Recently for a writing workshop I was given the topic of fear to write about, I did what any self-respecting grown adult would do… I plugged my ears and shouted “la la la” a million times AND procrastinated. When faced with things that scare me I tend to procrastinate then I cannonball. What the hell is cannonballing? Good question. It’s a terrible adaptive practice where I close my eyes, plug my nose, hold my breath and take a running start at whatever is daunting; then I leap whole-heartedly into it.
This year is my “year of yes”, inspired by Shonda Rimes and her very real description of what life is really like when you step outside your comfort zone in pursuit of what truly sets your soul on fire. I too am working on crossing the invisible boundaries that have held be captive for far too long. In this spirit I did actually plan to start writing at a decent hour. I started with a list, lists are my go to; my happy place. I LOVE lists. I’m also a planner. Some may call me meticulous and anal-retentive; I call me organized. My first list was of all my dreams. I eased myself into it. I started with all of the things I want to accomplish in life, the places I want to visit, the achievements I aspire to and the emotional growth that I am working toward. All good things! –Yes, I’ve got this! I can totally tackle fear. I am a BADASS-
Then things got a little messy and weird. I wrote the lists of things that are stopping me from accomplishing all of my dreams. I wrote down all of the horrible things that the little voice in my head says to me, in the dark of night, when no one but me can hear them. That voice is an asshole. This list is long. I am afraid of everything. Not like “wrapped in a fetal position hiding out in my blanket fort” afraid, but legitimately fearful. –Nope. Hard stop. I am NOT a BADASS- (insert 2 weeks of procrastinating which ultimately results in me cannonballing…again.)
As I sit here preparing to hurtle myself off the end of the dock, I’m mentally cataloging the content of the list that can stop me in my tracks I’m seeing two major themes:
Two words. Two. Medium-sized. Words. ...that can effectively stop my bullet train and make be rock in fear in my blanket fort. How the hell can two words leave me so weak in the knees?
Abandonment has kind of been the theme in my life. I’m the product of a mother that has been married 3 times. This left me feeling like anyone that I got close to would leave me. I’ve made it a priority to let very few people in, and those that I do let in are never really all the way in. I’ve broken my own rule exactly twice. Once with my college love; my soulmate (at least I thought). We were together for 7 years and ultimately, he left me because I cannot have children. A few years and a lot of soul searching later I felt like I was ready to be released into the wild. Surely, this same situation could not happen again...right? I fell in love, I got married, I got really sick, and my husband left me. GAME OVER. What’s the old adage: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me? Well, this has successfully ingrained in me a healthy fear of abandonment. My solution? Don’t let people in. If they aren’t ever really “in” you can’t need them more than they need you. When they leave, because let’s face it… most do, they can’t hurt you if you don’t let them. The flaw, they also can’t help you. They can’t hold you in the dark when your world stops. They can’t celebrate your victories. Lonely Woman Island is a great theory… it’s a terrible practice. I’m trying to stop, I swear. That’s what “year of yes” is about for me.
Enoughness is directly correlated to abandonment. I legitimately feel like I have a proven track record of not being “enough”; not pretty enough, not strong enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not having enough, not giving enough, not taking enough, not working hard enough, not having enough time, not making enough time, not kind enough, not loud enough….trying to be “enough” of all of these things is truly exhausting. The alternative is that when you are not “enough” you are abandoned in the search for someone that is. Is my logic flawed? You can bet your behind it is. As a psychologist; I know that this is not correct or based in any sort of fact, but once again… that voice in my head is an asshole.
The goal of 2016 is to actually start living fearlessly. This year marked a milestone for me; I was called a hero by someone that I am close to. I’ve never been so caught off guard in my life. I was terrified. Deer in headlights; frozen. How do you respond to such an epic compliment when you honestly do not see it in yourself? How do you respond when someone tells you that you are an inspiration to them, that they move through life because of you; because you are brave? Don’t they know that I am a hot mess…? Oh, wait… no they don’t because I don’t let them in.
There is only one answer to this challenge: you live up to the expectation. That is why I am working through my fear; not only do they deserve the self that they see; that they believe… I do. I deserve to be the person that I reflect on the outside.
I will get there. Even if I do need to take the occasional time out to huddle in my blanket fort… I need to be patient with the process, I need to learn from the challenges and shine with the accomplishments. I need to ask for help, then most importantly; I need to accept it.
The biggest challenge is going to be turning off the voice. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I don’t know how long it will take. This is difficult for a planner. I’m a control freak; I own this trait wholeheartedly.
…ok, here we go- deep breath, picking up speed, close my eyes, plug my nose, lift off and CANNONBALL!
While reading this aloud to the group I was shaking with anxiety. I had to remember to breathe, the words were caught in my throat. What were they all thinking of me? I felt so raw and exposed. It was awful. Then came time for the comments...I held my breath. -This was terrible. Word vomit. They hated it.- The first comment was "thank you". I relaxed. I took it all in, I accepted the comments, the appreciation, the clarity. Then it was gone, that anxiety, the asshole voice, the fear... all of it. I felt so light and free.
As I listened to the other writers share their stories I noticed patterns:
- We are all terrified to talk about how alone we feel
- We all feel like we are never enough
- We all fear that we will be abandoned for being who we truly are
WOW. Powerful. If 7 people on a phone call, from all walks of life, male and female, gay and straight, all ages... are experiencing the same feelings; are we really alone? The connectedness was palpable. As a psychologist; I'm intrigued. As someone experiencing the daily battle with "enoughness"; I am strengthened. As someone terrified of abandonment; I no longer feel alone.
Closing thoughts; we all have a common enemy; that voice in our heads, the asshole. Maybe by exposing it to the light of day we can effectively silence it forever...