It’s sunny here this morning. The 6am sky is back-lit with pale blue and there’s unseasonable frost sparkling on the roofs of cars and houses outside my front window. I even had to turn on the heat for the first time in a while. Morning is my favourite time of day. That first cup of coffee, caffeine and sugar hitting my brain like a mild drug, opportunity ahead and most importantly, c-a-l-m.
It hasn’t always been this way. For much of my life, I’ve wakened at 4am, with a such a rush of panic, adrenaline and anxiety, I had to invent crazy ways to deal with it. A morning that begins with a jolt of crazy is a hard thing to recover from. It’d follow behind me into the day snapping at my heels and swiping viciously with its long claws of dis-ease and fear. But this is not such a day…
In fact, today, the swell of relief I feel is enormous. April 16 – ‘art portfolio submission day!’ has been looming ahead with an undertow of excited nervousness for months. It’s not a feeling I’ve enjoyed much though, because its carried echoes of ‘crazy’ with it. Good things still come shadowed with fear, in spite of my new coping mechanisms. My brain still wants to turn any discomfort into a life threatening illness.
‘For god’s sake Lori,’ I’ve been telling myself, ‘this is your dream, not a cancer test’ but a panic disorder messes with your emotions, co-mingling feelings that have nothing to do with each other. The language of anxiety is undiscerning. It will speak into any circumstance, in it’s most familiar dialect. In my case, ambiguity and the unknown almost always translate into health or death anxiety. It’s a tough language to unlearn, it’s accent lingering way beyond it’s usefulness and welcome.
I almost kicked my dream to the curb this past week, it’s cost seeming greater than it’s worth. I flopped from couch to couch, paralyzed by the familiar taunts of catastrophe and imaginary tumors. Not clearly recognizing what was actually pushing its way up were real fears – fears of adequacy, ability, worth.
Real and imagined fears are distinctly different things. An imagined fear is dishonest. A life stealing thug, aggressively front manning for what it protects behind itself. They look like the real menace, but they aren’t. Sometimes, they’re just nominal decoys for deeper, scarier, more vulnerable things – like, ‘do you like me, am I ok, will I fit in, do I have what it takes, and could I survive another rejection or failure..?.’
My honest fears are embarrassingly childlike. Insistent, irrational and wanting more than anything to belong, be appreciated and valued. The more I learn in life though, the more I realize that no one else can do that for me. Only I silence or comfort my distress, only I convince myself of my own worth. I don’t mean that we all don’t benefit from support and sharing ourselves, but ultimately it’s our own voice that resonates most loudly. And what we choose to hear about ourselves, from ourselves – is what defines us.
I’ve just finished putting together the pieces for today’s portfolio submission meeting at 4pm. The morning frost has long disappeared and with it the thugs – though it’s been a hell of a week-long fight. I question sometimes if old ways and fears will ever disappear completely. Do we ever completely lose our accents, I wonder? Maybe not, but sometimes little accents are charming, right? I’ve discovered it takes way more courage to step in to a dream than I ever imagined. It sounds easy in theory but with change, even good change, comes risk and new and old challenges.
But this day, and hopefully those ahead, I echo Aragon’s inspiring words from Return of the King…