Sunday marked the one month anniversary of my Facebook page, The Counter Stool. My Facebook page came a little after I launched this website and blog. It was my way of staying connected without having to write an article daily. I also hoped it would be a way to connect with more people. I tell you this because if you don’t follow me on Facebook, you won’t be tuned in to some of the things I may reference here. Sometimes I post things that go along with my weekly blog. Other times they’re just things that move and inspire me. Lately I’m starting to post more about myself, my vulnerability and how I’m daring greatly. Or trying to.
We humans know what we know. We take comfort in this. We are as they say, creatures of habit. Even bad habits. Often we become trapped in familiarity and we don’t even notice. We’re just going along with the flow. We have’t checked in with ourselves to inquire if our way of relating to ourselves is even working for us anymore — these old habits, thoughts, behaviors negative self-talk, uncaring patterns and so on. I had some bad habits I wanted to shed and I hoped that by starting to write about them, I’d hold myself accountable. Being connected and sharing my process meant I had to own up to how I was choosing to live my life and care about myself.
I liken our bad habits to wearing an old, heavy, tattered, wool coat. It’s really old. It smells bad. It’s not even one you would have picked for yourself. It doesn’t fit and furthermore it’s just plain ugly. Come to think of it, it’s always been ugly, you just didn’t think about it much. Maybe you didn’t even know you were wearing it. Did you even place it on yourself, or was it put there and you just mindlessly kept it on? One day, you catch a glimpse of it in the mirror. You have to look back because you can’t believe that you see yourself in this thing. You look again and there it is — you really see it. You’re probably surprised to see yourself wearing this dank, drab, weighted, unsightly coat. The oddest part is that you’ve been wearing it so damn long, you didn’t even know you had it on. But you do. And man it’s way past the time to take that thing off, because honestly, if you look closely, the wretched thing has fleas.
So what do you do? Do you take the old sodden rag off or do you keep wearing it? Taking it off leaves you feeling naked. You feel so strange without it. You’ve been wearing it for so long, life without it is unknown. So here you are. Deciding between wearing the smelly old thing or shedding it. Staying with what you know, or catapulting yourself into the unknown. The choice is yours.
Sunday morning I posted on Facebook that I was getting ready to do a 20 minute all-out-bike test. I shared that for me, my mental demons are more often than not, worse than the physical challenge of these tests. I was nervous about this test. It was important to me. So I put it out there, which made me even more nervous. I put it out there because I hope that by being real with you, by sharing my vulnerabilities, I’ll inspire you just as much as being connected to you inspires me. But here’s the thing, after three days of processing this test what I’ve come to know is this: if I’m truly honest with myself and with you, I think I already knew what the outcome of my all-out-test would be before I even started. I didn’t know this at the time. I thought I was mentally in the game: I had my music, I had my inspirational pictures and quotes, I was doing my best to psych myself up. I was ready to show up in the arena and dare greatly. Except I wasn’t.
For me self-doubt is my old coat. Not being good enough is a tantalizing conviction I’ve held about myself for so long. It’s so familiar I almost like it. I know what it feels like to sit in self-doubt and thinking that I suck. I’ve done that. I know how to do that. I’m even good at it. When the sole focus and pressure are just on me — when I’m in my own head and not racing anyone else except myself — succeeding feels more risky and more scary than failing. That’s pretty intense, don’t you think? Being honest and owning the fact that I do a good job perpetuating these thoughts and convictions I have about myself. Saying that wearing the old coat, as raunchy as it is, might be more comfortable than the new one.
I did more than fail. I gave up. I touched the corner of that coat and it was so luring, fleas and all. Once my fingers grazed the corner, all bets were off and I was done. I threw it over my shoulders and I didn’t even push hard anymore. I recreated my own story. I told myself that this coat is who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. I’m in it. I cried after. Because I was pissed. I cried because I want to incorporate all of these changes yesterday. I cried because I want to be my best-self but sometimes despite my best intentions, I get in my own way.
What is the most upsetting to me about all of this was that after my fiasco of a bike test, I posted on Facebook again. This time I wrote, “And the winner is … mental demons.” And then I added, “I hate my mother….” I hate my mother.
Can I tell you something? Writing that I hated my mother has bothered me for days. It feels worse than disclosing being sexually abused as a child. It feels so much worse. Not because I don’t hate my mother. I do. But because, what do I have to gain in that? What do I get out of investing energy in hating my mother? This is so important. It’s crucial that we don’t confuse this with acceptance or forgiveness. I’m not saying I want to forgive and I will never excuse, but what I am saying is that the moment I latched on to hating her, the moment I invested energy in the bad stuff, I took away from all that is good and all that is possible.
There are so many things in life we cannot control. So many. But what we can control, what we do have choice and power over, are our reactions and responses to these things. By telling myself that I hated my mother, I chose to lean in to all of these old bad feelings about myself. By writing it on Facebook I shared my complete rawness in this moment. Not my past but now. I showed us that in the middle of my bike test, when I could have made the decision to focus on myself — working hard, feeling powerful and succeeding, I chose to put the coat back on. I threw myself back into the past, into feeling bad instead of celebrating and living in all of the goodness that surround me now. I didn’t have to do that — that’s the key — I didn’t have to. Honestly, I could have turned away. But sometimes simply entertaining the idea, just feeling the familiarity of discomfort, makes it too hard to move towards the new and untold stories about ourselves. Stories that we can write right now. Amazing, honest, real stories.
When I’m being tested on my bike, when I’m alone and trying to claim something that’s just for me, discomfort feels scary and I fear it will never end. To hold that space open just long enough to catch a glimpse of something new is terrifying. What if I try so hard and I’m so uncomfortable and I still fail. Then what? Instead of waiting to find out, I put that nasty thing on fast and it felt better than pushing myself beyond my comfort zone for 20 minutes. Years of discomfort felt better than 20 minutes of it. Twenty minutes of possibility.
So what do I do with that? I tell you my truth. I own the reality that I did in fact choose to go down that path of familiarity. No qualms about it, the choice was mine. Not my mother’s. She wasn’t in the room telling me to put the coat on. I did. I’m a stickler for accountability. I own my life. I own my thoughts. It’s up to me now. Which way am I going to run with it? Which coat do I want to wear? The old one or the new one? Seems pretty obvious. It’s just going to take a lot of work. Which is, in fact why I am here, connecting with you. Take good care folks. Take really good care.