Well hi there!
Years ago, I was on a quest to become the best mom that ever mommed (you can read about that here.) I put all my energy into my kids, because, that’s what good moms do, right?
After exploring what was important to me, and what I truly wanted for myself, I decided to live my values and reignite my love for learning.
The problem I faced, was that getting back to learning also meant getting back to “trying new things”, which also meant waves of nausea, unrelenting anxiety and even the occasional panic attack. And to confuse things more, when I avoided pushing myself to try new things, to, you know, prevent my panic, my depression became supersized. I started to feel stagnant again, and, even worse, caged in.
It was a real pickle.
Why was this? Other people did new things all the time, and many were going after goals that, in my opinion, ranged from crazy to utterly horrifying. How did they manage to accomplish all the things without the crushing worry and distress?
Was it an amazing ability that they were born with?
After plenty late night debates with myself, I decided that the benefits of living my values outweighed everything else. Living any other way was no longer acceptable. Slowly, I went after the opportunities that excited me. I also paid attention to my thoughts, and the stories I told myself.
New = scary.
New = failure.
New = humiliation.
New = bad.
I could have just as easily told myself that trying new things is exciting, and that new experiences will open me up to new challenges and new wins, and new friends.
Or that there’s no such thing as failure because whether I take a leap, or a small step, that is movement, and movement is success.
I had this belief that as a competent adult, I shouldn’t feel fear. Afterall, adults have everything figured out, right? (Yikes. Face, meet palm.)
I’ll always remember when I read the quote by Fritz Perl:
Fear is excitement without the breath.
And then I remember thinking: What the hell does that mean, Fritz?
Am I to believe that I can choose to pause, and relabel these body sensations as excitement? It’s actually my fear label that is causing my own distress? Oh ok, I just need to breath through it?
I scoffed, and dismissed this foolish Fritz character immediately.
However, an interesting thing happened. For whatever reason, that quote stayed with me, and I returned to it, over and over. It seemed to pop into my head when I felt anxious.
I noticed that there were startling similarities between how I felt when I was excited, versus when I was scared. I also noticed how my minor anxieties morphed into full blown fear-fests, and it was always directly related to the stories I told myself.
The first thing I feel in my body is my stomach. It is unsettled, with that familiar butterflies sensation that many people talk about.
I have felt butterflies when falling in love, and when swimming with massive nurse sharks.
Both experiences felt the same, in my body. My story was the only difference.
LOVE: I feel SO excited – this is thrilling! I love this feeling! I’m ALIVE! (I’m pretty sure there were angels singing in the background.)
SHARKS: OMG I’m terrified. I’m going to throw up. Get me out of here! I’m so frigging stupid for agreeing to this. My heart is exploding. I can’t breathe. I CAN’T BREATHE!!!!
I barely recall the shark swimming experience – I completed missed the good stuff – the awe and exhilaration of being up close to these giant creatures (who, are not known to be dangerous – they are basically the cookie-baking-grandmas of the shark family.)
I’ve missed many amazing experiences, only because fear kept me from enjoying the present.
What I know now:
- Life is enjoyable and meaningful when I live it in a way that doesn’t contradict the values that are a part of my very soul.
- I consistently explore my stories: I embrace the ones that help me, and reframe the ones that hinder me.
- Fear and excitement are 2 sides of the same coin.
- Our body will experience sensations when we do things that challenge us. I consciously choose to use the “rush” in a way that is empowering. When I feel afraid, I tell myself: IT’S TIME TO GET MY BUTTERFLIES IN FORMATION.