eliminating shoulds

A New Trip

Sticking with the theme of my life lately, the lessons (and gifts) I’ve received from my experience of going to (and returning from) Bali, I’ve been really tripping out at how different I feel on a daily basis. I am different. I’ve changed, as I’m sure anyone does when they take a giant leap outside of their comfort zone in pursuit of their heart’s desire. I don’t feel the same inside and I don’t operate in quite the same way.

When I left, I was in a default state of anxiety. I’d have moments of clarity and bliss and ease, but those moments were exceptions to my default state. And now, it’s the opposite. My default state is at ease and happy and clear- even when I’m tired and foggy.

I’ve lived with anxiety pretty much my whole life, even when I didn’t realize it. So, it’s quite interesting learning how to live without anxiety. My standard operating procedures have shifted tremendously, in a very subtle way. I notice it all the time- the ways in which I approach situations- what would normally be automatic fear-based reactions, I now approach with ease and openness. And it just happens naturally. There’s no conscious effort in trying to not have anxiety. I just see that it’s not there, where it used to be, all the time. It doesn’t hang over my shoulder, controlling me like it used to.

It still shows up sometimes, but it’s not my default anymore. And when it does show up, even when it takes up a lot of space, I am able to remain detached from it.

Having that distance from it has allowed me to gain new perspective. I see more clearly where my anxiety stems from. Well, I know where it stems from. It stems from a sense of not feeling safe. But I think, for me, that sense of not feeling safe is more of its destination than its starting point.

It felt like it began with an internal conflict. Having everyone else’s voices in my head telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, what I’m supposed to do and not do, which conflicted with what felt natural for me to do or not do. It’s almost like a “should” button got pressed inside of me. Whenever it got pressed, it activated my anxiety. I might have been feeling, thinking, moving one way, then the “should” button got pressed, and I started to fear the “what-ifs?” And one “what-if?” leads to another, and another, and before you know it I was paralyzed with fear. So, I stayed put. I held back. There was a halt to my natural state and I no longer flowed freely. I contracted. And I did not do anything.

It’s funny how not doing anything can use so much energy. But it does. It takes energy to hold myself back. It takes energy to halt momentum. It takes energy to restrict energy. And that was my default state.

I remember so many times sitting in my therapist’s office in tears, lamenting, “I don’t want to keep living like this!

But I didn’t know any other way to be. I didn’t know how to not live with anxiety. It was a survival mechanism that had been programmed into me through years of abusive relationships, through years of everyone around me telling me it’s not ok for me to be who and how I am.

But when I went to Bali, and was able to have so much physical distance from all of my triggers, I got to experience what it was like to just Be– without condemnation.

I had the opportunity to just do whatever the hell I wanted to do, or not do, to be however I wanted to be. And I didn’t have to worry about old ghosts tormenting me there.

When I first arrived to Bali, I could feel myself still holding on. I knew, in the depths of my being, that there was some serious letting go that needed to happen. But I thought that the letting go and the openness would feel more defined. It didn’t though. It wasn’t like there was a specific line that I crossed that felt like, “ok, I’ve let go now and now I’m open.”

It was more of a subtle shift, where I started to notice that I was operating differently. The same old mechanisms were no longer at work. But there wasn’t a specific moment. And thank God Truth!

I’ve done the Aha! moments. And I fucking love them! When you really experience a major Aha! moment, it’s like being in altered state. Yet, it’s better than any drug (that I’ve ever tried). But the thing is, you kind of are in an altered state. A flash of insight has altered your normal way of seeing things and disrupted your standard operating procedures. More often than not though, those altered states revert back to old ways. And those are the crucial moments, when you really need to get to work, integrating the insights into your daily life and behaviors. Because if the Aha! moments aren’t supported by doing the work to shift your behavior, then that’s all they were- moments, that passed.

I loved doing that work. That work is my life’s work, in every sense. But, as I talked about in my last blog post, I have been working way too hard for way too hard, and I was exhausted. So, when I went to Bali, and finally stopped working so hard, I was still able to experience a profound shift.

So, there was no specific Aha! moment this time. The shift was subtle, yet powerful. My standard operating procedures have been dismantled and now everything feels like it runs more smoothly, flows more freely.

I catch myself in these moments, and I say to myself, “did you see what just happened there? Normally you would’ve closed yourself off to that. You would’ve reacted from fear, and you would’ve shut down. But you didn’t this time!

I have those moments all the time now. I’m pleasantly perplexed by them. I’m not used to feeling this way. When I was so used to living with anxiety, even when I’d have good days, it usually triggered even more anxiety. I’d obsessively try to figure out what caused the goodness, so I could try to make it stay. I wanted so badly to be in a default state of goodness, with anxiety being the exception.

And now, I’m there, where I’ve always wanted to be. I really wasn’t sure if it would ever happen. But I am at ease, by default. I can truly understand on a deep level now that good days just happen. And then they don’t.

Not every day can be the best day of my life. Just because I am not having a really good day, doesn’t mean I am having a bad day. I can just have a day, and enjoy it, and be grateful for it, without obsessively trying to make it anything other than what it is.

I’ve known this for so long, but now I feel it and experience it much more profoundly than ever before. I inhabit it, instead of just thinking about it.

It’s a whole new trip. And just like my trip to Bali, I am so grateful I get to take all of you on this trip with me!

It took facing my fears, moving towards them, through them, and to the other side of them, to be able to put them behind me. It took traveling to the other side of the world to finally come home.

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