From Fearful to Fearless

On my drive home from work today, I was thinking about the word fear. What am I most afraid of? Let’s see….

The Big Kahunas: 

  • Loss of financial security
  • Failure (all kinds – parenting, relationships, work, etc.)
  • Stagnation
  • Not being relevant

The Minor Things:

  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • Jiggly foods (pudding, jello, creme brulee, oatmeal, etc)
  • Driving in Ft. Myers, FL (see my Florida Dreaming post)
  • Pine nuts
  • Hidden dangers (they are lurking everywhere, but where?)
  • Dentists
  • Public Speaking
  • this list could go on all day!

Of the Big Kahunas listed above, the fear that is foremost on my mind these days is stagnation. Not Changing. Not Moving.

Why stagnation? It’s taken a couple of days, but I finally came to the conclusion that the thought of waking up two (four, five, etc.) years from now doing the exact same routine that I’m doing now scares the shit out of me. Stagnation. It even sounds icky when you say it. That’s the ‘worry’ that is consuming my brain. It was a relief to finally figure out the crux of my melancholy that I’ve been feeling. What am I going to do about it? I’m not getting any younger!

Unfortunately for me, my fears of failure and financial ruin are not helping me in my quest to conquer my fear of stagnation. Egads, I’m in trouble.  On the scale from fearful (1) to fearless (10), I would say that my fear level is 4ish (not quite Monk) and I would like it to be a 7 or 8 (let’s be real, a 10 is just not in the cards!).  How do I get there? Is it even possible? 

I’ve been slowly working on this for the last four years. I finally started trying new things to help me get over my fear of not doing something perfectly the first time (this has always been a stumbling block for me).  I haven’t done anything mind-blowing like cage fighting or cliff diving, but here is a short recap:

  • Quit my full-time job without having anything else lined up (that was scary and very much unlike me)
  • Tried a kick boxing class and loved it! But, they eventually stopped offering it at my workout place :(.  I still have the pink gloves in the hopes that it will come back.
  • Took some oil painting classes last spring. This class was a small step in helping me get comfortable with not exuding perfection every time I try something new. My first, second, and third paintings are not that great and it’s okay. I can actually say this truthfully (that’s a big step for me).
  • Started a blog. Putting yourself out there is scary – I don’t do well with criticism. It’s been a great process for me and I’m getting more comfortable with being a little more “real” in my posts and accepting any comments that may come my way. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, the comments have been kind so my resolve has not really been tested.

These steps have been fine, but I feel like I’ve got to do something greater, bigger, different. I’ve had an idea swirling in my head since November, but it requires a lot of fearlessness. Where am I going to come up with all of this courage?

That is the million dollar question.

Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them.  They make the impossible happen.  – Dr. Robert Jarvik

What’s Everyone Been Up To?

It has been well over a month since I posted something.  Why?  I’ve been thinking about that and it’s come down to a few things:

(1) Work has gotten busier (this is busy season in my industry) and the thought of sitting at the computer at night after sitting at the computer all day gave me the willies.

(2) There has been so much going on in the news and in my small world that it was too much and I just couldn’t keep up – my brain got clogged with so many thoughts and blog ideas that it literally crashed.  Just like a computer – the blue screen of death.  I need to start carrying a Journal so I can keep up with my thoughts.

(3) I’ve taken up a new hobby that has completely worn me out to the point that I am falling asleep on the couch at around 9:00pm (and sometimes earlier – getting old sucks).  What is this hobby?  Exercising!

Let’s address these obstacles one at a time:

Item #1 – This won’t go away until January 1, 2011 arrives, so I will just have to deal.

Item #2 – Below are just a few stories and items that have caught my attention over the last couple of weeks:

Toys – Since I still have an elementary kid in my house, we watch a lot of Nickelodeon and, thus, are subjected to a series of ridiculous toy ads (and they are really ramping up due to the upcoming holiday season).  These two toys really caught me off guard.  They seem REALLY silly to me and had me wondering “What the Heck?”  What do you think?  Am I just getting old?

Matchbox “Stinky the Garbage Truck”

Barbie Video Girl

News Items

Did you hear about the woman driving around Los Angeles with a mummified body in the passenger seat?  Click Here for the Los Angeles Time Story.

The political ads are driving me crazy.  I was in Massachusetts visiting my sister and in one of their political ads the opposing candidate was referred to as “kooky” – it cracked me up!  Also, what about the Christine O’Donnell thing (kooky?)?

Then, there is the lethal injection drug controversy in Arizona – click Here.  Apparently there is a shortage of FDA-approved lethal injection drugs, so Arizona had to purchase a supply from an overseas company (huh? I didn’t realize that we were executing so many people in the US that we have generated a shortage).  The concern is over the safety and quality of the lethal injection drug purchased overseas (again, huh?).  Well, I suppose that if you are going to put someone to death, you want to do it right the first time.

Item #3 – Exercise.  If you have been reading my blog, you will know that I have started running.  I had a rocky start, but I’m back at it.  Since it’s starting to get colder (and windy) out, I have been running inside – this has been great!  The track is cushy and there are no weather elements to deal with.  This has allowed me to get up to a 30 minute stretch, running 3 minutes and walking 2 minutes.  That is progress for me!  Hopefully, next week I will be doing the 4 min/1 min combo.  I have also been swimming two mornings a week – I’m helping a friend of mine train for a sprint triathlon.  We are up to 1000 meters per swim.  This new exercise routine  is definitely contributing to my narcolepsy at night – the swimming days seem to be the worst (it’s hell getting old!).

Well, that’s what I’ve been up to!  I have missed blogging (it can be very cathartic) and will try to do better.

In The Blink of an Eye

Yesterday, I posted something about my life getting on my nerves.  And, you know what?  It’s not really that bad – it could be a lot worse.  After posting my rant, I started thinking about an email I received about a week ago and began to feel self-indulgent and ridiculous.

The email informed me that a co-worker from my old place of employment had experienced a tragedy.  He was the catcher during a baseball game – during a play at home, the runner collided with him in such a way that the impact fractured his spinal cord.  This happened on July 1st and he is still in the hospital as of today.  He is on a vent, has a trach, and a feeding tube.  Due to the event, he also started having heart problems so the doctors had to implant a temporary pacemaker.  You can read his story on his blog – Rick’s Recovery.

Rick is one of those rare employees that goes above and beyond the call of duty.  While I worked at Symetra, he was definitely the go-to guy and you could always rely on him to find a solution to your quandary.  I’m sure that he is sorely missed right now.  It’s said that everyone is replaceable – I don’t subscribe to that notion.  There are those that are really, really hard to replace and I believe that Rick is one of those exceptions.

Also, as you know, we’ve joined a CSA this summer – by the way, the fresh veggies have been AWESOME.  The owners of the CSA send us a weekly email which lets us know what to expect in our share and identifies uncommon vegetables.  Well, in the email from last week, they shared with us that one of their friends from Seldom Seen Farm was struck by lightning while working in the field picking onions.  This 28-yr-old woman (with a husband and small child) has been placed  in a medically induced coma, but is breathing on her own which is good news.  I’m sure she woke up that morning thinking it was going to be a normal day.

Both of these stories just reminded me (again) that life can change literally in the blink of an eye.  It’s so cliché to say, but it’s true.  Why do I have to read these tales to snap me out of “it’s all about me” bubble?  I can really get on my own nerves!! 

As part of my “What If” endeavor, I’ve got to start working harder on thinking in a new way.  Life is too short and shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Like anything else, it takes commitment and practice, right?  Today, is the beginning (again!).

Wish me luck..

Painting the Town (part of the ‘What If?’ project)

Are you wondering how I am doing on my “What If?” endeavor?  Me, too!

Ummmm.  Damn!  It’s really  hard to change when you’re in your mid-40s!  Ugghhh! Falling into old patterns is like wearing your favorite old t-shirt – but, the shirt may be faded, tattered, permanently stained and outdated.  Just because something is comfortable, doesn’t make right (see pic to the left)!

I was going to start with baby steps, remember?  Whenever a project or problem would arise in either my personal life or professional life, I was to say to myself, “How can we make that work?” -or- “What can we do to solve this dilemma?” -or- “What can we do differently?”  . . . .  Have I been doing that on a regular basis?  Not exactly.  It has been a struggle to suppress my automatic response of “We can’t do that because it’s too expensive, too complicated; we’re too busy, there’s no time, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. . . .”  

Hopefully, exercising the right side of my brain will eventually get me thinking in a different way (how long will this take?).

The Painting Project

As I mentioned before, I started taking painting classes in mid-March.  That surprised a lot of people because I’m a die-hard, left-brainer (for left & right brain inventory, click here).  I don’t go anywhere without my lists (and my calculator!).  Never having painted anything but my nails and interior walls, this seemed like the perfect thing to push me outside of the comfy zone.  

After 8 lessons, here are the results:

This is my first oil painting ever!  What do you think?  I think it looks like a 4th grade art project, but my family lies and tells me that it is really good (they want me to continue doing their laundry :)).  See the purplish/gray meandering thing on the left side of the picture?  Is it a river or a path?  Many have commented on the awesome path toward the mountains!  It is supposed to be a wintery river scene.  Oh well. . . . . 

Here is my second painting ever – it’s a still life instead of a landscape.  On the left side is the actual picture of the “still life”  and on the right is my artistic interpretation of the still life.  Before you comment, please note that it’s still a work in progress :).

I thought the still life would be easier, but it is NOT.  You have to worry about shadows and the direction of the “light source”, etc.  Ahhhhhhh!  This class is starting to get on my nerves a little bit because of the flashbacks to Mrs. Rose’s 8th grade art class  – it’s becoming too precise and rule-oriented (“my sun wasn’t artsy enough”, blah ,blah).  I want to do something without right & wrong answers (like street fighting! Okay, maybe not quite that but you get the picture, right?).  I wanted to do something that was less structured like a Jackson Pollock painting.  You know, where you just toss your paints on the canvas like a grown-up finger painting and then get to hang your painting in the Museum of Modern Art?!

It sounds like I’m not enjoying my art class, but I am!  I guess there are rules and guidelines for everything so I just need to chill and learn the basics.  I do look forward to Monday nights – 2.5 hours of me time!  Once I get my station set up, put my iPod earbuds in, it’s all good.

The next big step for me is to start a painting outside the classroom without the safety of having the instructor nearby. . .. . What should I paint?


Thoughts on “What If?”

I was at a conference this week and the entertainment portion of the conference was a performance (see posted video) by Mike Rayburn. If you have not had a chance to watch this, I highly recommend it. He is an entertainer/motivational speaker. I have listened to many motivational speakers in my life and I have to say that his very simple message has been really nagging at me. He says to ask yourself a very simple question – “What if I Could?”. Of course there is the companion statement of “This is Why I Can’t”.

As I am approaching my 45th birthday, I am (probably like many others) wondering “What the heck I am really doing here?”. I am the oldest sibling and I can tell you that I am a textbook oldest child: natural leader (or control-freak, pick your poison), high-achiever (I had to have straight A’s – was it really necessary?), organized (I label everything!), on-time, know-it-all (I have finally realized I don’t know everything), bossy (ask my sister), responsible (to a paralyzing degree), and a people pleaser. My picture should be in every sibling birth order book out there. My point, is that my primary question/statement was the second one stated above – I always thought of the reasons why I couldn’t do something. I am a professional worrier of the highest order and it definitely has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. The RESPONSIBILITY of life has begun to paralyze me.

I am going to digress a bit. I have always worked 40 hours (or more) outside the home until 2007. Being good at everything (work and home) was impossible (as we all know) and was also adding a stress to my life that was becoming too much. My husband bought a 49% stake in a company in 2005 and by 2007, it was clear that one of us had to cut back and be more available to our three children. At the time, I was no longer satisfied with my job and it made sense for me to be the one to do it. I had no idea how this decision was going to impact my life – I think I honestly suffered a “mini” depression. I didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in my job. I think the depression occurred because I had been too busy to think about the question, “What am I really doing here?”. Now, I had TOO much time to think about it. People were asking me “What would really like to do?”. I had no idea how to answer that question! I had no hobbies because I was working all of the time. Here I was, 42 years old, and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. It has now been three years since I decided to work part-time at a less stressful job which has been very good for me, but I still feel a little aimless. I have always admired those that seem to know exactly what they want to do in their lives. My husband knew he wanted to be an architect from 7th or 8th grade and, now, he owns an architectural firm. Where does that knowledge come from?

Mike Rayburn’s message has been playing in my head like an endless loop. Can you train yourself to start thinking in a new way at 45? This is going to be a real struggle for me. I’m the one that thinks of all of the ways something can go wrong, that has 6 months of expenses saved for the imminent disaster that is about to happen at any minute, that is the endless list-maker, that has a compulsive need to organize, etc. I’ve always considered myself “practical”, but maybe that description is really a little too benign.

The message is to think of the most outrageous “What If?” that you want to accomplish and write it down. He says that once you write it down then you need to do something actionable toward the “What If” and get the ball rolling. Even if it is baby steps. Now, what is my “What If I Could?” Yikes, that is a scary question. I’ve been mulling it over since Monday after his presentation.

I’ve always told my kids that if we won the lottery (of course, first you have to play!) that I would take some of the money to start a fund or endowment for single parents that are trying to get off of welfare. It seems that one of the biggest barriers for women and men in this position is affordable quality daycare. Why couldn’t we subsidize a quality daycare facility for these people and their children? The single parents would be charged by the ability to pay – it would be based on a % of income. The women and men would have to go through a welfare-to-work program to qualify for the subsidized daycare. I know the state of Indiana has this service, but it organized by the state government. I think private enterprise could probably do it better. However, this seems to be a big “What If” to tackle right away.

I did start taking oil painting lessons about a month ago – that is a huge change for me. I’m a complete left-brain thinker. I have really enjoyed my painting classes! For me that was step one.

Step two was starting this blog – I thought that maybe writing it down will motivate me to start this project of re-training my brain.

My goal this week is start with baby steps – when one of my friends, family or co-workers brings up an idea, I want to be the one that says “How can we make that happen?”. I think it will take a while to retrain my brain! Clearly for this to work, I will have to do this on a continuous basis, thus the struggle begins. I guess this is like any change you make, exercise, diet, etc. I will need to stay committed for it to work. Here I go. . .