Note: this is a bit of a heavy post, or at least it was for me in living and reflecting on it, so Bug is serving a dual role today as our featured image and our patron saint of bravery and love as we look into ourselves to connect with our world.
A few years ago I attended a long weekend retreat hosted by Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach. The workshop was titled something along the lines of ‘how to live your best life’ and was structured and largely centered around self; self-discovery, honesty, and the knowing within you that is triggered when you’re not being true or honest with yourself (and often times in relationships with other people).
Throughout the weekend I listened to woman after woman share their stories, their knowing, and how they’re struggling to take that next step into a ‘truer and more beautiful life.’ As the days went on, I couldn’t help but get caught up in contemplation of how to really know what my knowing is telling me, versus what I’m interpreting as ‘knowing’ when I’m triggered by other fear factors. We’ve for so long been trained that discomfort is something to be avoided and so quickly armor up with our fight, flight, or freeze threat response when we’re feeling too vulnerable or insecure that we miss out on the opportunity to get to the root trigger, perpetuating and prolonging the suffering to our own detriment.
This is something that I’ve since spent a lot of time on, developing literal self-consciousness, as it relates to how I am responding or reacting to a trigger, internal or external. I’ve really had to take pause to determine whether or not the fear is something to lean into because the knowing is calling for more vulnerability to heal and grow, either in self or in relationships, or, if it’s calling me to know myself, and to boundary up in a healthy way when something is threatening the integrity and affect that I have aligned to my core values.
I will self disclose that I’ve got a bit of a propensity for co-dependence; I am an enabler which can sometimes show up as me abandoning myself and boundaries if someone else’s fear of confronting their trauma solicits an emotional and reactionary empathy in me; it’s also great for avoiding my own work. I will literally exhaust myself to try and externally fix what is caused by someone else’s own internal suffering, and it is something that I need to be mindful of. If I don’t, I will jump into the deepest water head first to save them, thinking that I can tread water long enough to save us both from drowning, even if they’re not kicking their feet. In case you’re also a lover of the under-dog story, I’m going to spoil the ending for you; there is no good outcome, not for them, and not for me. Or, I should say, there is no good outcome from my actions; the good and best outcomes can come only when that person chooses kick their feet, and takes the opportunity to learn how to swim.
I share this because it was critical to understand how to listen to my knowing, how to cope and grow through fear, and how to align my actions and integrity with my core beliefs. I’ve tested a lot of this through how I process and make decisions and how I’ve navigated relationships over the last few years (much to the probable annoyance of some people in my life). When there’s a trigger and an emotional discomfort, I’ve learned to sit with it; to pause and to intentionally consider what the reaction is telling me; is the work that I need to do internal, or internal to external? Am I uncomfortable because I have something I need to work through personally, or am I uncomfortable because what is happening is conflicting directly with my core value system, agnostic of the details?
This typically showed up through responses such as, ‘Let me think on this’ or ‘I need to consider how to best approach it’ to give myself a beat or two to pull up out of the emotion, and re-connect with purpose. When I sit in this space I typically run through the same questions and dialogue with myself, asking: What is the actual root of what is triggering me? Can I articulate and unpack it enough to understand the underlying fear? Is this anxiety that I can apply to strengthening in a growth mindset, or is this anxiety rooted in fear because it is conflicting with my core values and compromising my integrity? What do I need to change in my own mindset or actions to make friends with this fear?
Over the last few weeks as conversations around social justice and systemic racism have come to the forefront and as I’m having these conversations with white friends and colleagues, I’ve been watching (and hearing) so many people struggling deeply with discomfort. It is extremely painful and challenging to reconcile with ourselves a full lifetime(+) of history and events we were actively ignorant of and didn’t take the time to sit with it. Right now I’m witnessing so much of this awakening to the knowing, and in some cases what feels like the peak of discomfort in confronting ourselves and the roots of our racism, much like how we shy away from the roots of our own trauma in our personal lives and relationships. The cycles are the same, and so will be the outcome, depending on the paths that we choose.
When we ignore the trauma in our own person and try to externally fix what is truly an internal problem, we repeat destructive and painful behaviors rather than identifying the trigger. Confronting it, and growing through it to have the lives and relationships that we most truly want, is the piece that is usually missing. We often have the knowing in our hearts of what we want, and it’s not that we have the wrong pieces or parts, is that they need to be re-calibrated to work together. When we shy away from the racism that is in within us, that we’ve been breathing in since our first breath, and are not vulnerable enough confront it and sit in that unavoidable grief and shame, we cannot create change in ourselves; again we will fail to influence and create the change for the truer and more beautiful world.
So, why did I write this long winded post? Because it is, and we are, all connected, from the roots to the tips of how we create and perpetuate cycles and systems within our lives to hold us back from having the lives that we really want. COVID was certainly not something that I had planned or prepared for, it was arguably the opposite, but it has forced some real vulnerability and shifting of perspective that created the space necessary for to look up from distracted life habits and decide to show up and unpack our shit to make right what was wrong, or to keep that baggage packed up nice and tight to carry it fully into the next round of a cycle we’ve already proven to be terminal.
As you sit with this, and the weight that you’re feeling in the world, whatever your perspective, I’m curious….If you could fix any one thing in your life and make it as beautiful as you always wanted, without fear, what would it be?