What scares you?

I don’t mean spider-on-the-floor or boogey-man-under-the-stairs kind of fear. Don’t get me wrong. Those are totally valid too.

But I’m talking about life fears. Big, bold, neon, wake-you-up-in-a-cold-sweat-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind of life fears.

Can you identify them?

For a long time, I don’t think I could. I don’t think I could put a finger on that which gave me a nawing, acid  rawness, just underneath my ribs. It took me a very long time before I could even tell you what that feeling was in my body. But for me, that’s what it is. Just under the base of my ribs, traveling up my esophagus with a nauseous emptiness…a cramping void. That’s my life panic feeling.

Fuck, that is an awful, awful feeling.

I know, because I just had to lead myself down that road so that I could really put it into words for you. And I know because I have spent many nights, many days, stuck in that feeling, not knowing what it was, let alone how to get out of it.

Like everything else, I think the first step is identifying it. Giving it a name. (Call it George if you’d like, although Life Anxiety is a little more descriptive. But this is your show, you can drive this boat, sugar.) Call it what it is. Names have power in them. And by using it’s name, you take back some of the power you’ve given over to anxiety.

That’s step one. Step two? What is this Life Anxiety about?

It’s unlikely to be one tidy little issue. Life doesn’t usually work that way. And that’s OK. Get out a pen and paper or notebook. Make a damn list. Your list of George.

Mine looks a little something like this:

  1. I will never record and release my own music.
  2. I still can’t figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
  3. My body will never recover and my brain doesn’t function properly for me, therefore I will never be able to lead a normal life. One day depression will simply swallow me up.
  4. I will never be able to earn enough money. Every year my financial picture gets worse. There’s not much further to go.
  5. I’m a failure because I can’t provide for my family the way my family provided for me.
  6. There’s no way to better my situation. There’s no way out.

 

Not a bad laundry list, huh?

So here’s the thing. That’s a fucking awful list. Yup. Some of you out there have lists that are worse, too, I’m sure. But it doesn’t matter. None of us can do a single thing about it until we name those things and face them. Ignoring our fears doesn’t make them go away, it only makes things worse.

There are two basic things that I have been doing to try to address my list of George. Some of this you’ve heard before, but it bears repeating, as far as I’m concerned. Because this shit is gold.

G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E.

Every single day. No exceptions. I have made it a practice to find at least one thing I’m grateful for each day. At the end of each day, I mentally review my day, and find at least one favourite thing out of the day. One positive. There is no space for acknowledging the negatives during this small practice. (We do that plenty of other places.) And let me tell you, it turns out that no matter how shitty a day it’s been, you can find one good thing in a day. It might be that that day is over. It might be that your favourite thing that day was spending time alone, or spending time with friends or family, or writing, or chilling out and watching a movie. It might be that your favourite thing that day was thinking over your day to choose a favourite thing, and realizing how blessed you were that day.

Some of you have been dong this with me. And you know that as you get into the habit of it, sometimes it’s not just one favourite thing that comes up. Sometimes there are two or three. But finding at least one favourite thing, one thing that you can feel grateful for that day, that has been life-changing for me.

Because gratitude combats George. Anxiety and gratitude cannot coexist in the same moment. They cannot both take up the same space. In my body, gratitude feels like a relaxing, a letting down, of all the muscles and everything being held through my throat and down under my ribs, right through into my belly. I automatically take in a slow, deep breath. And if I really concentrate on that physical feeling of gratitude as I acknowledge what I’m feeling grateful for, I think it rewires things. In any case, there certainly is no room in my cells to hold anxiety and gratitude at the same time – because they are different feelings that take up the same space in my body.

REFRAMING

This is the other tool that I find useful. It’s a little more of a sit down exercise, at least at first while you’re learning the ropes. But eventually you can actually reframe your thoughts on the fly. And my God, what a difference that makes.

What is reframing? Take the same issue, the same thought, and change it around so that it goes from a negative “I can’t” type of statement, to a more positive “here’s what I can do around this piece” kind of statement.

Take your same list. George. On another page, rewrite George. This is your process page. Mine looks something like this:

1. I will never record and release my own music.

  • I have decided to release my own CD. Here are the steps I can take towards that end:
  • I have given the project a name: Break Until I Bend
  • I have claimed my intention loud and proud (and on Twitter, God help me!) This will help keep me accountable and on task.
  • I am working on solutions for recording at home, since my Mbox situation is not complying. All creative solutions being considered, and angels welcomed.
  • I have made a short-list of songs. I need to schedule a day with Josh when he’s home.

2. I still can’t figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

  • The older I get, the less sure I am that you ever get to that illusive end point called “grown up.”
  • I don’t have to be one thing. I do have to be true to myself and true to my creative self. If I’m not passionate about it, it won’t last. I now have some different parameters to work within because of my health, so it’s a constantly shifting picture. Learning the truth in: “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

3. My body will never recover and my brain doesn’t function properly for me, therefore I will never be able to lead a normal life. One day depression will simply swallow me up.

  • I cannot predict the future. I can only work with what is in front of me right now.
  • I am learning that normal for me and normal for others is not that same thing, and that’s OK.
  • I’m learning the value of pacing.
  • And I’m learning that no one knows me like me. I have to constantly be in self-investigation mode, learning what does work well for me, and figuring out how to incorporate that into my life so that depression does not swallow me up.
  • I can’t worry about the future. I can only live in the present.

4. I will never be able to earn enough money. Every year my financial picture gets worse. There’s not much further to go.

  • And somehow I’m still scraping by.
  • I’m not out on the streets.
  • Stressful? Damn straight.
  • But I’m learning to trust.
  • And I’m learning to think a little more proactively. What can I do to address this situation, given that I can’t work (a conundrum, certainly), instead of being the victim?
  • I can take more control, get more creative.

5. I’m a failure because I can’t provide for my family the way my family provided for me.

  • Times are different. Many people can’t do what their parents did.
  • I’m providing for my kids in different ways, and I’m doing the best job I can.
  • If we can’t do everything, have everything, I have to just let some of that go.
  • I may not be taking my kids on tropical vacations, but there are other ways I’m improving on my own childhood, and that is not failure.

6. There’s no way to better my situation. There’s no way out.

  • There’s always a way.
  • Opening up to love and gratitude. Trusting. Being creative and proactive. And facing fears.
  • Those all bring you a step better than you were before.

 

Now one last list to be made. The reframed list. Something like this:

  • I will never record and release my own music.
  • I am taking steps towards realizing my dream of releasing my own CD
  • I still can’t figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
  • I am truly learning to enJOY the journey, not be quite so focused on the destination.
  • My body will never recover and my brain doesn’t function properly for me, therefore I will never be able to lead a normal life. One day depression will simply swallow me up.
  • I am living in the present, learning how to pace and take care of myself so that my brain and my body can best provide for me. I am gentle with myself.
  • I will never be able to earn enough money. Every year my financial picture gets worse. There’s not much further to go.
  • I am trusting in my own abilities to be creative and proactive, refusing to continue being a victim.
  • I’m a failure because I can’t provide for my family the way my family provided for me.
  • I am improving on the parenting I received, and giving my children some challenges that they may improve upon with their own children.
  • There’s no way to better my situation. There’s no way out.
  • I practice Love, Trust, Gratitude, Bravery, and Creativity. There is always a way.

 

So by itself, the new list looks like this:

  • I am taking steps towards realizing my dream of releasing my own CD
  • I am truly learning to enJOY the journey, not be quite so focused on the destination.
  • I am living in the present, learning how to pace and take care of myself so that my brain and my body can best provide for me. I am gentle with myself.
  • I am trusting in my own abilities to be creative and proactive, refusing to continue being a victim.
  • I am improving on the parenting I received, and giving my children some challenges that they may improve upon with their own children.
  • I practice Love, Trust, Gratitude, Bravery, and Creativity. There is always a way.

 

That’s a helluva lot less scary than George was, isn’t it? And worth the 20 minutes to work through to end up with a list that is motivating and positive, rather than one that gives you heartburn and angina.

Give that new list a name. For all the same reasons. Names have power. Use that to your advantage. You can call it your Life Power list. You can call it Delilah. Or you can call it whatever the hell you please. But call it something.

Because that new list – Delilah – is one that you can post on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, the headboard of your bead. Post that shit everywhere you look regularly. Let it remind you that you’ve got your mojo inside of you, just waiting to burst out. And now that you’re helping it find it’s way, it’s bursting time, baby.

Gratitude + Reframing = Mojo

And that’s that.

Bursting time, baby.