Last year, as the dust of the pandemic set in, I realized I had a problem. And my problem wasn't just the enormous problems of the world.
My problem was the problems I was avoiding. The feelings I was avoiding feeling.
With the world literally set on a helter-skelter course for who knows what, I did what many knew to do. Seek solace in zoom calls. Find solutions to problems posed by isolation with family or alone. Look for comfort in cooking and food. Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. Plow time and energy into my hobbies including playing guitar and singing. Honor my passion for storytelling. Find projects around the house or garden.
It all sounds lovely - and there's lots to show for that loveliness. I mastered savory keto-scones, built a 50 foot radius labyrinth in my yard, created a vegetable garden of mythic bounty among friends and neighbors, wrote and recorded several songs, won a few outdoor story slams, launched a book and corresponding livestream series, volunteered for a local food bank, offered twice weekly free meditation sessions on FB Live, turned my garage and sunroom into a functional home gym.
The minute one activity would pass the I'd look around to pursue the next. Like a junkie. My blood itched within my veins any time my whirlwind of activity began to ebb.
I was afraid. Sure, super productive, but ask me how many nights of solid sleep I got. Ask me how present I was with friends and family. Ask me how my heart felt most of the time...
I realized there was one love I really hadn't spent time on: me. So afraid of the feelings I was having as a result of global uncertainty, I did what many high-performers do...I performed. I achieved. I didn't allow a second to just sit and be. Even my meditation practice became another project...another "to do".
I knew I had to go cold turkey. Enough was enough. I decided to give up anything that took me further away from ME. That meant anything that remotely felt like a masking or escape hatch from how I felt. No caffeine. No sugar. No TV. No social media. No wine with dinner. And definitely no bourbon before bed.
I was allowed to indulge in my hobbies, but not as an escape. I made a commitment to build space between activities to actually feel myself sit and breathe. I promised myself to pay attention to adrenaline. Should I feel it surge, rather than react, I would sit and feel it. I would give it loving curiosity, room, patience.
I needed to know that I am enough to hold the depth of anxiety and fear, the uncertainty. Could I be big enough to hold all of that, look it in the face, and not try to manage, strategize or productivity it away? Rather than running from what I was feeling, what would happen if I turned towards it? What if I turned towards myself rather than away?
Our culture doesn't teach us how to do this. There aren't many prompts reminding us that our resiliency lies not just in our ability to respond effectively, but in knowing deeply that we are enough, equal to any situation even if it doesn't feel great. The situations that DON'T feel great are the ones in which we cultivate our greatness. Ironic then, that our compulsive obsession with feeling good - or else - has so many of us opting not to feel anything at all.
I want to invite you to try not running from the devil...to try sitting with whatever monsters of emotion you hold at bay as we continue to navigate unfolding uncertainty. Those feelings exist within you whether you make room for them or not, and they become a part of your filter, influencing every next choice you make, every action, every response. For better or for worse.
By making room for them, seeing them, accepting them, responding to them with love and permission, you soothe those devils within you, and show yourself as being a true friend...to yourself.
This will make you more available to responding skillfully for each next curveball that comes your way. It will provide a sense of groundedness, clarity and calm, as you will no longer be an unconscious reaction chamber...because no matter how much you try to productive away the truth of your heart, there's only one thing it really needs and that is being heard, held and accepted.
A friend recently confided in the midst of running a significant business, being a mother, caring for aging parents etc. that she was carrying around a huge cloud of anxiety. She asked me, "how do I fix it?" You don't. You hear it, listening attentively. You hold it lovingly. And in doing so, you grow into the truth that you are absolutely enough to navigate all these realities, every curveball. That is your birthright. Your greatness.
This world is your arena. Every experience is urging you to grow.
For recorded versions of these practices, check out The C-Suite Sessions YouTube channel.
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