Ding! The elevator door opens. Ground floor.
But before I move an inch, I start to wonder. Wait a second. Am I looking into a mirror?
On the other side of the threshold, I see a single-mom. Two kids. A boy and a girl. She’s towing a wagon. And it is FULL of beach paraphernalia. Towels. Pool noodles. Pails. Snacks. She looks exhausted.
I’ve seen this woman before. And although I’ve only ever given a polite smile, or a quick “hello,” I wonder. How do you feel about being a single-mom? Are you resentful? Angry? At peace? Relieved?
Were you blindsided? Or did you cut it off?
Was it hard to break it to your parents? Or did they rejoice in finally ridding themselves of that dirtbag?
It never seems like the right time to make friends. But I fantasize about asking her all these questions.
Because everyone is SO keen to talk about falling IN love. And yet….when it comes to falling OUT of love, people tend to sweep it under the rug. It’s messy. And uncomfortable. And there is so much…..”oh you poor thing….” and an underlying sense of “thank god it’s not me.”
But being someone who has experienced it myself….falling out of love, that is….I can tell you. The realization is scary as fuck.
But what’s scarier? Is the WORRY you subject yourself to over the repercussions of that realization. How will I tell people? What will my friends think? Will my children be ok? What if I end it, and he turns into a monster? How will I support myself? Will I regret it? Will I get stuck with the shitty Ford Focus?
This fear is enough to keep MANY people in relationships that they KNOW they shouldn’t be in anymore.
Which….in the end….is it’s own variation of hell.
How to take the leap despite fear
And so how do you find the balls to DO the thing that scares the shit out of you? How do you grab your worry by the shoulders and yell, “get a hold of yourself!”??
Whatever thing you are on the precipice of doing. Whether it’s getting a divorce. Quitting your job. Starting a business. Growing your family. Booking a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Or deciding...YES. Fuck it. I am going skydiving.
The key to making yourself ACTUALLY do it? Is to visualize what it is you want. And to realize that doing this thing will get you there.
It is that simple.
Because at that point? The decision just becomes….logical.
And worrying about it? Becomes….a waste of time.
You start to see.
Worrying is like going to the beach in the middle of August, wearing a snowsuit….because you have a sneaking suspicion….there’s going to be a blizzard.
It’s ridiculous. VERY unlikely. And extremely uncomfortable. For everyone.
Worrying takes away your peace. It destroys “now.” And it is a ruthless dream killer.
It’s like the creepy guy from the movie Halloween. You know who I mean. White mask. Walks really slow. But somehow….he always manages to come out from behind the shadows, just when you think you’ve outrun him.
How to face the ghosts in the room
Just the other day, Liam was having trouble falling asleep….scared out of his mind at every little sound.
“Mom? I think there’s a ghost in here.”
“Don’t be silly. Ghosts aren’t real, sweetheart.”
“But I heard….like a…..mmmmmm sound.”
“Do you KNOW there’s a ghost in here? Like, are you 100% sure?”
“No. I just think there MIGHT be.”
“Do you want to feel sleepy, and warm, and safe?”
“Then let’s go with what you KNOW. And choose to think about what you WANT to happen. Rather than what you DON’T want to happen. Think about yourself, fast asleep. Safe as can be.”
This kind of thing? Doesn’t work all the time. But when you start to realize that your reality is a creation of your mind, you start to be able to control it.
We give so much power to negative possibilities. Yet spend precious little time obsessing over the positive possibilities. So why not choose the positive?
The importance of trusting yourself
I was SO scared to get a divorce. And yet, I was crystal clear on what I wanted. And my marriage was not it.
Going through with it was tough. But having the vision of WHO I WAS on the other side of it? Gave me the courage to do it.
It feels like a bit of a gamble…..betting on your ability to bring your vision to life. But if you want it bad enough, and you know exactly WHY you want it….you make it happen. No matter what.
Don’t get me wrong. Worry still tackles me to the ground sometimes. But the more I remind myself to stop thinking about what could go WRONG, and to start thinking about what could go RIGHT…..the calmer, and more confident I am.
Yes. I did get stuck with the shitty Ford Focus. But even still? I’m happier than ever, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
“Coffee please. With a double shot of tequila,” I say.
“Oh! Ok. One of those days?” says the waitress.
“You fucking bet,” I say.
I just met with the divorce lawyer. A rendezvous I’ve been putting off for a very long time.
The draft separation agreement I wrote up, was torn to shreds. And as I sat there, taking my first sip of delicious boozy coffee, I felt the reverberations of what felt like a boxing match.
Sure. I get it. Divorce lawyers exist for a reason. All too often, breakups turn nasty. And people do things you never imagined they could.
But to be bludgeoned over the head with “worst case scenario” after “worst case scenario,” felt like a back alley brawl....and not the jazzy high-kick West Side Story kind, either.
And the funny thing about “worst case scenario” thinking, is that I really don’t think we do enough of it.
Or rather, we do enough of it.....but we only do it half-way. We don’t complete the loop.
Evolutionarily speaking, the very best “worst case scenario” thinkers were the ones who survived! We are absolutely programmed to anticipate the beast.
But in this day and age......for “worst case scenario” thinking to benefit us, we need to pair it with a plan of action.
If the nightmare you imagine were to happen, how would you deal with it? How could you get things back under control?
We have survived 100% of our worst days. We always do. And yet somehow we often fixate on the calamity, rather than our evergreen ability to rebuild.
All too often, we spend time looking side-long at our fears. Seeing them, but giving them all the control. And call me scandalous, but I love to be in control. You know. Tie my fears up to the bed posts every now and then.
This, I feel, is what is happening with the current Coronavirus pandemic.
People are panicking over “worst case scenario” thinking, because they are peaking around the corner at fear, and then letting it drag them into the ring.
Toilet paper. Bottled water. Creamed corn. The stockpile is real. And although a certain amount of preparedness makes sense, there is some extreme anxiety going on.
Changes in policy. The way we socialize. The way we eat, sleep, and breathe.
It’s all under scrutiny.
I can, however get behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle style foot high-five. THAT has absolutely been missing from my life.
Now, I’m not a big Star Wars fan. But yoda? He’s the shit.
In all his wisdom, Yoda once said,
“Named must your fear be, before banish it you can.”
Rather than boxing with fear, we must dance with it. Look it in the eye, offer a hand, and bring it in close for a late night dance floor booty grind. Or at least a waltz.
Dancing with fear is about facing it head on. And then creating a masterpiece that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would be envious of.
So often, we keep fear at an arm’s length. And only when there is impending doom, or a perceived threat, do we look at it.
How often have we been shocked into action, when a co-worker, a friend, a parent.....gets diagnosed with an illness. We feel like we dodged a bullet. It could have been us. And so we start buckling down on our health, once and for all.
Until the sense of urgency wares off, that is.
When it comes to fitness, people tend to conveniently look the other way. Until it’s too late.
And so....if this current climate of fear has reminded me of anything, it is that, we could all die tomorrow. Every single day of our lives.
“Worst case scenario” the shit out of your health, and realize that caring for your body is truly life-or-death.
But rather than linger in panic, realize that daily energy and effort and care is the equivalent of the most elegant pas du deux. It is the show stopping Beyoncé number that will elicit cries for an encore. It is naming your fear. Then co-creating with it.
See, know, and understand the consequences of ignoring your health. Think "worst case scenario." Then create a plan of action to deal with it.
Because when we all run out of toilet paper, you’re gonna want to be able to execute a high-speed highway truck heist to get some. And you don’t want to have to stop to catch your breath while doing it.
Ever since I can remember, my son Liam has been afraid of the dark. He's had the same moon-shaped nightlight since he was a tiny baby. And so when the bulb burnt out last night, he was thrown into an outright panic.
[Insert blood-curdling scream here]
I lied in bed with him as he clung onto me for dear life. I brushed the hair from his sweaty little forehead. And I kissed his tear-stained cheeks.
We talked about "the dark." And I tried to get out of him what he was so scared about.
Of course, it was the same old story. Evil lurks under the bed, and in the shadows. And we simply do not know what's hiding where we cannot see.
But that's when our conversation took a turn.
I mentioned the moon and the stars and the fireflies in the sky. And right out the blue, Liam said one of the most incredible things I have ever heard: "huh....ya, I guess sometimes we need a little bit of darkness to see beautiful things."
Certainly, we've all had our fair share of darkness in life.
Pain. Fear. Stress. Heartache. Loss. Sadness.
But I ask you this. What kind of beauty has emerged out of that darkness? What has become visible to you, only as a result of being in that scary place?
I can remember a time in my life when I felt completely depleted. I was giving everything I had to my kiddos, including working at a job that was remarkably unfulfilling....simply because it paid the bills.
I would open my eyes in the morning, and be flooded with anxiety. The endless to-do lists. The constant demands. And the feeling of exhaustion, even before I began my day.
I would walk around, invisibly cocooned by the things I wanted to control. Thinking that if I kept my worries close, I would be able to manage them. If I kept my fears in plain sight, they would have less of a chance of coming true.
I was in a dark place.
But out of that darkness, came the most beautiful realization.
I have the power to choose to love myself, with everything I have. I have the power to choose to surrender to life, rather than be constricted by it.
I realized that I was the one weighing myself down. And that the very act of picking up burden and worry, was causing me to sink, like a rock, to the bottom of the river. The very act of picking up fear, was causing me to live in the very place I was trying to avoid.
My ultimate fear was that I would fail as a mother.
Particularly if I showed myself some love, and put my own well-being first.
But the second I put that fear down, and I began to care for my body, my mind and my spirit......I was freed from my own prison.
At the gym, strength is measured by how much weight we can add onto our bar. Yet, oddly enough, outside of the gym, strength can be measured by how much weight we are willing to let go of. How much we are willing to surrender. And much we are willing to drop our own worst fears.....even if we are certain that the boogie-man is just waiting to make his move, the very second our night-light goes out.