Monthly Archives: December 2014

Home for the Holidays

I just returned from almost a week with my family in Texas. Although my luggage didn’t make it on the plane with me, at least I caught the flight and arrived home to two attention-starved cats. Clearly having someone check on them once a day wasn’t enough for them as they both have been running around creating a ruckus since I walked in the door.

Their distraction only lasted a little while before I began to process the conversations I’ve had with various family members regarding my decision to spend the next year pursuing my dreams instead of finding another “professional/corporate” job. As a result, I am feeling a lot of that fear I’ve written about and think perhaps my self-confidence got left behind with the luggage. I only hope it manages to come back with the rest of my belongings.

My brother Cameron is the most supportive, while also being realistic and giving practical advice. He is taking the route of developing a bee-keeping business while also working full time. He talked at length about the need for discipline and commitment, and even offered to help improve my logo.

My sister Allison, who is the only family member to have actually signed up to receive my blogs, is generally encouraging. However, when I asked her what she thought about my most recent writing, I found her response rather interesting. She said it seemed I was rather repeating myself, and if I were to read back over what I’d written I’d concur.

I don’t need to do that in order to recognize one of my most common themes has been working through my fears. I had an article about making friends with my fear and another about staying with it rather than running away. I wouldn’t be surprised if the topic is scattered throughout many of my blogs.

For anyone making a leap of faith, fear becomes an integral part of the process. We may have moments we get on top of it, but it’s rather like a second skin that never completely goes away. Its close cousin, doubt, never seems to be far behind.

My blog was started with the intention of sharing with others my journey as I make my way towards being a successful speaker and author. For anyone else taking a similar journey towards being self-employed, I thought it might be helpful to read about what to expect. Sort of like leaving a trail map or sign posts along the way.

So, when I am repetitive, it is because this path circles back quite a bit. The commitment to continue is one that will need to be made many times. And each time it is made, it will be accompanied by fear and doubt.

My 83 year old mom is trying hard to be supportive, but it’s not easy for her. First of all, she has absolutely no comprehension of why anyone would ever read a self-improvement (or, as she calls them, a “self-help”) book. Although she has incredible wisdom, which I have written about in my soon to be published article “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s a Mother” (link to come), when it comes to my passion for this field, she has absolutely no understanding.

Secondly, she has fears for her daughter, as most mothers do. What she doesn’t realize is that I’m battling similar fears every day, and work hard to keep moving forward in spite of them. I also don’t think she fully realizes that for me to give up before I’ve really tried feels like a bigger failure than potentially “wasting” a year or two of my life pursuing what she considers a “pie-in-the-sky” dream.

In addition to wanting my mothers approval, I also wanted to ease her fears, so I had a lengthy conversation with her about this topic. Ironically, while I think I was successful in at least easing some of her concerns, she was equally successful in raising mine. And so the path circles back again.

The bottom line, however, is a statement I made to her as we were talking: I don’t want to be on my death bed, looking back at my life, and wonder why I didn’t even try. So what if I fail, at least I won’t question if maybe, just maybe, I could have succeeded.

If you have a dream, you owe it to yourself to at least try to make it come true. And I like to think that Yoda from Star Wars is right when he said: “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” And so, I will do … and I encourage those of you on a similar journey to keep making the commitment to move forward; and if you haven’t yet begun, start now.

TGIF – Transforming Fear

When one doesn’t have a job, the expression TGIF begins to lose its meaning. Other than the realization it’s the end of another precious week of unemployment. Precious because unemployment is my main source of income right now, and its duration is limited. After it’s through, I’m left to my own devices as to generating enough income to pay my bills.

Staying in a place of faith and not fear continues to be a challenge. One thing that has helped is something I heard Buddhist teacher and author Pema Chödrön say in one of her audio CD programs. It is only one word but the practice of it has had tremendous results for me.

The CD is a recording of a workshop she held and she is giving an example of someone who was having flashbacks of childhood abuse coming up in meditation. Pema discusses helping this individual through those times by being nearby and when an episode would occur, compassionately looking into her eyes and saying “stay … stay … stay.” Quite the opposite advice most of us would think to offer in such a time.

If you’ve ever listened to Pema Chödrön, you know she has a voice that is incredibly kind and gentle. She is also one of the most wise and insightful teachers I’ve come across. I find her message(s) to intuitively ring true and I’ve learned a lot from her teachings. When I first heard this story I had no idea that the memory of her voice as she told it would stay with me so clearly.

“Stay …. stay …. stay.” One word. Four letters. Incredibly simple and yet incredibly difficult. Learning to stay with what I am feeling and not run away has been one of my biggest challenges.

Although the fear of my future has become a constant static in the background of my psyche, most the time I can tune it out by keeping busy. Unfortunately, a lot of my busyness isn’t what I’d call productive. Most the time I tend to avoid what I’m feeling (fear or otherwise) by distracting myself with an on-line computer game, a Netflix movie, or looking at the newsfeed in Facebook.

Actually stopping to sit and stay with my feelings doesn’t happen very often. I have accepted that doing so will probably be a constant struggle, however I believe the more I can practice it, the easier it will get. This of course, requires a commitment to actually do the practice, and honestly my commitment waivers.

What I have been able to do is remember the sound of Pema’s voice and her one simple word when I am hit with a big wave of fear. Usually those come early morning or late at night when I’ve shut off all the distractions and am left with only the thoughts in my head. It’s amazing how loud thoughts can be in the silence.

I’ve known friends who have had anxiety and panic attacks, but until recently I couldn’t really relate. My self-perception has been as an easy going person who is pretty chill. However, as I’ve had these waves of fear, a new understanding and compassion has developed for those who have them often.

What has changed is that when those waves come now, I remember the sound of Pema’s voice and I repeat it to myself. “Stay …. stay …. stay.” I breathe deeply INTO the feeling instead of trying to immediately push it away. As a result, not only does it seem the wave passes quickly, but the residual ripples are less.

When I don’t allow the feeling to be there, it actually lingers. It can then become unconscious and create more distraction, more procrastination and more of the very thing I was trying to avoid, namely my fear. As I’ve stayed with it, I’m discovering my trust that all things will work out is growing.

I know I still have a long way to go in the arena of allowing my feelings. I have a long history with avoidance and a pattern that is deeply ingrained. Today, however, I am celebrating the small steps I am taking towards learning a new skill.

The key is to stay with the feelings without adding to the story that created them. I invite you to try this the next time you have a strong emotion and see how it works for you. Drop me a note and let me know how it goes. Perhaps together we can transform our experience and discover greater freedom.