In the process of creating something altogether new I find myself in unfamiliar territory and it is scaring the crap out of me. It’s amazing that at this stage of my life I am once again at a starting point which is rife with all the questions of worthiness and enoughness that seem to arise at a time like this. In artist-speak I’m looking at a blank canvas wondering if I have the right stuff to make a piece of art appear and I can feel myself shaking and quaking at the thought of failing. I keep asking myself, “When have I felt this way before?”. The answer, “Many times.” And I see each one of them percolate up from my memory banks into my consciousness so that I can review them and remember the terror.
Most vividly I recall my first day of seminary. By the end of that day I felt completely defeated and unworthy. I was quite certain that I’d made a mistake in judgement and who was I to think that I could be a minister. I feel that way right now – and who am I to be what I’m trying to be this time?
The massage therapist in me is aware of the gathering of tension right at the top of my shoulder blades then slithering its way up my cervical spine to make a nest just under my skull at the occipital area. I can feel the beginning of of a headache, you know the one that makes your head feel like it’s been blown up like a balloon and the pressure of all that air inside wanting to find a way out. In general I’m wound up like a tight spring and frankly it doesn’t feel great. All of this drama because my old friend, Miss Unworthy and her pal Lack of Confidence, have decided to stop by to remind me that they only went on vacation – they didn’t move out of town.
After a fitful night of sleep, still feeling uneasy about my new project, I asked for help. I allowed myself the luxury of being totally vulnerable and admitted that I need to find my center with this work if I’m to be be able to do it well and enjoy it. I feel that there IS a way, I just haven’t discovered it yet. The fallout from my night of anxiety and tension is the way my body feels. My neck is extremely tight and sore, my back and shoulders ache, and I have the obligatory headache that accompanies tight neck and shoulder muscles. I feel like I was in a bar brawl. And I guess to some degree I was. I was brawling with myself. I was fighting with my inner critic, the one who says “You’re not good enough to do this. You don’t have the skills. You should know how to do this. You are not going to succeed. You will let people down. You’re small.” This sort of unrelenting negative self-talk has been a nemesis of mine for many years. I have clocked many hours in the therapist’s chair working on it. I thought I had conquered most of it by now but here it is again. Me and my shadow doin’ that famous tango.
What the light of day has brought with it is the realization that I am indeed dancing with my shadow again, and I have had enough of this particular dance. I’ve reached an age where I feel like I’ve earned enough gold stars to be free from this sort of angst. And it’s because I CAN look back at times in my life when I’ve felt this way and can see how it all turned out. I am a great mother, I have taught myself a great many things and am proficient at them-without a college degree, I am a talented massage therapist and have helped many people heal themselves, I have been a successful minister and mentor not just formally but all of my life, I am an intuitive and a psychic and I trust my inner knowing, I CAN speak in front of people-coherently- and not die. This is a small fraction of my list of triumphs. And in every case I was sure I would be a flop, a big ole’ failure. Like the little engine that could, I think I can. In fact I know I can. I also know that I can find my center by asking the questions that need asking and by insisting on having the appropriate information and tools to do what I need to do so that the project will be successful and I can leave an imprint I will be proud of, all without feeling pressure and tension that make me ill.
Last night my fear of failing was getting the better of me. The self-imposed pressure was making me feel sick. I will not allow myself to feel that way again. I deserve better. My body deserves better. There are many stresses in life that are out of our control. I get that. This, however, isn’t one of them. I will find the information I need to move forward with my new project and I will once again see that I can do whatever I set my mind and heart to do – without long visits from old friends. In fact, I think they need to go on a much longer vacation, preferably very far away.