for the other shoe to drop and that it was too good to be true. I gave it my all and a year and three months later, my premonition manifested as 3/4 of our creative team was laid off due to budget cuts. I took a deep breath and with my characteristic resilience, I applied for other writing jobs. In two weeks, I had secured two others. One I have to this day and the other was sadly short lived when the non-profit site that hired me, didn’t receive the funding that the founder of the company had intended. I have picked up assorted free lance gigs and on a daily basis, am scouring the various job sites for others. In addition, I am gathering speaking jobs, promoting workshops I offer, host my radio show and see assorted clients in a counseling office. I am also co-authoring one book and editing another. Seems like I am busy, and I wonder how I handled all of this AND my full time jobs.
The trapeze analogy comes into play when I contemplate that over the next few months, I will be traveling and teaching throughout the country….and in the mean time, I am in that vulnerably unsettled space of not knowing how and where I will land. That’s when I engage in dialog with the Divine and the answer is always the same, “Have I ever dropped you? Has anything ever not worked out even better than you imagined?” Sighing, I have had to agree.
I am just smart enough to pick the brains of those with expertise in areas that I don’t have, so I turned to my friend Dan Poor who is a high adrenaline performance athlete, acrobat, gymnast, dancer, trainer, coach who jumps off of high towers into pools of water, sometimes lit on fire. I figured he would have some insight into the symbolic soaring I have been doing.
He says, “The exhilaration of letting go happens when all the pieces leading up to that moment are in place, and the time is right! Trapeze artists, like high divers, make sure all the requisite “lead-ups” can be performed with unconscious competence, that the equipment is reliable, that the mind and body are rested and focused, and that the first attempt at the new skill is performed with an assist from a trusted partner who gives us a “hup”, or “call”, at just the right instant! When all the work has been done, and the moment arrives to let go, the ride truly becomes flight!”
In that spirit, I am embodying that ‘unconscious competence’ that he and I have talked about a lot in which our minds and bodies are so practiced at certain skill, that they instinctively know what to do. I am taking all kinds of leaps of faith and trusting that my safety net is in place and should I fall, will be held and caught and as I have so many times in the past, bounce back and start again. Ready to fly freely.
Many years ago when I was married, my husband would describe me as “an emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people.” Not sure how he came up with that, but, to this day, I still think of it as brilliant. It shone a light on my then overwhelmingly co-dependent mindset. I had been raised to be kind, polite and caring. “Don’t make waves. Don’t rock the boat,” were spoken and unspoken messages in my family. Paradoxically, I was told by my mother, “Walk in like you own the joint.” My father would remind me that, ‘They put their pants on one leg at a time like you do.” How I integrated those seemingly disparate instructions still confounds me to this day. It heralded challenges in relationships since being widowed at 40. Partners, friends, family and clients would be the witnesses to my feats of flexibility as I would say yes when I really wanted to say no and no when I truly desired what they were offering, out of a sense of uncertainty that I had really earned it. Rarely did I believe I was entitled to love, attention, affection, nurturing and praise ‘just because.’ There needed to be a sense of quid pro quo/one hand washes the other in my relationships. I would attempt to cement my place in the lives of those I valued by doing, giving or at least offering. Who wouldn’t love a caregiver?
At 57, I have the perspective that early versions of myself brushed past. Perhaps with age, really does come wisdom. I have discovered that, for me (and I would guess I am not alone) attention, affirmation and affection are essential nutrients, on par with air, food and water. Yes, I can tend to my own needs, love the woman in the mirror and still desire it to be mirrored back from others. Noticing when the tank seems to be a quart low. The temptation is to return to earlier, dysfunctional ways of being, scavenging for low lying nuts and berries that have fallen from the trees. Rather than doing that, I would much prefer to reach higher for richer fruits. I am also speaking up and standing up, not only for others who have no voice, but for myself as well. Still not a boat rocker, by I am a wave maker.
A few years ago as I was working at an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab, I facilitated a support group for women in recovery. I taught them the ‘walk in like you own the joint’ concept and actually had them strutting their stuff around the room. One of the participants laughed about ‘getting her swagger on’ in her daily life. This same woman happily shared that in certain relationships, especially with her ex-husband, she had not only been a proverbial door mat, but wall to wall carpeting. She happily announced that this was no longer the case.
This former ‘deer caught in the headlights,’ emotional contortionist who was almost always looking over her shoulder to see if the propriety police were watching, is taking all sorts stretches, on and off the yoga mat, standing her ground and strutting her stuff.
A come clean here. This morning, as I was preparing for a radio interview on which I was on the guest side of the microphone, I was slammed with overwhelming fears, feels and tears. The title of the segment on Vivid Life Radio was The Successful Freelancer and the host, Crystal-Lee Quibell invited me on her show since my work in the literary field has been many decades in the making. Writing is my passion and purpose and something I can’t NOT do. It fuels my soul and over the years, it, along with other skills helped to pay the bills. There have been times when it was the bulk of my financial support. At the moment, after a series of lay offs, it is back to being part of the seeking freelance gigs routine.
I went into this snarky dialog in my head, initiated by my inner critic that I refer to as Perfectionista, “How can you call yourself successful and offer advice to other people when you are struggling yourself?” My protective (no name for her yet) persona was there, hands on hips in response, standing up to her bullying, “Knock it off!” I then called in to the show and spoke with Shayne Traviss who is also the producer of my radio show, called It’s All About Relationships and explained my current state. I felt hugged over the phone as he reminded me that I was a success and that every creative person goes through doubt. I dried my eyes, donned my big girl panties and did the interview, feeling more confident as time went on.
Afterward, I called my long time friend and mentor, newly tattooed lady, Yvonne Kaye who added her vote of confidence and reminded me that I was worth investing in and that I was characteristically being tough on myself. She plays many roles in my life including, since my mother’s passing in 2010, maternal figure. I told her today that I was young enough to be her daughter. We both got a laugh out of that. Even after hanging up the phone I can still hear her Brixton-British accented voice saying, “I know you and what you have accomplished.” I could imagine her standing next to the part of me that was in protective mode as they faced down Perfectionista. She reminded me that I needed to keep on keeping on.
A third angel is a new friend on the other coast, in Portland, Oregon, named Tom Ziemann who has been an ardent and much appreciated cheerleader who came out of nowhere as we are supporting each other in living our passion and purpose. His words and actions have touched my heart and encouraged me as well.
These folks have generously allowed me to borrow their belief in me, as my own sometimes flags at times, as much as I present as ultra-confident and when fear comes calling, they send it on its way.
Bhaya Naash Mantra (Sanskrit Mantra For Overcoming Fear -Durga Devi Mantra) sung by Jitender Singh
I like Sally Field….I really, really like her as a staple in my childhood when I grew up watching Gidget and The Flying Nun. Today, worlds apart from the beach setting of the first show and the Puerto Rican convent in which Sister Bertille lived in the second program, Field found herself in the role of Doris Miller in the new movie entitled, Hello My Name is Doris. A versatile actress, Field dona a mish mosh mashup of thrift store color combo-ed clothes, hair extensions and floppily tied scarves and steps into the character. Doris is late blooming 60- something woman who sacrificed marriage, a family and more rewarding career to take care of her mother. At the outset of the movie, her mother has just died and she is now rattling around their packed to the gills hoarders’ house. It isn’t until later in the movie when she reluctantly engages the services of a therapist who specializes in that addiction that the viewer gets an idea of what makes Doris tick. Although this character blessedly did not suffer the same type of trauma as the one Field played in the disturbing movie Sybil, it is clear that she is troubled by a painful past.
Each weekday, Doris boards the Staten Island Ferry and heads to her job as an accountant at a creative agency where she is surrounded by considerably younger co-workers, including a new art director that she has the immediate hots for when she sees him getting off his bicycle in front of the building. She finds all kinds of inventive ways to draw his attention after they find themselves in close proximity in the elevator. Another plot twist is that along with her friends Roz and Val, she attends a self help seminar taught by a spiritual guru type who re-frames Doris’ belief that what she wants, which is a chance with her crush, as impossible into ‘I’m Possible’. Doris chants that line in her head and out loud as fuel for engaging with her fantasy man. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is the ‘Ally McBeal meets Walter Mitty’ active inner world that Doris possesses. She imagines juicy love scenes with the character of John that are only temporarily satisfying.
Because she is rather awkward and emotionally stunted, she seeks the guidance of her BFF’s 13 year old grand-daughter, perhaps because she actually feels like an adolescent when it comes to matters of the heart. She sets up a fake Facebook profile so she can take a look at his interests. One is a an electronica group named Baby Goya and the Nuclear Winters whose music she finds oddly compelling and in one scene in a Williamsburg nightclub, where she conspires to run into John, she is garbed in a neon hued outfit and along with that and her enthusiastic break loose dancing, it draws the attention of Baby Goya himself. She and John are invited backstage where she is asked to be the cover model for their new CD. Such an adventure for this sheltered woman who longs for color and a release from the box of boredom in which she found herself trapped.
As their relationship evolves, it takes some surprising twists and turns, as well as some that are ‘I could have told you this would happen’ predictable. Her desire to do more than merely exist, has her taking emotional risks, living life on her terms and discovering who Doris really is. As the film begins on the elevator, it also ends there….or does it?