Fear hiding under fear

standard August 15, 2016 1 response

Over the summer we received some upsetting health news about a close family member. Until that moment I’d been fired up by the notion that, as soon as the kids went back to school, I’d be able to finally sit down and really think about what I wanted to do with my life, how I wanted my future to look, and what steps I could take to get there.

When the bad news fell, I instantly felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under me, robbing me of this chance to finally get my personal shit together.

It’s not the first time this has happened, so I launched instantly into what my therapist calls a “behavior pattern.”

Woe is me. The rug has been pulled out from under me. All options have been instantly wiped from the board. Why does life keep doing this to me? When will I ever get to be in control of my own damn life? I might as well give up now since I’ll clearly have no say in what my future holds.

She’s sweet, so she listened patiently. Nodded in all the right places. Made all the right sympathetic sounds. Then she sent me on my way with a comforting smile.

A week later, before I launched into a completely unrelated tangent, she very quietly mentioned that there was something she wanted to say in response to what I’d vented about the week before. She’s wily my therapist. When she says something quietly it’s usually extra important.

This time she had to repeat it a few times before I really heard her.

“I think you’re choosing to bury one fear under another.”

I blustered, brushed it off, tried to distract her with some Class-A posturing about how strong I am and how I can take it all, whatever.

So she repeated what she said.

“I think you’re choosing to bury one fear under another. I think you’re scared of failure or success and so you’re latching on to the fear that’s going to get you out of facing it.”

Bomb. Dropped.

When you’re so good at bullshitting that you even manage to bullshit yourself, it’s good to have a person who sees right through you.

Even if it sucks in that very moment.

Having made me squirm for a few minutes, she had the grace to let the conversation jump to a different topic, knowing full well that I’d keep noodling what she said long after we said our goodbyes.

She’s not wrong.

Part of me had been excited about the chance to figure out what’s next. But really part of me was downright terrified. So, when the medical news came, news which won’t, in all reality, alter my day to day life a whole lot, I didn’t just slide into my usual “behavior pattern” I dove head first into it with wild abandon.

So here’s today’s unvarnished truth.

I’m pushing myself out of my usual pattern and facing the cold, stark reality, that in fact, there’s nothing really stopping me from trying to figure out what’s next. Nothing other than my fear.

Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear that what I choose won’t be as fulfilling as I hope. Fear that I’m not enough. That I’ll never be enough. Fear that, just maybe, there isn’t something out there that will ever leave me feeling completely fulfilled. Fear that really this is all there is.

 

Fear, like dangling over the side of a building

I thought I would be young forever

standard April 18, 2016 1 response

I’ve had a nice big patch of white hair over my right temple since our tumultuous 2011 experiences, but until recently, only a few others would appear here and there, easily ripped out and dismissed as mere annoyances. These days however, new white hairs appear with devastating frequency. And they’re no longer happy to let themselves be contained in an area that can somewhat easily be masked. Oh no. They’re popping up everywhere.

And then there’s this weird thing happening on my chest. As in, when I wake up I have these disgustingly deep wrinkles all down my cleavage. They fade as the day progresses, but man is that a hard thing to see first thing in the morning. It’s like I’m getting old or something.

Or rather, it’s like my body is trying to tell me something.

It’s like it’s trying to hint at the fact that I’m turning 40 in just three months.

4. 0. In. 3. Months.

And how is that even possible?

I thought I was going to be young forever.

Or, rather, I thought I was still young.

Because young is a mindset, right? I’m sure I saw a poster on Pinterest that said something to that effect. And if it’s on Pinterest, it must be true. Right? RIGHT?

And I really thought I was still hip, and cool, and with it. I mean, I have a stripe of bluish green mermaid hair for crying out loud, if that doesn’t scream hip, I don’t know what does.

And then we went to Las Vegas, and spotted a young woman dressed in a show-girl outfit, posing in the street with people delighted to spend a couple dollars to have their picture taken with her. All she was wearing in lieu of a bra were two pretty little flower shaped pasties.

When M pointed her out to me, I gasped.

“Oh, that poor girl’s mother…” I whimpered.

M gave me a look, which made me whimper even louder.

Because cool, young, hip people don’t look at scantily clad girls and wonder if their mom knows what they do for a living.  Ergo, I am clearly not cool, young, or hip.

The next day, while lounging by the pool in my no nonsense tummy control bathing suit from Lands End, I actually googled “how old is middle aged?”

Good news, apparently, it’s not an age, it’s a state of mind.

Bad news, I might be heading that way on a runaway train fueled by un-hip Mom thoughts and tummy control bathing suits.

Of course, ever since then, I’ve been dreaming up tattoos that would prove to the world once and for all that I was still very much hip and cool.

At least, I did that until this morning, when I was in the shower having the kinds of deep thoughts you can only have when not being interrupted by kids, dogs, social media messages, or anything else that constantly interrupt my thoughts during the day.

As I lathered up my hair and wondered if there was some magic shampoo that could make my white hair a little less brittle, I asked myself why I was so terrified at the thought of getting older.

I thought about all of the things I have accomplished in the last ahem – 40 – ahem years.

I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have filled those years well. I have tried and tested lots. I have learned even more. I have been daring and bold. I have lived life fully. And I’m not even close to done living life fully.

I may no longer have a chest that won’t quit, or the kinds of looks that help me get ahead in life. But I have smarts I’ve honed carefully for many years. Hard won experience I can put to good use. And it’s so much more satisfying to know I’m landing jobs because I’m good at what I do, rather than because I look cute in a suit.

Yes, I’m still freaking out about the big birthday. Yes, I’m still googling tattoos. But I think I’m starting to get a grip on the whole thing.  40 is a major benchmark, but it would be more worrisome if I had nothing to show for all those spent years.

I get to spend the next 40 putting into effect what I spent the first 40 learning and practicing. So, maybe it’s time to accept that wisdom and experience have youth beat in all the ways that matter. But, if I’m brutally honest, and why wouldn’t I be at this point, now that you know all about the weird cleavage wrinkles…, I might have to sit with that thought for a while. It might take a long while to start feeling like a truth rather than something I’m trying to trick myself into believing.

 

And then, of course, there’s this…. The brutal reminder that I’m damn lucky to be struggling with these feelings at all.

"Growing old is a privilege denied to many" tattoo

Saying Yes to me

standard February 10, 2016 6 responses

I attended a meeting at my mothers’ group last week that was all about making space for ourselves in the chaos of our lives. The speaker, a good friend of mine, pointed out that people tend to be bad at making time for the things that feed their souls. And, when you don’t feed your soul, you’re tired, you don’t have the energy you need to get through every day, and you slowly lose your passion for life.

She’s right. 100% right.

But she sent me into a terrifying tailspin of introspection. Because, as it so turns out, I have no idea what really feeds my soul.

I spent the week pondering this baffling concept and, as I am wont to do, I ordered a few books to see what I could do about figuring out what makes my happy little clock tick.

I ordered Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes because I had heard good things about it and Brené Brown’s Rising Strong, because Brené.

The books arrived yesterday and I dove into Shonda’s book first. Yes, a book. A paper book. Because I wanted to highlight things and put post-its and mark it all up. And yes, I did at one point tap a page and wonder for a second why it wasn’t turning. Sigh. Creature of habit, I am.

I’m almost 2/3rds of the way through and already the book has helped me shift some thinking around.

My whole life I have lived reactively. I have acted the way people expect me to act. I have achieved what people expect me to achieve. I have done the things people expect me to do. I have happily molded myself to these expectations and done them all quite well.

Every so often, I have stepped out of the bounds of expectations and branched out a bit. I moved to the other side of the world to give a relationship a chance. I spent a year rocking my baby and writing a novel. But for the most part, I just happily conformed.

And filled my life with the business of living up to the expectations.

It’s not a bad life by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just a bit lacking in the “me” department sometimes.

Which, let’s be clear, is 100% my fault.

My love language is steeped in acts of love and acts of service. I live to serve. Literally. I am at my happiest when I am doing things for others. It is no surprise that I have gone almost 40 years quite happily fulfilling expectations. I’m sure I’ll go at least another 40 doing more of the same.

I just also need to remember to do things for me.

Earlier this week I listened to a podcast for entrepreneurs as I took a walk with the dog and I found myself mulling over one snippet that caught my ear. “Always create before you consume,” Mari Forleo, the podcast guest encouraged. Don’t let other people’s creations dim your own creativity.

I thought about it for the rest of the walk and for much of the following day.

I’m a creative individual, but I always put my own creations on the back burner. They’re low on the to do list. In fact, every morning, I start off the day by reading my email and diving into Facebook.

Before I’m fully awake, I’ve already dipped into the lives, feelings, and creations of 50 or so other people.

Before my brain has fully engaged, it’s full of other people’s thoughts.

I looked at the situation from Shonda’s point of view this morning and wondered how she would turn this into a way to say Yes to myself.

I didn’t berate myself for this deeply entrenched habit. I simply decided to say Yes to myself and to my creativity.

Instead of opening Facebook, I pulled out my journal. Wrote for 5 minutes, sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by the girls and their morning chaos. Then I picked up my phone and I deleted the Facebook app.

I’ll still be on Facebook. It’s part of my job. But I’m going to see if I can manage without it on my phone.

I’m going to replace all those wasted minutes as I wait for kids, as I sit at a red light, as I wait in line at the grocery store with more observation of my surroundings, more thoughts, more time for me.

I’m curious to see how it works out.

Create before you Consume

 

*Please note, the links to the two books are affiliate links. Should you click on them and buy something from Amazon, you’ll be helping feed my book habit. The spouse and I will be very grateful.*

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Do I really have to be a grownup?

standard January 11, 2016 3 responses

I turned 39 this past summer. Not a momentous birthday. Went out with a handful of friends. Had a lovely dinner. Moved on.

Except, apparently, I didn’t, because I catch myself increasingly frequently saying things like

“Listen, we’re almost 40, we should…”

“We’re almost 40, isn’t it time we…”

“At almost 40, we should probably…”

As if it were a deadline after which things will Change, with a capital C, marking the difference between the Before 40 and the After 40.

I pondered it briefly while on a plane this past weekend – because nothing really makes you face your mortality and fragility more than those two seconds after the plane has taken off and is leveling off and you’re not quite sure if that’s what’s happening or if you’re about to nosedive back to the tarmac – and I realized that somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, 40 is apparently when you become a grownup.

40 = grownup. End of story.

Which is funny a) because when I was a teen, had you asked me, 30 was pretty damn old and grown up, and b) some of the least grown-up people I know are pushing (or have pushed) 50.

But in my mind? I have 6 more months to live it up because after July 22, the party is over and the shit gets real.

Which is also funny because a) kids, b) mortgage, c) life.

On paper, grownuphood has already been achieved.

In my mind? Not so much.

Which raises the question to beat all questions.

Does anyone ever, really feel like a grownup?

And should we?

Is there any added value to being figuratively stamped with a big, red “Grown-Up” label?

I’m not so sure. Maybe I should stop saying “we’re almost 40” like it’s a momentous thing and just start saying “eh, we’re still young, let’s live it up some more.” I can probably get away with saying that until we’re 80 or so, right?