When The Boogieman Strikes!

face fear

Have you ever tried telling a child to stop being afraid of the Boogieman?  You may attempt to assure him or her that they are safe.  After several times, late into the night, you may even reach a breaking point and be tempted to go with the “Just stop it” approach which inevitably backfires into more paranoid sobbing. You know their room is uninhabited by monsters, but your reasoning is futile.  Positive thinking certainly will not work for you either.  Telling a child to repeat “I am safe, there’s no one under my bed” has no power in the grips of visceral fear. Amazingly though, explaining that “Yes sweetie, I know being alone can make you scared.  Our imagination can get carried away sometimes.  It’s ok. Everyone gets a little afraid in the dark. ” may actually get you much further in the battle against the Boogieman. We often need to follow that speech up with thorough checking of all closets and spaces under the bed and maybe even lay next to our little ones until they feel safe. What seems like exaggerated behaviour to one, may be as real as rain to another. Similarly, to disarm our own fears, anxieties or worries we must first acknowledge them for what they are and validate our emotions without judgement.

We function best when we are cautioned by fear not frozen by it.

The problem is not in experiencing fear but in letting it limit our choice-making abilities.  Just like our little ones, while we imagine the worst, we are bracing for all sorts of bad things and are unable to approach the problem from angles that are untainted by negative thoughts.  When facing our personal fears we often can’t move, we can’t sleep, and we can’t do much other than complain or plead for help. We lie there petrified with our eyes shut-tight, hoping someone else can help us out of it.  It is no wonder that all of our energy gets sapped by the efforts we make to manage this stress.   Worry and anxiety stifle our actions, limit creativity and prevent us from doing differently. Our bodies don’t lie. It’s like you’re playing Simon Says.  Your thoughts are Simon and your feelings do whatever Simon says.  It’s hard to ignore nausea, depression, muscle tension, insomnia and so on.  Stress manifests whether we mask it or not.

As we fret away, we have less time and energy to direct toward actions that may actually help us avoid that very outcome.  Trying and approaching our challenges in resourceful ways is key to operating from our best, integral selves.  This doesn’t mean striving to be super-humans who are immune to fear.  It just means knowing that no matter what comes at us, we will be ok.  No matter how difficult a situation is, it will pass. And when it does, we can feel content with the wisdom and love we brought to such a difficult place.  While this approach doesn’t guarantee success or even lessen the many risks or hurts, it does help to give us confidence in the strength of our spirit. Facing our fears brings us closer to our unique power and individual beauty.

The question is not “How do I make sure this never happens to me?” but rather, “How would my best-self want to deal with something like that?  What would help me live with the least amount of regret and provide the best footing to proceed from such a difficult place?”♥

scared lion

fear is a tool

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Roll with it

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Sometimes things don’t turn out as we imagined or hoped for.  This doesn’t mean that a situation is not good, just different from the version that played in our heads. Too often, not getting our way translates to disappointment or hurt instead of having it simply be an opportunity to experience something as is, without judgement. After all, if life unfolded exactly as we wished, it would make for an incredibly boring existence.

It is not difficult to see how the need to control our lives helps us guard against hardships.  What could very well be an act of self-preservation has become deeply rooted in every aspect of our society.  Its evidence can be found in creams that guarantee wrinkles from setting in, pills that help us avoid our feelings, regimens and air bags that keep danger at bay, and websites that promise to find our soulmates.  In reality, nothing is fool-proof.  This should in no way stop us from intending and planning the kind of life we want.  However, it is equally important to know how to release the kung-fu grip we have on those expectations and learn to roll with it.  Any woman who planned for the birth of her child knows this well.  We can plan and hope and prepare, but when it is time, we must simply accept what is happening and do our best with whatever comes at us.  Typically, the most impactful experiences in life are the ones that unfold despite our efforts because in those moments we are challenged to bring our best selves forth.  It is easy to be present and prepared and centered when we puppeteer a situation, but our ability to adjust, our ability to find grace in response to any given experience is when we see our spirit shine.

Last weekend I hoped to create a memorable day for my family as we set out to find our Christmas tree.  I made us a pancake brunch and we left shortly after 11am for Horton’s Magic Hill where a tractor ride, bonfire, and festivities awaited us. We scoured the fields singing “Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, oh where are you hiding…”  My girls chose a beautiful tree and not surprisingly, a very special one that had an abandoned nest perfectly placed near the top branches. We enjoyed a hot apple cider near the bonfire and took leave in early afternoon. We must have gone through a time warp, a worm hole, a mini Bermuda triangle that temporarily moved north… It was an extraordinarily long drive home. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that the ride back took five times as long as it normally would have. This was not part of my grand plan for a fun day.  I had to be at a Christmas party at four and I was in charge of food and drinks.  As time got away from me and four o’clock approached, my lack of control over the situation ate away at all the peace I had felt earlier that morning.  I didn’t want to disappoint my friends by being late and was so worried about letting them down that I failed to see how I was already letting my loved ones down by dissipating all the joy felt earlier. Even when I finally did make it to the Christmas party, it took some effort to relax and actually be present.  I kept wondering at how the day could have gone better.

Things took an unexpected turn, a different ending, that’s all.  So instead of going home and decorating our tree while singing carols and finishing the day off with hot chocolate and holiday cheer, we hurled the tree in the house and raced out muddy and dishevelled. I had no control over the delay that derailed my day, but then again, I had not counted on having extremely grateful kids that made the best of their time and didn’t complain once -and I certainly hadn’t planned to find my new favourite ornament nestled within tree branches.  Each time I look at it I wonder if its architect had ever pictured this nest tucked among gold stars and twinkle lights.  I bet that talented mama bird hadn’t planned for her beautifully crafted nest to gift another mama with much heartfelt gratitude.

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