self-care

Shadow v. The Light

The shadow is my constant companion.  We are connected at the “sole.”  We are together on this journey called life.  My shadow warps and changes shape in response to the light.  She may grow as long as a tree or seem to disappear beneath my feet.  But nonetheless we are tethered whether I like it or not.

We all have a shadow side. So why do we collectively try to snuff out the darker parts of ourselves?  My shadow is forever patient and steady.  I may ignore her and go about my day or pretend she’s not there and distract myself from her message.  She is ready even when I am not.

What is the light?  It’s who I project myself to be.  It’s my high points, my bright genius side.  I can wrap the light around me like a blanket or hold it close like a soothing cup of tea.  I am held in its warm embrace.

But sometimes the light is too much.  Blinding even and I fear I will lose my footing on the path.  My shadow will always guide me back, shield my eyes, and give me that necessary reprieve to regroup.  The shadow is my retreat from the spotlight.

We need both the light and the shadow.  We can’t have a shadow side without a lighter one.  And we need not fear one and idealize the other.  They can both peacefully coexist with equanimity.  And we can collectively accept both sides of the same coin, us.

self-care

This is where Doubt lives

Doubt is where the real inner work resides.  We can take a breather, examine what’s worked, what lies underneath the surface, and uncover old fears and wounds.  This is where Doubt lives.  It makes us feel small and inconsequential.  It belittles our triumphs as not a big deal or just a coincidence, chance or dumb luck.  Not true.

What do we do when Doubt creeps in?  Do we run and hide and choose  not face what’s blocking our path?

Playing safe = playing small.

It’s our duty to share our gifts with the world:  Our talents, our skillset, our voice, our words, our stories are desperately needed.

How can we overcome Doubt?

We can journal the uncomfortable feelings.  Process our thoughts into words on the page.  Or stop and simply get outside and take a walk in nature or do some other movement.

How do we get still and ready to confront Doubt?

My favorite is to sit still and do a visualization with Doubt.  Ask Doubt what is she trying to protect us from?  Imagine Doubt is an unexpected guest that needs tending and attention.  Make a cup of tea.  Help Doubt take off her wet raincoat and dry by the fire.  Hand Doubt the warm mug.  Start gently, where you are.  Try not to get caught up in a shouting and pushing match.  Accept Doubt.  Listen calmly and openly to all the concerns and potential threats.  See them as outside yourself.  They are not your truth or your story or what will happen.  There are no guarantees.

Assure Doubt that you are okay.  You are strong.  You are capable.  You are ready to take the next bold step.  That with uncertainty can come greatness, joy, and a life beyond imagination.  Sit in silence together, sipping the warm tea that never seems to cool until the last drop is gone.  Thank Doubt for her words and say goodbye.

What’s the payoff for playing small?  It provides a safety net in a world that seems wrought with violence and fear.  Doubt is natural and almost like reflexive, protective posturing.  However, please remember that your dream, your talents, skills, story, words, and energy are not threatening.

When I sit with Doubt I uncover some more:  FEAR.  Fear of being vulnerable, being open to criticism or possible judgment.  Or possibly overcoming Doubt will spark a movement, create momentum for inner growth and shared experience, and provide an accepting environment and community where we can all thrive and not only merely survive.

 

self-care

I’m tired of living in fear

We are all connected.  And the speed of information has advanced our society into a global community.  You want to learn about X?  What does Google say?  Information is literally at your fingertips if you happen to own a smartphone.  And knowledge is power.

Even though my family got rid of cable years ago, we still have access to the news from our phones and apps on our TV console. I love that we can choose what to watch when we want to.  But we do channel surf through YouTube and you can’t escape the collective fear that is ever present.  The recent tragic events and acts of violence have pulled at my heart.

I love working in Providence. It’s a city rich in history and I’m proud to be a native Rhode Islander.  It’s a beautiful city to walk around:  the Brown University campus, the financial and downtown districts, and historic Benefit Street.  But I’m tired of living in fear.  If a car comes racing by or a strange box truck is around, I tense up and anxiety takes control.  My leisurely walk is interrupted and I’m terrified for a moment, especially if I’m around city hall or a federal building.  It never used to be this way.  Fear never played such a prominent role.  I started working full-time a little over a year ago.  And I loved the city.  I drank in the architecture, the people on their way to work, students walking to class, and the waterfront.  It was a welcome sight.

But over these last few months, the anxiety has been building. Yesterday as I was walking to the parking garage, a box truck stopped right in the middle of the street and began to back up.  Normally this wouldn’t have been an issue.  There’s construction everywhere and the street was a one-way.  But the truck seemed to be backing up and keeping  in pace with me as I walked.  Cars behind the truck began to honk, and it seemed like the truck was going to back up regardless of traffic.  This odd behavior made my anxiety soar.  I started to run, and all I could hear was the incessant “beep, beep, beep” as it continued to reverse.  I had the worst panic attack.  I feared it was going to blow up right then and there next to the financial district.  I had visions of me getting into the garage on the fifth floor and being toppled over by the above floors during the explosion.  I couldn’t wait to get out of that garage.

Once I got behind the wheel and started to exit, I shouted, “I’m tired of being afraid! I’m tired of living in fear!  I’m tired of freaking out over a truck!  I just want to be able to walk in peace without feeling terrorized!”

I don’t have an answer during these crippling moments. I just try to deepen my breath.  I remind myself that meditation helps ground me and I should meditate more and journal more.  Events will happen that are beyond my control.  And one thing I can control is my breath.

How do you bring calm when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed?