Thursday, October 25, 2012

Who Matters Most in the Circle of Trust

In 2007 when I started my eternally valuable stint in therapy, one of the first things I told my doctor was that I wanted to work on the trust issues I had with my boyfriend. I hated that I didn't fully trust him—and he did, too.

After all, trust is the foundation of any successful relationship. Particularly those where love and fidelity are involved.

My therapist may have seen the writing on the wall, but he served me with endless compassion and plenty of suggestions to try to improve the trust I had in my beau.

When all my fears were realized and I discovered the boyfriend was, in fact, not trustworthy, the doc and I had to embark on a new endeavor together: Getting me to trust myself.

It had never occurred to me that trusting my own judgment—my own instincts—was the most important piece of the puzzle. 

I'm not talking about listening to my anxiety or the un-evolved, reptilian part of my brain that likes to broadcast defeatists tirades. I'm talking about that quiet, inner wisdom that rests inside my very core.

No matter how much (or little) we trust others, when we can learn to trust ourselves, we can relax into living, knowing that someone will always be there to take care of us, no matter what happens. 

In 2007, this was a bit of a novel concept to me. I thought there was nothing I could do to protect myself against untrustworthy people. If one made his way into my inner circle, I might find myself powerless against his toxicity. I might get hurt. I might get my heart broken. And I might not know what to do about any of it.

Learning to trust myself was like suiting up in armor and shedding it at the same time. I could let go of defenses like cynicism and sarcasm because my best defense would always be intact. I could count on myself to size up people and situations—move away from the ones that elicited the ick factor—and find ways to deal with unexpected changes, while staying true to who I really was.

I hope that I'll never have to take a dip in the dating pool again (because I very much adore my Mr. Wonderful). But if I ever do, I'll be eternally comforted by the trust I have in myself.

I think a girl's own gut is the best wing-woman she can ever have.    

Monday, October 15, 2012

Finding Calm Amidst the Storm

At a recent event in Phoenix, I had a great conversation with a friend about fear of flying. She had flown to the conference we were attending, but had been really anxious about it in the weeks leading up to her departure. As she described her anxiety over the situation, she shared a story that acted as a big turning point for her in making peace with the idea of getting into a plane.

One night, she had come out of a class to find herself at the edge of a nasty storm—which was directly over the path she had to take to get home. Barely able to see the road in front of her, she had to inch along the highway, bit by bit until she could get out of the thick of it. She said she caught herself thinking, "I would much rather fly than be stuck in this mess ever again!"

Her story was a great example of how everything is relative and our perspectives can shift in an instant, but what struck me even more was how she described getting through the storm.

If you're caught in the middle of a storm, all you can do is keep moving slowly through it. 

This is true under the veil of thunder and lightning, but isn't it also true when you're going through a big scary transition? Or when you get upsetting news about your health or the health of someone you love? If you stop moving, you may have to wait a heck of a long time before you reach the end of the storm. But if you speed through, or try to ignore that it's happening, you could put yourself in massive danger of getting hurt.

Watching the road right in front of you, taking things moment by moment seems to not only be the way to reach a calmer destination, but to also keep your nerves somewhat intact.

In 2007 when I climbed Half Dome with friends, we were met with unexpected snow one day when coming home from a hike. Rather than being safely tucked in a giant SUV with 4-wheel-drive, we were coasting down the mountain in my Prius—no snow chains or other appropriate equipment in sight.

What I remember from that experience was that I felt safest when going the slowest, and I felt calmer because my friend had a Chris Rock stand-up CD playing in my stereo. The laughter that came out my mouth was like anti-venom to the fear I felt being on that snowy mountain road.

We all have to travel through storms at various points. Often, there's just no way around it. But if you find yourself in the thick of it, I highly recommend taking your sweet time—day by day, inch by inch—and trying to find a way to inject a little laughter into the situation. Eventually you'll make your way home, and maybe even ultimately find yourself taking flight.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

If Only We Could Take Life Lamaze Classes

When I was eighteen, I watched my sister give birth to her first daughter, my oldest niece. It was an experience of pain and extraordinary wonder that was like nothing I'd ever witnessed before. Watching my sister endure Pitocin-induced contractions was excruciating (for both of us). The pain was so great, nausea took over and forced her to chew ice chips and keep a bowl nearby just in case. Her toes cramped up into tangled claws as my brother-in-law and I each held one foot and tried to massage out the spasmodic muscles. I know she held tight to my brother-in-law's hand through a lot of it, finding support in the mere presence of his fingers wrapped around her own.

Thankfully, she received an epidural when she hit the 5-centimeter window, and things calmed down after that. But then there was the pushing...

Using "labor" to describe this whole process seems like a humongous understatement to me. 

They should rename the hospital wings "Work-Harder-Than-You-Ever-Have-In-Tremendous-Pain & Delivery."

I don't remember now how long she pushed, but I will never forget watching my niece's head crown and make its first appearance in the world. Seeing her pinched red face and nervous, balled baby fists push their way into the delivery room was a miracle to behold. It was like peeking behind God's curtain and seeing some magical gear that keeps the machine going.

When the cord was cut and the baby was cleaned and swaddled, and all the trauma and hard work was done, life could finally begin its new phase.

The whole birthing process—the bringing to life of a new entity—feels kind of the same even when its a job or relationship or major personal change, doesn't it?

It's hard work to start a new phase!

I know for me, sometimes the process makes me sick to my stomach. Sometimes I want to cry because it all just feels like Too Much Effort. It's uncomfortable and makes muscles in my body cramp up a little. And the pain always seems to come in waves—one minute I'm fine, the next I'm being walloped!

But I've found that some of the same tactics women use in childbirth can work wonders on birthing ideas, books, promotions, hard conversations—all those tough things that require you to hunker down and give it your all.

The first trick? Good, hearty, deep breaths. The second? Allowing things to happen naturally. Pushing only when it really feels like the right time to push, instead of wearing yourself down with exertion or resistance that isn't necessary. And third? Hanging on to the hand of someone you love. Knowing someone is there with you—that you're not all alone—and that you've got support can be endlessly comforting.

Happy birthing to all you life-changing, life-phase-starting mamas out there. Good luck with your deliveries!