When the Message is More Important than the Bullshit

I’m worried about phrasing things the best way. I’m worried about what I look like. I’m worried about what they will think of me. I’m worried about whether I’m going to fall, choke, or pass out from forgetting to breathe while mumbling on nervously in front of the crowd.

These are the thoughts and worries that always torment my mind before public speaking. This is why I’m sweating and shaking.

This time, just an hour before my presentation, I have a thought that changes everything. A redirection and refocus of my mind that makes everything shift. Like most thoughts in my mind, it comes out as a conversation with myself.

Why are you here?

My message.

Do you believe in your message?

Fuck yes.

I’m here to deliver a message I deeply believe in. I’m here in service of that message. When I really think about – this is not even about me. It’s about the audience receiving the message. They aren’t here to judge my speaking ability or to see how I look. This isn’t Toastmasters or a beauty pageant. They are here to hear the message I have to deliver. All I am is a messenger, a tool to get my message out in the world. The reason people show up to see speakers is because of what’s written under the topic line – not the name (unless of course, it’s someone they had previously heard a message from that they valued, and expect more valuable messages based on that).

The focus on my message was an instant shift in my whole mindset. I wasn’t focused on myself anymore. I was focused on the audience getting the most out of this, the message coming through clear and powerfully. It mattered a lot less that I was nervous, that I feared speaking in front of the crowd. I was anchored to why I was doing it, and committed to serve my message.

I might have a hard time believing in my ability to do public speaking – but I don’t have a hard time believing in my message.

When the message is what matters, all the other bullshit is meaningless. Who cares that I’m afraid or don’t feel ready to do this? What matters is that I get out there and do my best to deliver the message. Because it’s important.

And the happy consequence of concentrating my energy on the message? I actually became less fearful, cared less about possible judgment, and was able to speak slowly and clearly. The focus wasn’t on me, and having the focus off of me allowed me to deliver the message even better.

As the speaker, you need to be sure you are delivering a message that matters to you. I had someone recently ask me how I decide which topics to focus on for my workshops. There is no research marketing involved here – it’s purely based on what excites me, what I am passionate about, and what I believe I have to offer others. I’m not trying to create messages that I find out that people want to hear – I’m tuning in to which messages I truly, whole-heartedly believe in, and develop workshops around those. Once the message is figured out, it’s no longer about you. It’s about the audience.

Understanding on a whole new level just how much this is about my message (and NOT me) has given me the room to explore what other ways I can rise up to meet it. What other ways could this message be served? Instead of focusing on what I think I can do with my current abilities or what I feel ready to do – I’m moving past that and asking, What does the message demand? I believe in my message. I believe in my purpose of delivering these messages. Whatever I have to do to serve it, well, I will figure out how to do all those things along the way. I’m sure I will fail. In many ways. But I know I will do a lot more to serve my message by trying to fly before I’m “ready” than I ever will by planning out the best flight course.

Taking Back Control

Related image

One happy consequence of having a profession in self-development and wellness is that you are constantly focusing on it and you are hyper-aware of what you are doing/not doing in your own life. I’m dedicated to not just speak this stuff – I want to walk the walk, dance the dance, and climb the climb. Which makes it pretty near impossible to not notice or hold yourself accountable when you aren’t doing so.

When I was preparing for my presentation for Engineers Nova Scotia on “How to Protect Your Life from your Smartphone”, I was made acutely aware of all these tidbits and strategies that I was not yet applying to my own life. In particular, the ideas of only checking email twice per day (at set times) and turning off notifications so your day and attention isn’t constantly taken away to attend to incoming messages, texts, emails, etc. I was completely guilty of reading things as soon as they came in, and often feeling an urge to respond right away. I could tell it was contributing to a feeling of overwhelm and being less mindful – constantly checking my phone. It’s not the way I want to feel and it isn’t helpful to my productivity. Realizing this great advice I was giving the Engineers – I figured I better eat my own words here.

So I started an experiment. And, like many other things I try, I like to try it on a level that is a bit over the top (or I should say feels over the top) because it excites/interests me more and in turn motivates me more to actually do it. So, I went ahead and changed my email signature to inform everyone the limits of contact with email and to provide a phone number for urgent matters. I turned off all my notifications on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Text Messages, and Email. Not only do they not make noise, they don’t pop up, and they don’t even show me a little number in the corner of the app of how many notifications are waiting for me.

It was weird at first. It was hard not to check my phone more often. I found myself having conversations and negotiations with myself. “Well, if you check your email now, you won’t be able to do it again this evening” and found myself responding with “okay, yeah.. I’d rather do emails when I have more time tonight at home”. It’s a funny process to be in inside your head – but what it really means is that I was making more intentional choices about my time and choosing the most productive choice.

What I found with this experiment? More calm. More peace. Less temptation. Even though I knew the notifications were off – it still wasn’t as tempting without that little number taunting me about how many new things are waiting. It was calming not to be interrupted with vibrations and beeps, and looking at my phone for the time became just that – because when I looked for the time that is just what I saw – not messages or email pop-ups.

It gave me my power back. I now have control when I attend to things. If I choose to dedicate time to email – then I am intentionally checking and answering email. Once I’m done, I’m done and I can move on to something else productive.

It also lessens the expectation others have on my response time, and the guilt I might feel for not getting back, because I have set up the expectation prior to the emails or messages coming in. The expectation is in my email signature, and as for friends and family – I let them know of my plan and that if they need me urgently to please call (I have it set to let phone calls come through from anyone on my contacts list, or any repeated calls). 

It has allowed me the space to be even more intentional with my day, and to have the quiet focus where calm and creativity thrive. My experiment has now turned into a habit, and there’s no way I’m going back. Sometimes I struggle with it (usually when I’m engaged with avoidance behaviours and not engaged in valuable things – phones are amazing avoidance-aids) but most of the time it’s just giving me all these amazing gifts. More control and power over my life, more productivity, more calm, and more freedom.

I encourage you all to examine your relationship with your phone (emails, messages) etc. Are they interfering? Would you be willing to see what it’s like without a constant flow of these things to see if it would add value in your life? Will you experience the same benefits as I have? I don’t want you to take my word for it – turn off your notifications and see for yourself! 😉

Every action we take to create space so that we can respond instead of react – gets our minds out of “stressed/reaction” mode and into “calm/collected/mindful” mode. And couldn’t we all use some more time in calm mindful mode?


Grounded and Reaching

The two principles that guide my life now. Grounded and Reaching. Staying grounded in who I am, my strength, my worth, my purpose. Finding strength and calm in connecting with myself, nature, tribe. Reaching; constantly pushing myself to grow and learn and go after my dreams. Reaching – not an aimless wish, but an intentional reach for the meaningful and worthwhile. Constantly adapting. Going out on limbs, rooted in my values.

I decided I wanted a tree with such clarity I cannot even explain it. A mighty oak. Wisdom. Courage. Power. Truth. Bravery. Enduring Strength. Completely in love as soon as it came to me. I knew it was right because it felt so right. I just knew. I was so sure of it, I was immediately ready to bet my skin on it.

Now, when it came to actually getting it done I was a bit anxious. Excited and anxious, an awesome combination of overloaded limbic system :P. I was worried about the pain – my last (only) tattoo having only taken ten minutes max (and therefore not that painful) I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle a bigger tattoo. I found myself approaching it with the same method I approach all challenges now. Mindfully taking slow breaths and staying focused on the reason why it’s worth it (which in this case involves nervously yammering on and on to the tattoo artist about why I love trees and then being deemed a tree molester). The tattoo did fucking hurt. But I’m tough. And even more important than that – it was worth it.

When it’s worth it, when it means something to you, it really doesn’t matter how hard it is. What matters is that you do it. It’s nice of course when you can feel pretty good while doing the meaningful things. And don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite strategies are those that help calm my body and mind so I can feel more grounded while I reach further. However, in my opinion (and that of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) the most important factor is that you just do it. You don’t stay stuck because you’re uncomfortable making changes or you feel anxious. You don’t wait until you get rid of those doubts or fears, you do what matters because it matters. You live your life regardless of what passengers are on your bus. You stop the tug of war hold that those fears have on you – you drop the rope and get on with it.

It was funny to me when the tattoo artist called it an upside down tree. I honestly thought he didn’t understand my vision correctly at first. The thought that it would look like it was upside down hadn’t even crossed my mind. And that makes me even happier. Because it’s my tree. It’s for me. The fact that it looks upside down to the rest of the world is irrelevant. I got this tree so I can see it and anchor to it. And that fact alone feels like an achievement in my self-love and worthiness mission.

I am in love with my tree. It feels amazing to have this visual reminder of my wisdom, my courage, my power. Living my truth – bravely. My enduring strength. This week is great timing as I venture into new territory of life coaching with public speaking, hosting new workshops, participating in an expo, and starting at a new clinic. My tree will act as an anchor. Reminding me throughout the uncomfortableness (and let’s be realistic- pure panic) of pushing outside my comfort zone – my driving principles – Grounded and Reaching.

Cheating on the Moon

Identity is a funny thing. We get so hung up on certain beliefs about ourselves – we grasp them like an ultimate truth that is so concrete it makes up who we are. And why is this? It’s because we really like to know ourselves. We like thinking we know who we are, what we’re about and what we like – because the idea that the dreaded uncertainty has leaked into our own identity is terrifying. We’d rather know who we are and be unhappy about those things, than to be in a state of “fuck knows” when it comes to our most personal of spaces – our identity.

I’ve been experimenting this past week with going to early morning yoga classes. Now, as most of you have probably picked up with my posts (particularly if you notice what time I post them at!)I’m a die hard night owl. I am absolutely in love with the moon; I stay up late and write, I’m productive with business at night, and I simply find my soul fed under the stars. Consequently, I’ve also defined myself as a morning hater. I despise mornings – it’s what I’ve always said.

Yet, this week I found myself getting up at 5am to go to yoga – and I (gasp) loved it.

But wow was I ever resistant! Not to the idea of trying it, but accepting the fact that I actually enjoyed it.  It felt like I was cheating on the moon. The blasphemy of having a love affair with the sunrise. As if admitting I liked the early morning, I would no longer be able to call myself something I’ve claimed vital to who I am (night owl). Something as simple as feeling happy sipping my morning coffee while reading my book (after already sweating my ass off on the mat, meditating in the car, and getting some work done – and it still only being 10am) was rocking my world. It felt so wrong. I found myself not even wanting to keep doing it because the more I did it the more the enjoyment grew, and if I leaned into loving this, well then… who the fuck am I??!! Who is this stranger embracing morning whole-heartedly?!?! A stranger….cue stress response.

It’s funny when it comes to these seemingly little things, but even these things are hard for us to accept because it challenges the very ideas we hold about ourselves. In this crazy uncertain world, we expect to at the very least be able to be sure about who we are. And yet, that is really just another idea and belief we have to let go of if we want to grow.

Where you feel resistance most is where you should be leaning.

By resisting this new idea of enjoying mornings in favour of my presumed ideas that I was comfortable with, I was blocking possibilities of who I am, what I do, and what fulfills me.

I could see that I actually wanted to reject the good feelings with this experiment because it didn’t match my predetermined vision of who I was.

In the past I would let these beliefs be seen as pure truths and wouldn’t dare test them or question them. I was afraid of the unknown and found comfort in having myself all “sorted out” and fit perfectly into these well organized (yet highly dysfunctional) boxes. I held onto beliefs that blocked so many possibilities for myself and my life. I’m an anxious person. I need to sacrifice myself for others in order to be a good person. I’m inherently a bad person. I’m small and weak…and the list goes on.

These beliefs blocked me from growing, healing, and becoming who I was meant to be. And they were intensely reinforced because no matter how wrong or hurtful they were to my being, they were also the beliefs where I derived my worth. The more attached we are to beliefs, the more worth we derive from them. Even if it’s in a perverse weirdly upside down way.

Take for example the idea that “I need to sacrifice myself for others in order to be a good person”. Well, I did that constantly. I really wanted to become a good person. And deep down I held a lot of pride in the idea that I was being a good person by doing this. I was proud that, even especially when I was suffering, that I was still putting others first. That idea about myself and who I was, was providing me a way to feel worthy. And as long as you are tied to this type of belief (and the underlying belief that THIS BELIEF is what MAKES me WORTHY), the more impossible it will be to untie that knot.

If we tie our identity and worth into a belief, and following the rules of that belief, you can bet you’ll have a hell of a battle trying to let it go and probably never be quite successful – until you deal with the “worth issue”. It was when I was trying (and failing) to work on self-love that I realized I still had this belief, and got realistic about how it was serving me (it was the only way I had developed to feel like a worthy human). Pretty hard to embrace a belief of loving yourself and prioritizing your own needs, when it’s in direct conflict with your trusty how-to guide on “good personing” and “being worthy”. As much as I said I wanted to be a self-loving person, I couldn’t actually succeed until I let go of that belief and detached it from my identity.

Admitting and embracing not knowing yourself is a wonderfully, terrifying open space of infinite possibility. I imagine it like floating in space. How brave you have to be to be out there. How unsettling it feels. How overwhelming. How exciting. How liberating. You can’t even rely on a trusty concept like gravity. Who the fuck are you out there floating among the cosmos?

After seeing my resistance to mornings as what it was – a mini identity crisis – I was able to check myself. I was able to see it clearly, and choose to embrace what’s there without holding on to my preconceived notions of who I am. By doing this, I opened myself to possibilities.

What ideas about ourselves do we have tangled in our identities?

What are the possibilities that are being blocked?

As an “anti-morning person” I’ve been blocking the possibility of enjoyment, finding appreciation and love for a whole other portion of the day and more fulfillment in life. I blocked experiences of pleasure, productivity, serenity.

I am still a night owl, but now I see that I am also a morning person (I’m just not a get up in the morning to sit in traffic and go to an office person :P) I don’t have to reject the night owl because I love early mornings now. I made the assumption that by being a night owl I had to hate mornings. Now I reject the black and white, the ever-limiting either-or. And, I have gained a clearer vision of what it is I love – quiet, peace, serenity, un-rushed time to myself doing things I love.

Allowing myself to loosen my grip on defining myself as “anti-morning”, I’ve come to love life in a whole new light (quite literally).

Are You Ready?

There’s this idea society has adopted that in order to be “ready” for something, we must be sure we have all the knowledge, strength, and skill needed to accomplish what we’re going forward to do.

This notion of “being ready” equating to not being able to fail is simply bullshit. We are stagnating ourselves from making changes, transforming our lives, taking risks, going after what we really want, because we just aren’t ready (and we never truly feel that we are) when we define “ready” in this sense. How could you ever feel confident in succeeding in something you’ve never done? 

And sure, when it comes to packing a suitcase for a trip or studying for a test, this idea of being able to adequately prepare and feel like you will succeed may be something worth striving for before doing the thing. But when it comes to making changes in your life, this idea that we should feel confident in our success BEFORE even attempting to do it is ludicrous, and it’s keeping us stuck.

If we all wait until we FEEL ready and invincible, we will never have the lives we really want. We will never know what’s possible. We will never experience what life really has to offer.

Because we’ll just be standing backstage, waiting for our nerves to calm down or to master every step. And the difference between the one shaking backstage and the dancers on stage isn’t how ready or confident they FEEL – it’s how COURAGEOUS they are choosing to be DESPITE their feelings.

Fuck ready – You need to get out there and dance.

The whole idea of “being ready” seems a bit like wishful thinking anyway – and clearly hindering when it comes to personal/professional growth. So that’s why I challenge this idea of “ready” and encourage you all to chuck it out and replace it with the following..

  • Do you know why you want/need to do this thing?
  • Are you clear on the value you are pursuing in this venture?
  • Are you uncomfortable enough in your present state to make a change?
  • Is the idea of not trying appalling to you? (Perhaps even worse than the idea of trying it and failing?)
  • Do you wish that you were smarter/more skilled/more confident/more fit/more SOMETHING before doing this thing?
  • Do you worry that you aren’t good enough to do this thing? Perhaps thinking, “who do you think you are?!” 
  • Are you scared that it will all blow up in your face?

Great!  Then consider yourself READY.

Because that is what ready really looks like. People who take the risks and go after what they want are not sitting there thinking they are perfect and 100% confident they’ve got this. They are going for it, despite the fears and doubts and wishes that they could be perfect before even beginning. They are fed up where they are and ready to make the leap because staying where they are and not pursuing this venture is more painful than the idea of falling.

Next time you’re debating making a change and you’re asking yourself “Am I really ready for this?” Don’t ask, “Can I DO this?”, ask yourself, “Can I NOT?”.

Stop waiting to be READY – just GET SET and GO.

One Choice.

I can’t be detached and invested at the same time. So it’s time to stop beating myself up for not being able to do what (when laid out like that) seems pretty much impossible anyway. Besides, when I reflect on this, there is no choice here. I mean, of course there is. But when I fight with myself over the options and try to bargain and plead my way to justify detachment – it’s pretty clear that there is only one thing I can do authentically, and for now, that is to invest. As long as that is true, there is no choice.

My only choice lies in my choice to live my values. If I decide to follow my values and live authentically – then there’s really no battle here. Not in choosing anyway, perhaps a battle of acceptance. Accepting all the stuff that comes with choosing my values.

It helps me to look at why I’m choosing it. It’s not that I’m choosing the pain and heartache per se- I am choosing to live authentically. I am choosing to live my values, even when it hurts. Even when it’s the hardest thing to do. Because it matters that much to me. So, in turn I am in fact choosing the heartache, the pain, the difficulty. I am choosing to actively ignore the fear-based messages in my head; the urge to hide, or run like hell. I’m choosing to accept that this is part of it.

When it comes down to it – authenticity, connection, and vulnerability mean more to me than any of that other shit. As shitty as it gets.

If I go down, I want to go down clinging to my values so tightly that I face-plant. Because as much as that will hurt, it will be the best way to get hurt. I’ll be proud of how hard I fell (at least deep down).  There’s no question if such a fall would kill me. My resilience is unshakable at this point; I will rise again – no matter how hard the fall. And if my history has taught me anything, I’d actually rise even stronger.

Reminding myself of what I’m choosing and why I’m choosing it helps me regain my footing. I’ve been spending some time reminding myself of who I am lately, to anchor to my strength and what I’m all about. It helps me see clearly about why it’s important to make this choice, and accept the consequences of that choice (or at least try not to fight with them).

It quiets the battle in my head about what I should/shouldn’t do when I am hurting. When we’re in pain it’s easy to get stuck on the idea that you need to take action (like hide, run, or fight back). And yet, it’s not always the truth. “Not everything that hurts is harmful.” (Dr. E.A. Wilson). And in this case, I need to focus on acceptance and sitting in the feelings without trying to get rid of them or protect myself from the pain. Feeling the pain is actually proof that I’m doing good by me – I am sticking to my values and who I am. When put that way, it’s a hell of a lot easier to accept.

I’ve been anchoring to my dragon-self by using visuals, writing, meditating, and reading books that focus on my values. I was at the buskers festival yesterday and there was a beautiful creative soul offering her gift of poetry (The Spontaneous Prose Store @Pseuodonymsays). You pick the topic and she writes you a poem. Right there, on a typewriter. I asked her for a poem about a girl who is a dragon – and explained I had a blog called “mindful dragon”. This is what she gave me. It’s so beautiful it melts me every time I read it, and I can’t help but keep reading it over and over. I cannot thank her enough for this beautiful gift.

One choice.

Make the choice. Own the choice. Accept the consequences of that choice (even if you don’t like them). Anchor to the you who made that choice. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. Be proud. Be strong. Be a fucking dragon.

Share Tactics

I’ve been doing a lot of real life practicing and I must say, I’m getting much better at sharing my most vulnerable thoughts and feelings – even when it makes me want to fold in on myself until I disappear. A lot of times it has been valuable; builds me up, fosters connection, and makes me feel stronger. However; at other times, I have found it reinforces my insecurities and makes my fears louder.

When I feel hurt and burned from my efforts to share, it is pretty clear that I need to continue working on my self-worth. I need to be able to hold onto my worth, remind myself of the importance of following my values of authenticity and vulnerability, and hold myself in compassion and being proud for doing so -regardless of the outcome. Too often when I get burned (even a little bit) after I dare to share, my go-to is to beat myself up and judge the decision to be vulnerable as a mistake. In fact, I usually declare quite dramatically, “Fuck Vulnerability!” when I’m bringing out my star defensive player (detachment). Clearly, this is the opposite of what I stand for. But in those moments of pain I struggle with what I know because following what I know just lead me to feel so badly. By holding onto my values and self-worth with a little more muster through these not-so-ideal experiences, I could allow myself to feel the hurt of what happened without using it to “mean” something (like per se, that I’m shit and all my values are shit). I would be able to hold my own safety even when (it feels like) I’m being rejected, and not feel compelled to run away in fear.

Sometimes getting hurt is just the name of the game and I get that. I’m not happy about it, but I understand it’s the risk. Falling off branches is no fun, but going out on the limb is worth the risk. I accept that. Now maybe I should record that to play back to myself as evidence when I’m spewing anti-vulnerability propaganda, because in that mind-space it certainly doesn’t feel like I believe or accept that. Though deep down, even in those moments, I know I’m just reacting out of hurt and having a temper-tantrum in response to the pain. Growth pains from this new way of being. The wonderfully painful experience of living whole-heartedly – totally sucks but totally worth it. The pain of being truly connected. Connected to your feelings and to others. A pretty big deal; certainly not something worth throwing away over a bit of heartache.

So sometimes this is the case. You will get hurt. Not because of how someone responds, but unfortunately, because the truth itself is painful. Reality can really sting.

Other times the pain comes from the response I receive, and what I’m starting to realize is that I need to own that. At least partly.

I can wish all day long that the person I’m sharing with will understand what I need and respond with just that – but that’s extremely unreasonable to expect from them and it’s not a very dependable way to get my needs met. 

What I need to do is ASK for what it is I need from them – sharing is not enough. Even if sharing and being heard is all I want, I need to clarify that. I need to be specific about what support I want from them and/or what I need them not to do (offer advice, for example). 

We will avoid a lot of pain if we learn to practice these share-tactics. Instead of leaving it up to chance or hoping others can mind-read, we must take ownership over meeting our needs. We cannot control how someone will react to us – that part we don’t have to (or get to) own. What we do have to own is our ASK. When we share something vulnerable, we can ask for what we need in return. Instead of just blurting something out and hoping (or better yet, not even realizing we needed anything until we get a response we aren’t happy with); we can take the time to identify WHY we are sharing and what we NEED from the person we are sharing with — and then tack this information onto the end of our ‘show and tell’ presentation.

It could sound like this…. “I am struggling with feelings of insecurity right now and feeling very vulnerable. I felt it was important to share with you because I want to be open about what I’m feeling. What I need from you is to show compassion that I’m feeling this way, and to allow me the space to work through these feelings without judging me for having them.”

Just noticing how long it took me to write out that example is a good indication of how much practice I need in this. It’s a lot to take on – being able to identify what you really need can be difficult in itself, and then figuring out how to ask for it is tricky – let alone finding the courage to actually do it!

As Brene Brown discusses in her presentation on The Anatomy of TrustASKING for help and what we need is an act of building trust. When we are willing and able to ask for help, we become more trustworthy. People trust people more when they know that they will ask for what they need. So you aren’t just helping to fill your needs; you are building stronger, more trustworthy relationships and allowing others to be able to have more trust in you. And hence, more trust that they can ask you for what they need without judgement.

By taking responsibility for identifying and asking for what we need, we will not only be serving ourselves better, we will doing those around us a big favour. Taking care of ourselves and taking responsibility for meeting our own needs is one of the best gift we can give to others.

The Filter That Turns My Lemonade Into Lemons

Elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, racing mind, and tingling energy through my body. Is this an anxiety attack…..or am I just excited? It’s been noted that the difference between anxiety and excitement relies on the filter we apply. This could not be more true for me. Even the exact same thing can result in an anxiety attack or a really fun time, simply depending on what mind frame I’m in. It’s frustrating when I notice these sensations – most often for me associated with anxiety- when I’m simply looking forward to something. Since anxiety in my history has caused me such grief, I jump to apply the “anxiety filter” on what I’m experiencing, even when it’s just a good thing. Because I associate those feelings and body sensations with panic attacks they quickly get labeled as “bad” and I start reacting to the potential threat of panic, instead of noticing what else those sensations might be about.

Thankfully all the awareness and knowledge I’ve gained over the last few years has taught me that those anxious feelings don’t have to be something to be feared (even when it’s about being afraid) and that I can observe them and use tools and strategies that will help lessen the discomfort and allow me to continue on my normal life. So there’s the fact that the anxiety response isn’t as horrifying as it used to be, and certainly not something that stops me in my tracks. That alone you’d think would help lessen the automatic judgment my brain makes on all of those body sensations – but for this time is not on my side (relatively) and I know I need to be patient as I’m competing with neural pathways that have a long solid history. I have also been able to bring awareness to the similarities of anxious feelings and excitement, which has opened up a new curiosity and provided me this chance to re-wire my brain’s default.

And my fuck do I want to get in there with pliers and just rewire the crap out of it. Because, although I know what I know, it’s still very frustrating to have my mind screaming at me “Something is WRONG!!” when I’m simply getting pumped for something I’ve been looking forward to. In a dream world I’d love it if my default was “I must be excited!” even when I’m afraid- but I’ll be more than happy to settle with it not ruining my happy times.

The similarity between anxiety and excitement is really no surprise when you think about it. “You need to calm down!” being a typical thought we’d have about a child who’s trying to jump into our arms with a passing siren or when they’re bouncing off the walls on their birthday.

The Zones of Regulation identify both of these states, nervous and excited, as part of the yellow zone.

“The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions; however, one has some control when they are in the Yellow Zone.  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.”

What we can learn here is that we are heightened in this zone, no matter if the reason that triggered it is joy or fear. I think the similarity is often overlooked as we are quick to separate them into “good” and “bad”. I mean, I’ve already done it a few times in this post alone. And that comes down to how I want to feel. How I think I should feel. It’s like I believe that if it’s something that makes me happy and that I feel joy towards, then I should only have and experience good feelings along with that. However, it just doesn’t work that way; energy is energy and sometimes it just feels uncomfortable to be so energized.

But again, it can come back to our filter. If we choose to see this energy and elevation and increase body sensations in a positive light, then we will experience it as fun and exciting. If we take those sensations and see them in a negative light, then we will experience it as distressing.

The key here being that in order to choose a filter, we must observe the sensations non-judgmentally and bring awareness to our choice and what we want to do with the information we noticed. I’ve been able to apply this in a number of situations – especially those that are both terrifying and exciting – as I find it easier to be aware and mindful in situations where I anticipate my anxiety trying to take over. Because I know it’s going to come up, I am able to proactively change my filter and stay in observer stance while those sensations come up.

What seems to be most challenging for me is when I’m not anticipating it – i.e. the times I get excited about events/people/opportunities. I just don’t put them on the same level as those things I find distressing. And unfortunately for me, this is where my downfall is. Because, as those sensations come up and I get all deep into yellow zone without my awareness on par – my brain gets to choose its favourite filter (my neural expressway to panic-ville), and I’m sent into red zone wondering what I’m panicking about.

Perhaps if I viewed all the exciting things in my life as times to be just as alert as I am for the things that provoke panic, I’d be more able to choose a filter in the moment, instead of playing clean up crew to my already panicking mind. Even if I could do this a few times, and experience these sensations in a new light, it may help me to be curious when they show up – and avoid the instant dread.

Part of me is resistant to this plan; and I think that’s the judgment reaction. I don’t want to have to plan for the times that are “supposed to be fun”. And on top of that, I still view those sensations as “bad” because they are still very distressing to me and my brain. I don’t want to accept that they are part of good times too. However, I know the only way to truly change this is to drop the judgment, be open and curious, and compassionately self-soothe the fuck out of myself until they don’t feel so terrifying…and maybe, perhaps, even exciting. 😉

Out On A Limb

You have to be willing to break your own heart.

You really do. Over and over. To have a life worth living, you must gamble your heart. A lot. Most of the time it’s taking a risk where you know it might end in a broken heart, other times it’s a deliberate choice you make. Every time you open yourself up for something meaningful – whether it’s the possibility of true connection or going after a career dream – you open yourself up to be vulnerable. To be heartbroken. And it’s not an ‘open’ like a door where you just twist the handle and walk through, you open yourself up like a cracked egg that took a few too many hits against the pan and now has goo coming out of everywhere.

Putting yourself out there for your dreams, for love, for anything that really matters – is a vulnerable place to be. It’s never easy to convince yourself to crawl out onto that limb not knowing if it can hold you. Uncertainty alone is hard enough to bear, but when you’re risking the most intimate, fragile thing you have – no wonder it doesn’t seem worth the risk. And so many people choose not to risk it. I don’t blame them, and I’ve been one of them (and I’m sure will be again). In fact, this is all of us – at one time or another. Because we find these risks in the everyday opportunities we take or leave. We have a million branches in our lives. And as a procrastinator with vulnerability issues, I find myself often taking a few failed attempts before I take that step.

It’s not fun putting yourself out on that branch of uncertainty and vulnerability – but it’s necessary. It’s the only place to truly discover what a fulfilling life can be. And going out there is the only way to find out if it will be sturdy enough to support you – or if it will break. You must be your most authentic, cracked-open self, and take those risks, to find out which branches will help you climb higher, and which ones will teach you how to catch yourself on the way down.

It’s easy for us to deny the awesome fruits that live on some branches, the way our heart will forever be changed for the better, the way our lives will blossom and enrich our entire beings. It’s all hypothetical as we stand there debating whether we should try taking that step. I mean, it surely can’t be that great. Not worth risking this awful feeling of the unknown – and surely not worth falling when the branch cracks beneath me. What kind of fool will I look like then? How will I ever recover? Falling hurts. Fuck all of that, I’m fine right here.

And then, even when we convince ourselves it’ll be worth the risk… that getting what we want is worth the heartache of it not happening.. another fear sets in. Why do we want something so great if it can just be lost? Just because you get out there on that limb and find the best fruit in the world doesn’t mean it gets less risky or vulnerable. It just changes. Deciding to continually put yourself out there and keep your heart wide open for something you can (and will) lose is terrifying. It takes guts to keep enjoying that fruit knowing at some point the branch holding you will snap.

Rejection, failure, and loss is hard. Connection, success, and love is hard. A good life isn’t an easy life.

Life should be a terrifying, gut-wrenchingly beautiful, amazing journey.

Be willing to break your own heart.


Sadness’s Big Brother

Anger. It shows up when our boundaries are being pushed, when we feel unsafe, hurt, rejected. When we feel sad and hurt, we often protect ourselves with anger.

Anger feels powerful. There’s an energy to anger that feels helpful and protective to us. And sometimes, it is. Sometimes it can help by giving us the energy and power to restore those broken boundaries and take any necessary action to make ourselves feel safe.

Sometimes, however, anger isn’t helpful. It may have helped us to a certain point – like crutches when we break our leg. Hanging onto anger is like using crutches once you’ve healed. And it can be difficult to switch our mindset on anger, because it had been so helpful up until now. But there’s a point when it becomes damaging and that’s when we need to delve deeper, and deal with the underlying sadness and hurt and pain that lies underneath that protective fire ball.

Actually expressing anger is a new thing for me, and I’ve become much more comfortable being pissed off than I am with just being sad.

My emotional reaction to being hurt or feeling rejected is now usually “FUCK YOU” instead of “That hurts, I’m sad”. My relationship with anger changed from it being unsafe to it being my protector – unfortunately it has lead to the point that I’m overusing it. My default to be angry and want to say “FUCK IT!” is a huge change from the victimized girl who was just at mercy of being hurt and not being worthy enough to even be mad, and certainly too weak to change things or leave what was hurting her.


In a way I love my default to anger and “fuck it” response, because in many ways it’s so much better than my old unworthy-self hatred-helpless default of suppressing emotion and believing I just had to stay stuck. That being said, this new default is problematic too. I swung to the other side of the pendulum, and it’s not the best place to be either. I get that it developed to protect me. And part of the problem is that I still buy into the story that without it I’ll slip back into the old ways of dealing with all these feelings and painful situations. That story, and my reactions, are things I’m actively working on. I need to find a better in between.

Because I know, not everything that hurts is harmful. A lot of things that hurt can be opportunities to grow and heal. And being hurt is part of life, even (especially?) when it comes to people we care about.


Anger is a guardian of our boundaries. If we can pay attention to the feedback of our reactions, such as anger, we can see why it shows up and what needs to be restored. It can also help us look deeper into why we feel the need to protect and what other emotions are beneath it – like we’re looking past the big brother who’s standing tall and yelling at the bullies, to see the crying little brother with a scraped knee sitting on the pavement behind him. What emotions came up for us that we felt the need to protect ourselves? What emotions need to be processed, beyond the anger that is out front and center?

I find this very difficult. Sadness and hurt feels more draining than anger; though I’m sure most of that comes from actually resisting the sadness and making judgments about it, than it does from actually just being sad. My experience is that it’s easier to get side-tracked from the feeling and turn things inwards when it’s sadness. I start making judgments about myself and giving into the unworthy stories; where with anger I’m more likely to be making those judgments about the other person.

And the answer to all of it? Lean in with COMPASSION. Observe your reaction to say “fuck it”, beat yourself up, avoid the sadness, to puff up or want to run and hide… with compassion. And then encourage yourself to look deeper. You aren’t just angry, ever. And the angrier you are, the more emotions are hiding behind it.