I think I’m going to start walking around everyday wearing a parachute on my back. I mean seriously, why not? You know, just go about my daily life with my pack on my back and the trusty ripcord at hands reach — clearly marked in bright red, ready to yank at any moment. I’d go to the grocery store, the bank, the bus stop, the coffee shop … I wonder if I could wear it to the gym? I’m certain I could run and bike with it on. Swimming might be a different story though. Maybe I could throw on some scuba gear and an oxygen mask before I hop into the pool. Yes! That’s it. I’ll wear those ginormous oxygen tanks on my back — the bigger the better — when I’m in the water and I’ll be all set. Air at the ready. Perfect! I’m so glad I sorted all of that out.
I think if I put some serious thought into it, I could probably accessorize these things quite well. I could sport those Moon Boots we wore in the ’80s. Maybe throw on some big(ger!) sunglasses, carry a jumbo size squirt bottle of Purell and attach a First Aid Kit to my belt loop with a carabiner and call it a day. Hey, I could even throw on a bike helmet. I spend more hours than you’d care to count wearing a bike helmet, so why not just wear it all of the time. Truth be told, I own 5 helmets. I know! Five. Do you think that’s too many? I mean it’s not like I can wear all five at the same time, but believe me, if I could, I would.
We could call me “Averting Disaster Girl!” If you needed me I could do my antigravity leaps on over to you with my fancy boots. Give you a hearty squirt of Purell, a big Band-Aid to plaster over your heart and if you were truly lucky, I’d let you borrow one of my helmets. Not my favorite one. That one will be securely fastened under my chin. Locked together with an extra strip of duct tape for good measure. You can never be too careful. I think I’d need to add another carabiner for the duct tape. That stuff is a lifesaver.
We spend so much of our lives trying to avert disasters anyway, why not just be openly prepared for them? Feeling crummy is just so awful and tiring and … well … painful. We do all sorts of things to avoid feeling bad. Much to my surprise, I’ve discovered that I’m not too good at avoiding feeling bad. I’m exceptionally good at noticing it right away and then panicking. What does my panic look like? It looks like me catching a whiff of vulnerability and allowing myself to be carried away by its luring scent.
I always call this shift from feeling good to feeling bad, spiraling down the toilet bowl. Imagine the swooooosh of the old fashioned toilet bowls where the water goes round and round and round like a tornado until the final descent down the pipe. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s not like the new toilets that sound like a loud explosion and forcefully flush everything down like an eruption; the ones that make my children afraid to use the public restrooms. No, not like that at all. It’s the slow and steady spin that gradually gathers its momentum and then follows with the final whoosh. Like the last gush of air propelling itself out of a balloon and leaving it petered out on the floor in a dust bunny. Just like the water, I’m gone. Down the bowl. Spinning in my painful descent down the vulnerably corkscrew.
The most interesting thing is that this disaster I am often fleeing from in my life now isn’t as earth-shattering and catastrophic as you might think, especially given my childhood. For me it’s all about being overwhelmed and feeling out of control. Since my life was incredibly out of control when I was a kid, little things that overwhelm me as an adult can feel HUGE. It just takes a few sequential events to leave me feeling overwhelmed; catapulting me into feeling frightened. The huge feelings I had to hold as a child trickle into my grown-up life when triggered. Feeling overwhelmed leaves me feeling terrified and afraid and very, very small.
I started this week off tired and that damn to-do list loomed in the forefront of my brain. I got sidelined with my daughter’s concussion last week. We travelled this weekend and being around extended family left me feeling outside of myself, in a weird deer-in-the-headlights sort of way. By the time my youngest got sick, I was just completely thrown off course. So I started my slow winding into vulnerability and feeling really bad about myself. When I do that I’m paralyzed and I can’t muster up the courage to do anything. I think it’s fear. I think it’s just plain fear that I’m trying to out run. Except I don’t run. I freeze.
The truth I’ve come to know about the duct tape and the parachutes is that I needed them as a kid. Desperately. I did all I could to keep myself together and if I am being kind and loving and generous with myself, I’d have to say I did a pretty darn good job. Somehow I found all of the rescue mechanisms to keep myself afloat and prevent myself from crashing. I established some really good safety plans for myself and in turn made some great choices in my life. The first being, choosing healthy relationships and marrying my husband.
I’m learning more and more that I truly don’t need to go there anymore — this feeling small and scared and unsafe. Arming myself in my “Averting Disaster Girl” gear. And the key thing that I’m seriously beginning to wonder is this: Maybe most grown-ups are walking around feeling afraid a good portion of the time. Maybe we all have our parachutes and duct tape but we’ve just learned how to hide them with some pretty awesome camouflage. Maybe it’s not just me.
Perhaps more than anything, I’ve recently come to know is that my rescue gear isn’t about tape and Band-Aids or parachutes and oxygen tanks. It’s about people. It is about surrounding myself with amazing, honest, real people who are working their asses off to be the best they can possibly be in the world. It’s hanging out with good friends who laugh at themselves and each other, who have the honesty to say, “Yes, life is hard, but it’s beautiful too and I’m not going down without a fight. I’m not going down without fully living!” I think the ripcord isn’t a cord at all, I think it’s a connection to other people. It’s being in the company of people who talk about their own human-ness in one breath and switch to a conversation about their children and being a mindful, honest parent in the next. It’s about sharing our vulnerability and being real together instead of afraid and alone.
Averting disaster now isn’t about holding myself together alone with my armory. It’s about all of the people that I get to choose to surround myself with now. My husband, my children, my dear friends, my incredible neighbor, my inspiring teammates, my acupuncturist, my therapist, my brother and his wife, my aunt and my grandparents. You. All of you. You’re my duct tape. It’s not stuff, it’s people. The people I’ve dared to let in and be close to despite being terrified of people. Knowing I’m an adult and that I get to choose. I get to say yes if I want to and no if I don’t. It’s people who throw me the life-line and say, “You don’t need the ripcord, baby! You are okay! And if you don’t feel like you are, well take off the damn helmet and sunglasses and open your eyes. Grab a hand. I’ve got you. I’ve got you!”
I thank the universe and all of it’s graces that you do have me, because you know what? Being “Averting Disaster Girl” sure takes a hell of a lot of work and I’d really rather not do it alone. Thank you for being my parachute. And just one last thing before I close — if anyone out there knows where to get some Moon Boots, I’d love a pair. They’d make me smile and ground me when the toilet bowl starts whirling and I find myself feeling like I want to disappear and float away. I’m a size 6.
Take good care!