I know what it’s like to be brave
And I know what it’s like to be afraid.
Being afraid, frankly, sucks.
(Sorry mom. I know we don’t like that word but sometimes it really fits…)
I went from being someone on a stage, singing my heart out, playing piano as my professional career, to being housebound and scared to get in a car, or a train, on a plane or in an elevator (okay, truth be told, I’m still not a huge fan of small elevators.)
I was afraid of noises and germs, smells of chemicals, and certain foods.
I was afraid of going to the doctors, of NOT going to the doctors… of getting emails from certain cranky family members and letters from the IRS (okay, truth be told, I still don’t personally love getting letters from cranky family members OR the IRS…)
Point is: I was very, very scared a lot of the time.
270 pounds. Sick. and Terrified.
But here’s what people don’t know: Those fears didn’t just one day come upon me… nope — they appeared one day but the seeds were planted when I was younger…
I was such a sensitive soul as a kid.
I had dreams about people that came true, I had intuitions about things and understandings on deep, deep levels from a young, young age.
As a child who was sensitive and thrived in nature and being with people, I was also exposed to certain situations and had certain experiences that planted seeds of fear:
– Scary or psychologically dark movies
– Intense books
– Family drama in our home that was threatening and I felt powerless
– Unhealthy relationships
– Fear-based religious philosophies
Some of those things — like the movies and books — that seemed innocuous or fall into that category of “Oh, it goes right over their heads… kids don’t understand.”
I want to tell you:
Kids really do understand more than you know.
And what they don’t fully understand, they still absorb.
Just because it’s a delayed reaction doesn’t mean that we’re okay.
Those dark memories will show up at just the right time and in just the right way so that those haunting movies or horrific situations or past experiences rise from the recesses of our brain and the depths of our consciousness and they begin to feel like they are the stories of our lives and at some point. It can be extremely overwhelming.
That fear can be paralyzing. And in your paralyzed state, with adrenaline surging constantly, it’s hard to do surgery to separate the real from the imagined
The past from the present
The worries from the possibilities.
And you know what happens when we can’t separate what’s real from what’s fear?
We either self-destruct on the inside and pretend that we’re not, we self-medicate in strange ways, or we throw fear out there like hand grenades into our conversations, work, dreams, and relationships…
Or we just fall completely apart.
That’s how much impact fear can have on our lives.
Why are we talking about this right now?
Because what is going on with the Coronavirus is creating so much madness and fear.
I’m not saying it’s not real. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be aware and take action.
I’m saying that’s triggering a lot of past traumas and previous fears and we need to do some internal, emotional, and mental surgery to try to dissect how much is coming from what is real and now from what is past and part of our memory.
The old me… the me from long ago would have been listening to every news story to see what was the latest fear message I could hear and spread around the water cooler.
My misery would have loved company.
Because, for some strange reason when I used to spread the fear to others, I felt somehow comforted.
But what is happening right now is landing VERY differently for me because of what I walked through and let go of in order to find peace — and that peace is helping me to have a very different perspective right now…
Like a curious detective who can stand back and see the facts and information in a less provoked way.
I think we are responding more to fear than we are to facts because, let’s be honest: There’s a lot of fear that lives in us.
We walk around constantly carrying these loose fears that make us tight and jangle us on a regular basis, and when it finally finds something to glom onto, the fear in us has a heyday.
The coronavirus is just the fear du jour for many of us who have lived with the perpetual hamster of anxiety on the wheel of our mind for a long, long time.
And for the part of me that has been in that place, I recognize this:
Unreasonable fears don’t respond to facts and data… it responds to drugs and distraction — and it acts out of desperation.
Let me give you an example.
I used to have a TREMENDOUS fear of flying.
I mean gargantuan.
(A lot of my friends who knew me from 20-25 years ago are reading this and nodding their heads emphatically).
I didn’t always feel that way… in fact, I loved the idea of flying, would have dreams of soaring through the sky, and I couldn’t wait to take my first flight alone when I was 14 years-old.
It felt powerful and free and so uninhibited and special to fly!
However, the seeds were planted when I was younger from my mom’s and aunt’s fears — along with some of their cousins fears thrown in, too — and it was all just waiting for the perfect conditions to bloom.
My family who was afraid, talked about the fear as if it were the basis for facts.
It wasn’t. Not completely… It was the basis of feelings.
And I got to experience that first hand when I flew with my mother when I was 16, two years after my wonderful solo flight.
I saw her tense up, I felt her anxiety, I saw her digging her perfectly painted red nails into my dad’s hands.
I figured, “If mom is upset then, there must be a good reason.
Because you know, it’s mom, and if it’s real for her, then it must be true.”
And that day, all of those coffee klatch conversations of the women who were afraid — with all of those ABC movies of the week, afterschool specials, and intensely dramatic books took root in my heart, pressed through the soil and became a full-blown, terrifying phobia for yours truly.
This fear crippled me and as you know my health story, which I wrote about in You’re Not Crazy and You’re Not Alone, was going on at the same time.
Lots of inner terror that I could not find my way out of.
I tried pills and prayers… I tried flying only with my husband because I believed God liked him better and wouldn’t kill me if I was sitting next to Rock on the plane (insert eyeball rolling here.)
I recited mantras and played “Let’s Make a Deal” with God and Life and it was really, freaking awful.
Until I said, “No more.” And I wouldn’t go on a plane.
I literally grounded myself. To my home where I was locked inside the house and locked inside my feelings.
The fear worsened to the point that if I heard a plane over our home (we were in the flight path) I’d literally start having diarrhea.
My fears were getting bigger and my life was feeling smaller…
But the thing was this:
I knew that wasn’t really me… that wasn’t my heart of hearts.
The real me was inside, just like it was with the character, Truman, from The Truman Show.
See, Truman had been birthed into a reality show and had no clue he was part of a reality show. He thought he was living real life but he was living one that was constructed and manipulated by the director and other cast members (who he thought were family) and the sponsors of the ads that were on obvious display during his life.
He was in a man-made world that was dictating his every move for the sake of the audience’s pleasure.
Well, Truman had a desire to travel. He tried to leave the town’s limits (not realizing it was a set) and someone always stopped him. A friend with a crisis, his wife with a need…and he never got to venture out beyond the limits of the make-believe world.
He would make the effort to go the travel agency but they were trying to keep his sojourner desires at bay and would put pictures on the walls of lightning hitting a plane or a cruise ship sinking in the sea.
You know… all of the normal fare that you would see advertised at your local travel agency!
But one day, Truman’s will to be free put him out on the waters and after all of the manufactured storms and lifelong programming threatened to literally kill him, he hit the edge of the movie set and found his way to be free.
I really could relate because there was a Truman who lived in me.
The fears of my youth, the experiences of my life, and the programming from our society threatened to have me relinquish my dreams but there was something inside of me that desperately wanted to prevail.
So, I went down deep inside of me. Down deep to the roots of my fears. Down deep to where they not only strangled the life out of me but in some convoluted ways kept me feeling safe.
I spent time in introspection, went to personal development classes, deconstructed some of my religious beliefs, and rid myself of toxic relationships that supported me living small.
I had to take brave steps, consistently, over time until I learned that safety wasn’t found in never risking
But that safety was found within risking to be me.
Not a short journey. Not a small journey. Not an easy journey.
But oh my lord, friends… such a valuable journey.
This girl… the one who slept night after night in the car outside of the ER…
This girl… afraid to hold the menu in a restaurant…
To travel without wet wipes
To get on a plane
Or on the freeway
Or leave the house.
This girl… gets on a plane
Flies to Italy (by herself)
Leads beautiful retreats in Tuscan hillsides
And invites others to do the same.
This girl… me, believes in this girl… you
Because I know if I can get from where I was to where I am now,
That you can too.
How did I do it?
Without going into the long and winding road, I want to share with you some of the methods that really helped me:
– Stream of consciousness journaling — a practice where you brain dump for 3 pages each morning by writing everything that’s on your brain — I learned this from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way.
– Meditation — taking the brain down to the chill zone helped to make decisions from peace and not fear.
– 100 Day Gong — A wonderful Taoist practice I learned from Dr. Pedram Shojai and now I’ve led hundreds of people through the practice and to transformation. This is the place where consistent action, done over time, makes a profound difference in your life!
– Fasting — Being raised in religious traditions gave me some wonderful tools and rituals, like fasting. Fasting for a certain amount of hours or days, not only allowed me to experience a sense of inner solitude and gratitude… it actually help me to break free from some real issues around food, relationships, patterned behaviors and more, that were keeping me in tight spaces.
– Yoga — the asana (poses) help to heal the trauma that may be in our brain from past pain, abuse, and injury. When I saw the differences in the veterans’ MRI’s after war and then, after 3 months of yoga, the change was mind-blowing!
So, obviously that’s not the whole story or journey but it’s a significant part of the reason why I’m in a different place of peace during this coronavirus time…
It’s because I went on the journey of addressing and healing the fears that lived in ME so that when things happened outside of me, I was not as provoked, able to keep my wits and serenity, and able to be an agent of peace to others.
My friends, I want you to remind yourself, throughout the onslaught of the news and barage of social media negativity that there is so much goodness going on, that life is for you and not against you, and that this too shall pass.
If you need any support right now, please don’t hesitate to email me. We can have connect in many ways and I have resources that we can direct you to that would best support you feeling peace — not just in the hairy times, but as you walk your daily life and lives your dreams.
I’m cheering you on — this is your time to be free.