Fear, Anxiety, and Possibilities?

The past week or so has been another tough one full of anxiety, worry, and doubt. I spent much of my time letting my thoughts spin out of control and got very little sleep in the process.

What was I spinning over? The usual culprits (money, career, etc) were certainly present, and they were accompanied by an overarching concern of not having “a plan” for my life.

I thought I had a plan once. I was going to progress in my career, buy a home, get married, etc, but then there was the realization that many parts of said plan weren’t mine. With this realization my current life path began.

As I unfold myself then let go of, add to, and realign parts of my life plan, there are moments were I feel quite exposed. These are the times where I haven’t yet filled the gaps left by letting go of parts of the old plan, and these times leave me feeling uber vulnerable… and scared.

When this fear and vulnerability arise (as they did this past week), I question everything and find myself only focusing on these reactions; hence the spinning. I think we all do this as we go through the process of rediscovering and realigning with our true selves, but knowing this doesn’t make it any less challenging.

One line of thinking that I brought to the surface this week was how I choose to see life as final and of two dimensions. I view circumstances as “If this, then that” as opposed to “if this, then maybe a whole lot of different things”. I think this two dimensional thinking is a thorn in my progress. Since it came to the surface I’ve been working to release it and extend my perspective.

The line of thinking came to the surface in two ways. First was a response to an email I sent a dear friend updating her on my current thinking on letting go of old friendships. She replied to said email with, “I’ve tolerated some people who were on their path and maybe not in a great space and you know what, I don’t know what to tell you, I was in the same place I think at your age, just be okay with it, you’re fine, people are fine, life is fine!”

Second, a friend was telling me about a similar discussion she had recently. Her response to the parties present, who were bringing up similar thoughts to the ones I was having, was “the friends you’re letting go for now may very well come back”. I know this idea seems obvious, but it’s something I’ve never considered. I never thought that all that I’m letting go could indeed return to me one day in a new, improved form (or in a old, unimproved form).

I believe it was having these insights, then targeting my two dimensional thinking, which allowed me to start to calm down enough to push past my fears and dig deeper. I mustered up the courage to share my story with yet another friend whom I was visiting in Connecticut.

He responded to my fears of not having a plan with the usual advice. I need to figure out myself first. I need to continue to question everything about what I like, what I don’t, and why. By doing this, by exposing my core, I can create a plan and walk a path that is true to me. Until then any plan I put together will be someone else’s plan, and following someone else’s plan will ultimately cause me angst and discontent.

I question why this message is so hard for me to keep in mind, but now I think I realize it’s because that journey of letting go, having gaps, and needing to fill them feels so scary and daunting.

What if we just let the gaps stick around for awhile? What if instead of rushing to fill the gaps, and focusing on the fear of never having the gaps filled, I focused on the possibilities of filling them? What if I choose the positive and not the negative?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but given how much sleep I lose to the former, I think I’m finally ready to try the latter. Here’s hoping.

What’s in a Moment?

On my last night in Tucson I was lucky enough to have dinner at the house of some new friends. (NOTE: These are also friends of my RVA friends.) My time with them was (too) short, but it was impactful. As we sat outside discussing just about everything, I felt the need to get my anxieties off my chest.

I described to the two of them the doubts I’ve been having. Most specifically, Are the short relationships I’m making while on the road a reflection of me only wanting to have “good” moments as opposed to hard ones with friends? Am I missing out on that other side of the person to person experience? Will I ever be happy somewhere and with someone?

You get the drift.

The one friend stopped me dead in my tracks. She described to me how she had a recent conversation with their daughter, the topic of which touched heavily on my current existential woes. Her response to both her daughter, and now me, was simple. And, as many simple responses are, it was quite profound.

She described a story in which her and a friend were discussing memories and moments in life. They determined that even though they may not remember every story of their life exactly as it happened, the moments still impacted them for the remainder of their days. She encouraged me to consider this simple wisdom for myself:

All we have is a moment. Enjoy it.

Of course I am paraphrasing this friend’s wisdom which I’m sure was much more eloquent and detailed, but this sentiment is what I carried with me. As soon as she said this all the Buddhist lessons I encountered over the years came flooding back. This was the fact I have been overlooking. I felt it stir me.

When I left town the next day, I left knowing I had the support of others to encourage me onward. The road took me into the mountains to the beautiful state of New Mexico. Being from the East Coast I had no idea what to expect from this state, but to say I’m stunned by all it has to offer would be an understatement.

This emotion was underscored by the AirbBnB rental I stayed in on my first night. Unfortunately, I only had one night here, but even that was enough to fill me with comfort and inspiration. And, most importantly, it granted me the best night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had.

I pulled up to the property to find the owner, Beth, working on one of her many art projects. Here, let me share it with you:

artwork
I was mesmerized by this piece.

She welcomed me and stated I would be the first AirBnB guest to walk across this new installation. Woohoo! We began chatting and I found myself quickly recapping my anxieties from the night before. You all know how she responded:

A moment is all we have. Live it up!

I guess that was all the universe had to tell me on the topic, and I figured I may as well start listening.

I started by taking a tour around this beautiful property; my jaw dropping at every turn. This woman had the ability to make anything and everything look beautiful. Her attention to detail was simply amazing, and the feeling her work gave me was greatly needed. Here let me share the pictures already:

Mountain view
A view of the property including the mountains in the distance.
Mountain views
More mountain views.
Tree view
Views of the trees surrounding the property.
horse
There were even horses onsite.
outdoor kitchen and living room
The outdoor kitchen and living space.
Tea set
I loved this tea set.
Metal peacock.
Some art marks the path.
Cabin door
The front door of the cabin.
Desk and chairs
The workspace in the cabin.
Spiral staircase
This is a staircase the owner and an artist friend built. Enchanting!
Front of small building
The front of one of the galleries on site.
Gallery
A gallery interior. Pretty amazing, right?
outdoor living space
The outdoor kitchen and living area at night.

As I sat outside enjoying the cool mountain air, I took in Beth’s life. In this small town of maybe 150 people, tucked away in the Gila National Forest, she had people stopping by to help her with art projects or help her fix something or other pretty much all afternoon. She had galleries onsite with incredible local art which people knew to come see. I noted the dream like quality of my experience there, and also noted how much I loved the quaintness of it all.

I reminded myself there are probably just as many downsides to her life than any other life, but since I’m living moment by moment at this point, I pushed those thoughts aside and simply enjoyed the good vibes.

The next day I woke up refreshed and ready to start a new day. It was the best I’ve ever felt waking up in the morning… I have to be honest. I packed up my gear and got on the road for another 4 hours of driving up to the El Morro area. Along the way, the sentiments of the past few days rang loudly for me, and I finally connected with what my friend was expressing on that Tucson night.

These moments I experienced over the past few days were short indeed. Further, I may never experience the people or places again, but the fabric of them has shifted my perspective. Since perspective is everything, they have shifted my life.

So, what’s in a moment? Seems like everything is, no?

Who Do I Want to Be?

I arrived here in Yuma, AZ Monday afternoon (I’m writing to you on a Wednesday), and was greeted by a lovely AirBnB experience. Here are some pictures to prove it:

Welcome Lis sign
I felt so welcomed by this sign!
Yuma like a local sign.
Instructions on how to do Yuma like a local.
Bed with pillows
After driving all day I couldn’t wait to get into this cozy looking bed.
Kitchen
Cooking in this kitchen reminded me of my time in NYC.

Let’s just say my choice in driving through the Santa Ana winds (and mountains) to make it here seemed a great one.

When I woke up on Tuesday, I decided to use the mid-morning hours as adventure time. I went to the post office to send a book to a dear friend, then I began driving around Yuma to see some of the historic sites. I was followed by the most uneasy energy I’ve felt on any trip thus far. (Except maybe when Cris and I stayed at a Hotel 6 in East Philadelphia on the East Coast Road Trip, but at least then I wasn’t alone.)

Little felt safe. I should say, little felt safe outdoors. When I interacted with people like the woman at the Post Office or the man at the coffee shop or my AirBnB hosts, they were all quite lovely. However, when I stopped at the city park or went downtown I felt nothing short of uneasy. Actually I was really scared.

I grappled with this fear. I shared it with others, and I also sat with it on my own. I questioned what is was I was actually scared of. Afterall, it’s not like these scenes are particularly scary:

Bridge and Mountains
I tried to grab a picture of the mountain views.
Church top and rock
A picture of the top of the Mission from Gateway Park.
Lutes Casino front.
Ok… this may look sketchy but it was in the cute old part of town.

It’s also not like I was in any real danger at any point. But yet, the fear remained.

As I worked through it, I began to see how its roots tangled themselves around my courage. I saw this, and realized how tired I am of being the scared person. If I wanted to become who I want to be, I needed to break said roots and allow my courage to take over.

So I took action. I took a walk around the neighborhood and noticed the cute houses, the school children playing soccer, and the man mowing a lawn nodding and smiling. My courage was growing, and it was encouraged on by this quote sent be a friend later in the evening:

As you think about your own path to daring leadership, remember Joseph Campbell’s wisdom: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you’re meant to serve and support, and for your culture. Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and being afraid. At the exact same time. — Brené Brown, Dare to Lead.

Needless to say I slept quite soundly after sitting with these words.

When I woke up today, I decided on an afternoon hike a few miles outside of the town. I was set on having some time alone in nature to “sort it all out”. But, once again, I was denying entering the cave. Sure enough, when I got out to the trail, the road to the trailhead was closed. Further, my attempts to find another trail were also thwarted. I saw the sign. I needed to face my fears.

I came back to the town and decided to replay yesterday’s adventures, all the while facing down my fears and breaking apart their roots. It was an insanely healthy and progressive practice which led me to have a renewed view of my experience here. I saw myself becoming who I want to be.

Then I got the text.

One of my house sitting clients was inviting me back for a gig in the Spring. At first I thought, why not take it? I have nothing else planned?, but then something stopped me. I reached out to a friend who responded that they couldn’t make the decision for me, but if it was them, they’d make the decision based on “why they were on the journey to begin with”. Meaning, they’d decide not based off convenience, but off of who they wanted to be.

The words struck me with an unwavering truth. I’d have to turn down the gig and turn towards the unknown. If I didn’t, I’d be “delaying the risk I needed to take to become the person I want to be”, and keeping it real, I’m so of over doing that.

Leaving California

I awoke this morning (I’m writing to you on a Sunday) around 2 am… terrified. The fear gripping me was so intense it forced me out of bed to check on the cat. Finding her well I returned to bed, but sleep did not find me for several hours more. Instead my heart beat at an accelerated pace while my thoughts churned.

I saw this familiar reaction for what it was; the fear that comes from embarking on an unknown quest. I’d be leaving California on Monday after spending the first few months of my solo wandering here, and I was scared about both what was to come and what I’d be leaving behind.

For example, I’d be leaving behind scenes like these:

Purple sky at sunset.
Another beautiful Rancho sunset.
Sunset
Ok… one more
Aliso Beach
Aliso Beach
Ocean waves.
Kinda felt like I was back on Maui with these waves.

Of course I’ll find beautiful scenes wherever I go (NOTE: I’m convinced we can find beauty in pretty much every place), so I knew my fear was more that just leaving California’s beauty. I also knew I’d take whatever lessons with me that I was meant to, so my fear seemed more than that. Yes, I was still grasping and trying to hold tight to my life here.

Why?

Because I was starting to get comfortable.

Actually, I’m noticing this trend now. Whenever I’m settled into an experience, be it a house, a city, or some other space, my psyche pushes me to move on to the next. Perhaps this is due to the pace I’ve set for my self discovery, but I have to ask myself: “Why did I set this pace to begin with?”

Until I figure this out I’ll continue exploring both my external and internal worlds in anticipation of the joy the resulting discoveries bring.

Hmmmm. I think that last question has been answered, hasn’t it?

A Moment with My Discomfort

I recently found myself in an ethical quagmire. Here’s the scene. Myself and my colleague were crafting an email response regarding the services we provide. We had a solid draft, but we needed a closing statement. We were deciding between something more passive (i.e. We’re happy to talk further) and something more active (i.e. Let’s set up time to talk).

My gut said to go with passive even though I knew the best choice for successful business development/sales was the active one. The problem was I didn’t feel comfortable at all with the active choice. It made me feel dirty and pushy.

Eventually we made a mutual decision, but I continued to reflect on the moment for awhile thereafter. I questioned if I favored the passive choice because of some psychological/emotional lack of self confidence, or if more preference could be attributed to a more moral reason.

At this point in my reflection, my mind jumped to a quote a dear friend recently shared with me. He felt, and I agreed, it was an accurate assessment of my journey thus far.

Quote
Quote by Austin Kleon sent by my friend.

Did I favor the passive choice because its tone was one I wanted to see more of in the world? Was my preference a declaration that I would no longer sell or be sold to? Was I playing the part of the revolutionary bucking the system?

Yes, I was playing the part. But you see, that’s just it. I was playing a part.

My defiance was as genuine as my proposed enemy. Seeing this, I dug deeper. I sat with the discomfort the idea of my choice being flawed presented me, instead of riding off into the sunset of false belief.

After our short dialogue, I watched discomfort withdraw. In its place stood the truth. I knew it was the truth because I was afraid to face it. Further, after looking it in the eye for a few moments my fear resided, and confidence arose to take its place.

I saw, and not for the first time, my inclination towards passivity was a nod towards a desire to be passive in my own life. If I’m passive, I give the responsibility of my life to outside forces. This is a survival mechanism that ensures I won’t have to take responsibility for my failings. Unfortunately, it also guarantees I also won’t be able to take responsibility for and internalize my successes.

This passive practice only propagates the stagnate and unfulfilled life I set off on my journey to vanquish.

I refuse to tell you that after today I’ll only be leaning towards and selecting the active road. I’d love to believe this to be true, but I know better by now.

What I will tell you is I’m mighty proud I took a moment to sit with my discomfort and see the source of it for what it was. After-all, awareness is the first step towards recovery, and every journey starts with the first step.