Anyone else been feeling it lately?
I’ve been waking up in the night wrestling with fear – my least favorite feel. It’s the usual suspects: money, livelihood, housing, Trump. Nothing seems settled. Nothing seems sure. In these moments it’s like I’m on a flimsy inflatable pool raft (bought on sale at the local CVS), floating in the middle of a dark, formidable and very deep ocean. There is no one around. It’s nighttime. How will small frantic me ever get back to the sunny, inhabited shore? There’s not even a paddle.
Usually, when fear arises I do one of three things:
1) Reach for my cell phone and confirm the worst by reading about the antics of the incoming president and/or assessing my bank balance (side note, why do I do this?)
2) Try to lull myself back to sleep by imagining there’s someone reassuring by my side rubbing my back and telling me it will all be o.k. “I mean, isn’t it always?” this imaginary person says, followed with an emphatic, “I love, you.”
3) Frantically start doing things (aka making lists) to prepare for the impending chaos that most certainly lies ahead.
Lately, I’ve been playing with a fourth option – doing nothing at all, and by this I mean, get out of bed, sit on the floor, and feel my body breathing.
There’s something about physically removing myself from the lonely raft of my bed, feeling the carpet under my feet and eventually the consistent inhalation and exhalation of my breath that helps to slowly lift the fog of fear. I see that I am here in my room. I am o.k. These things that seem imminent have not happened. Maybe they never will.
This does not mean that while I’m sitting on the floor at 3 a.m. my head is not spinning with thoughts of the million things. Shoulds and coulds inevitably start forming. Mental lists populate rapidly. Sometimes I’m so called by a “brilliant idea” that I jump up to write it down immediately before it slips away. Surprisingly, these epiphanies are rarely useful two or three days down the road.
Sometimes though, in the stillness of sitting on my floor when most of the world is dreaming, something useful does arrive. This something is deep and knowing and it rarely looks like a could, should or list. Far more often it’s more like a duh idea – simple and obvious. There’s no need to write it down.
This week, amid the swirling and turbulence of my inner landscape and the impending doom of an idiot in the White House, I realized, I CAN’T DO THIS ALONE. WE CAN’T DO THIS ALONE. Whatever we want to create, whatever we hope to achieve does not happen without the supporting hands of a never-ending invisible network of people working toward the same goal. In fact, this ridiculous idea that we are alone; that we must do it all alone; that we are separate; is at the root of all our suffering.
As a practicing Buddhist, hadn’t I heard this a million, trillion times? Yes, but when things were seemingly going just fine, this was a kind but unnecessary consideration. Now, looking down the barrel of so much uncertainty, a belief in a supportive network has become absolutely necessary for staying afloat.
For anyone else who might sometimes feel like they’re floating on a dark and lonely sea, what if you specifically cultivated a network to help you paddle? That’s what I’m going to do. I look at it like this, if I were a business owner wouldn’t I expect to build an advisory board to help me bring my dreams to reality? Why not do this in our personal lives at this critical time? When I falter or have questions or feel overwhelmed, these are the people who I can call on to remind me of the big picture.
The good news is, many of these people already exist in our lives. They are our friends, our teachers, those we secretly admire. Now I’m making the advisory board relationship concrete by asking specific individuals to be part of my network and outlining the why and what. So far, two people have said, “it’d be a delight to join you on your precarious pink raft.” Well, not exactly, but ya know.
I believe the world is in a critical state because we’re all being challenged to come together.
We must ask for help
Strength comes from the vulnerability of admitting our weaknesses
When we let go, support from others can arrive to make big shit happen.
May it be so. XO