Tuesday, November 17, 2009

fear factor

Before my Laughing Lotus party kicked into gear last Sunday, I was talking to one of the teachers about yoga school. I had applied to do yoga teacher training, but sold a project before the start date and never got to go. It wasn't that I wanted to be a yoga teacher, but it seemed a brave way to face my fears on the mat, and, perhaps, that would spill over into the rest of my life. One of the major fears I wanted to conquer was going upsidedown. She was incredulous that contemplating a backbend would wrap me up in knots—if I had the courage and gumption to put FLOW out into the world, how on earth could a handstand freak me out?

It does.

I love yoga but always start to panic as we hit the inversion portion of class, relieved when we don't actually flip things around. Or when I have my period and that gives me a built in excuse. That, in itself, was an internal struggle. Publically acknowledging I had it to justify passing on forearm stands—secrecy versus anxiety? In this case, menstruation always wins.

It's not that I can't do a headstand in the middle of the room. That I can't ski (I dread fall because I know confronting that fear is around the corner). That I can't rollerblade, go on rollercoasters or the flying chair ride, sit through scary movies. Of course I can.

But I can't.

An impenetrable, endless brick wall magically grows in front of me. There's no way through, over, around. I am glued to the spot. Frozen. Silent. Spinning stories inside my head about why, realistically, it's ok to not do whatever's confronting me at the moment. How maybe next time I'll screw up the courage. Justifying to myself, in an internal craze, that anxiety is just a part of who I am. I've compromised endless jaunts searching for alternate ways of getting around the city because I was too terrified to take the subway. Just the thought of walking down the steps would start my heart pounding, my chest would tighten, I'd have trouble breathing while standing on the platform. I've walked for miles to avoid a 5 minute trip. I went through a period when elevators filled me with dread. Living on the 10th floor made that quite the challenge I had to face every day. Even now, there are some elevators I won't go in. Or, when heading downstairs, if we stop at too many floors, I quietly get out and walk down the rest of the way.

Skiing? A family disaster. I wish that I could like it. I wish I could even tolerate it. I've even taken drugs to survive a trip to Whistler without having a breakdown on the bunny hill. But, popping pills to spend a day whipping down icy trails, hands clenched so hard I've made my palms bleed, panic-stricken to the point of paralysis just isn't worth it.

And yet, there are some things that come naturally to me that fill other people with horror. I can put my thoughts and ideas out into the universe, and while there's a terror that goes along with that, fear of rejection, of feeling stupid or talentless or trite, I am compelled to keep going. I can't imagine not sharing that way—it's a fundamental part of who I am. I can be in front of a room of people and talk. Calmly, easily, comfortably. Turns out I am enervated by sharing, connecting, teaching, opening. The more I do it, the more I own it. I haven't always been this way. In fact, I was outrageously shy, remarkably insecure for much of my life, cowering behind anorexia, then dissolving into motherhood. But even during the bleakest years, part of me fought to be heard, to move past the traps I built for myself. Wait. That just sounded like I consider motherhood a trap. I don't. But it is a constriction, a convenient road block, an excuse for not doing things for myself I should have been.

This confidence is recent. It feels really good, to be proud of myself. To want more. To dream about possibilities.

Some people think this newfound growth will even extend to skiing.

I'm not one of them.

Day 42 is all about the importance of writing before the day starts.


Jeremy said...

I can't rollerblade either. Or ice skate. One year, when I took Zachary to a roller skating party, I decided to give it a shot -- how hard could it be, after all? Ugh, what a disaster. I know I looked like a fool, and that, after all, is really what keeps me from learning.

I'm not sure who I'm trying to quote, but I remember hearing something recently stating that our lives are ruled much more by avoiding the things we fear rather than seeking the things we desire.

jmnibbles said...

I gave up roller coasters and skiing at age 45- it is our right not to do it! That is why there are benches at amusement parks and ski lodges with warm fireplaces and hot toddies on the mountain.

Looking forward to Thursday! :) Janie

Lisa Adams said...

Want to discuss this one more with you... I think we are kindred spirits. I love the subway, but have fought the fear/anxiety demons too. Much to think about in this one.

Susan (rawmazing) said...

I adore you. Wonderful post.