Dear Goddess: When your children are fledgling adults and make choices you can see are clearly stupid, how do you find the balance between fear and anxiety over their choices and letting them make their own mistakes?
I am the Goddess of death and rebirth, of destruction and transformation.
You stand here today, a product of your greatest mistakes and your biggest triumphs. You overcame adversity and surmounted obstacles placed in your path. You are stronger because of your experiences. You have gained wisdom and insight. You have lived and you have learned. You would not be the person you are today had you not struggled and fell. Trust that you have guided your children well, that throughout the turmoil, they will know they can turn to you. Be there, stand by their side, but let them falter. They will grow and become stronger because of it. The watching will not get easier, but hold fast to your faith that all will work itself out—that one day, despite your worries, they will forge their own paths and make you proud.
You may not know this, but for almost a decade, I suffered from debilitating panic attacks. I didn’t know what they were at the time and every few months, I would find myself in a doctor’s office or emergency department with a plethora of reports to my name: blood work, CAT scans, MRI’s, ultrasounds, x-rays, EEGs, and EKGs. No one could figure out what was wrong, and never for one minute did I think my mind could be making me so violently ill.
It took a great deal of investigating and personal research about my symptoms to begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together. After seven years of suffering and fearing the next attack, I finally knew what was going on. I was experiencing repetitive panic attacks. Wave after wave after wave of attacks that would last two weeks at a time, keeping me bed ridden with nausea, dizziness, pain, migraines, and even a low grade fever. My mind had taken over my body and was controlling it like a helpless marionette. But knowledge is power. Once I learned what was happening, I was determined to make it stop, determined to get my life and my body back under conscious control.
One of those interventions involved recognizing panic and anxiety the moment it started. I gave my anxiety a name: Bob. I got very good at sensing the warning signs, the little indications that Bob was going to pay me a visit, and when that happened, I would dance.
My heart would race, my hands would turn clammy, and the surging wave of panic would start to build, but instead of letting it take over, I seized the reins and turned on my stereo. I cranked up the bass and danced and jumped, turned and twirled until Bob slunk back to his hiding place.
Bob doesn’t come around much anymore. But there are occasions where I still feel anxious. Speaking in front of groups is one of them.
Last night I had to get up in front of a lovely supportive group of writers and read an excerpt from my new novel Avelynn. I’m getting better at calming the nerves, but each time I get up behind a podium, I’m reminded how much I need to keep practicing. It’s like building a muscle at the gym. The more I use it, the stronger it gets.
I talk all the time in my yoga classes. I’ll ramble on about life, wellbeing, the chakras, philosophy, or even regale the class with amusing antidotes and jokes to lighten the mood during a tough set of poses. I don’t get nervous, and I can talk for hours.
Years ago I was involved in local theatre, once even delivering a monologue twenty-six, single-spaced, typed pages long. It was a feat of memorization and iron clad balls. But I did it, in front of a room full of strangers and discriminating judges. I preformed on stage in several plays, never once feeling nervous or worried about missing a line. But then out of nowhere something changed. I blame hormones.
I had just given birth to my third beautiful son when I started having terrifying dreams of getting up on stage and forgetting my lines. Despite the fact this had never before happened, the fear seeped into my consciousness, and I had to quit the theatre. Flash forward several years, and too many panic attacks to count, and getting up to talk in front of even one or two people became challenging.
I was determined to get my anxiety under control and enrolled in Toastmasters, a wonderfully supportive group that encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and lasso fear for good. I learned a lot during my time in the group. The most important? Practice makes perfect and reading out loud, in front of others, over and over again slowly desensitizes you to the fear.
I still get nervous reading, but no one else seems to notice. My hands still tremor a little, my knees still quake, but my voice is strong and confident. My relationship with public speaking is now healthy. It won’t be long before I can step back onto that stage as if it’s just another day in the yoga studio. 🙂 xo
What do nudist colonies, biker bars, zip lining, and air travel have in common? They are all suggestions from my well intentioned friends when I asked them to give me ideas … things to do in my new risk taking adventure.
Sometimes, life swings us into ruts … periods of inaction or immobility. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten caught up in the safety and security of the mundane, the apathy of routine, and I find life just doesn’t hold the same passion, the same spark it used to.
Novelty is the spice of life—new people, new situations. But when we are involved in long-term relationships, long-term jobs, mortgage payments that will take twenty-five years or more to pay off … things can get … well boring. They drag. The fun gets sucked out of it all.
Risk taking brings back the excitement. It fills us with passion and vitality. It throws our world upside down. It shakes things up, enlivens us. But taking a risk, trying something new—something perhaps out of our comfort zone—also takes courage.
I suffer from anxiety. Always have. It’s just something I live with. But I’ve noticed as time goes on, my ‘threshold’ for stress is getting lower and lower. My ability to handle multiple things thrown my way has gotten smaller and smaller. Little things that would have slid off my back, like water off a duck, now stick, and congeal, manifesting as headaches, IBS, or muscle tension.
I have big heart-pounding, stomach-clenching, hands-sweating fears around bridges, ferries, and airplanes. I don’t want to be under a bridge (it could collapse on me). I don’t want to be on the bridge (it could collapse and I would fall down with it. I don’t want to be on a ferry trapped in my car if the boat goes down. And I certainly do not want to be trapped in an airplane, since the idea of plummeting thirty thousand feet to a fiery death has no attraction for me whatsoever.
We all have ‘big’ fears, but when even little things start to throw us for a loop … that’s when we have to examine our lives and consider … how can I stop this from getting out of hand.
One way to do that is to desensitize ourselves to the fear, the anxiety. If you are afraid of snakes, you might start by looking at a picture of a snake, then imagining/visualizing yourself in a pet store with a small garter snake tucked safely behind glass. Next steps would be to actually walk into the pet store. Just being in the same building as snakes, then maybe walking to where you can actually see them, then one day, ultimately, holding one. For people who are afraid of snakes, even the thought of that final step is terrifying.
Risk taking involves building our ‘Risk Muscle’. This isn’t something we can just jump into—I for one am not about to jump out of a plane. You have to start small, build your muscle one step at a time. Baby steps. I may start with imaging myself on a bridge, then work up to actually standing under the bridge, watching my breath, in and out, in and out, in and out, until the wave of anxiety passes. And it will, if I can stay there long enough. Every strong emotion has a wave value/expression to it. It ebbs and flows. Anger, sadness, grief, even panic attacks, come on strong, peak, then reside. The trick is learning how to ride the wave.
So I have a plan. I’m going to build my risk muscle slowly. Starting small … little things like, maybe dying my hair another colour. I’ve been blonde … well, since I was born. Maybe trying something I wouldn’t normally ever eat that doesn’t compromise my gastric sensitivities.
Ultimately I’d like to get on a plane and go somewhere. This is not to say I haven’t been on a plane – I’ve been on two – each twenty years apart – and each time terrifying. But I did it, and I’d like to try and do it again.
But I need your help. I need ideas, suggestions. What are some risks I can take? What are you afraid of? What would you like to try to overcome? Maybe you might like to try the challenge with me?