My daughter and I were in the car, heading home after school. Outside, January’s snow did its typical silent falling, dampening all the usual sounds --tires slapping, crows cawing, construction clanking, sirens screaming. Inside, the little Honda’s seat-warmers (so thankful I fought for those) served as a calming balance to the escalating anxiety pressing outward against the windows.
What was the cause of so much stress? School! My poor, sweet kiddo was experiencing the overwhelm I remembered feeling in college days and graduate school. Even if you didn’t do college, just LIFE has almost certainly put you in those shoes. Remember? That alarm you felt when you had so many assignments and meetings and commitments all pressing toward a hollering, brittle deadline?
Her despondency caused me to remember my old strategy for self-soothing. It was some version of the following idea, repeated like a mantra:
“I don’t quit. I don’t fail to hand in assignments. I don’t hand things in late. I don’t do shoddy work. And since I know all that to be true about myself, then I just have to trust that SOMEHOW, all this crap is going to get done by the deadline. And then, it’ll all be behind me!”
That little pep-talk got me all the way through my Master’s degree while teaching full time and raising kids. In fact, it did more than that: it was the catalyst for a calm, knowing kind of energy. I’d be gently curious and quietly trusting about the ideas I just knew I was going to generate to make it happen, the actions I knew I was going to take that I hadn’t thought of yet.
Why did I forget that little self-soothing strategy? It was so useful --almost magic!
I think I know why I forgot it. (Lately, I’ve had the idea that our core muscles and organs know and store all the answers to questions like these, if only we’d hush up, stop judging, and listen!). I forgot it because it required courage, and courage requires a base-level of self-trust, a foundational confidence that I had lost somewhere along the way, for reasons that are probably sitting in the weakened folds of my pelvic floor.
For that idea to be soothing, a sister has to believe in herself and trust that the universe will part the waters, that her brain will open up and think of something, her focus will gather itself and find its target in precisely the way required, all just because she decided it must be so. It sounds like magical thinking, but it isn’t. It’s a core alignment with decisive energy, like childbirth. Childbirth is a lot easier if a sister doesn’t fight it. The result - the baby - is (usually) a desired outcome, but the effort is so uniquely painful that it’s much easier to say the irrational no thank you. Just kidding. I don’t want this after all. And then the realization that there is “no way out but through” is a horrifying punch in the diaphragm! If a sister doesn’t, at that point, gather herself, DECIDE to roll forward, and point her energy in the direction of birthing, she is going to seriously suffer (I know from first hand experience!).
So this week, the learning I have to offer is really a remembering of lost wisdom. It’s probably wisdom you have too, if you sit quietly and consult your guts. Is there some place you need to get to, using a road not yet built? There is for me. It’s making $100k this year. So let’s believe together, since - like we talked about last week - there’s no upside to NOT believing. Let’s trust that since we have decided deliberately to generate forward momentum,we can also figure out a way to build and direct it with precision.
We will trust the waters to part.
We will trust our imaginations to open.
We will gather up our focus, and...
Simply choose to believe that SOMEHOW, the path will materialize. It will show up in the form of ideas we haven’t thought of yet, which we will try out, and whose outcomes we will learn from in order to direct new ideas. And we’ll be calmly amazed as it happens. We’ll say to ourselves, Oh, THAT’S how I’m going to take the next step! Brilliant! And we’ll move forward. Even if we faceplant! At least when we faceplant, we’re not falling backwards! Get up, sisters! You got YOU, and not deciding that there will be a way is hitting the back of your head on a rock that's behind you.
Self Soothe, Find a Way, and Go Forward!