Last week, I noticed I was anxious, feeling behind the eight-ball and like I would never be able to do all the things I needed to do to help my mom get moved and keep some semblance of life and my business going. Big question was, should I really take off for a fun weekend in Vegas? I started pacing around my living room, mind flitting from one list of to-dos to the next as my heartbeat sped up with each thought.
I glanced out the window as I paced and noticed the 30 mph winds bending the giant palm trees on their impossibly thin trunks. They looked vulnerable to the wind but remained rooted even though palm fronds rained to the ground. I stood still as if I were rooted. I leaned my body to the left, mirroring the palm trees. I noticed that when I engaged my muscles, my body was stable.
I stood up straight and realized my Chief Operating Officer of Control mask was the wind blowing me. I also identified that authenticity and vulnerability are my deep roots.
Here’s the dialog between the Chief Operating Officer of Control mask and my Authenticity that took place next.
COOC stood towering over Authenticity: “Are you friggin’ kidding me? I’m supposed to be vulnnnnerable? The only reason we have gotten anywhere in this world is because I am in control and don’t get bogged down by all that touchy-feely crap.”
Authenticity lifted her head: “I’m not kidding you. You are nothing more than a mask that helped me survive and get my feet back under me after…”
COOC seemed to grow taller with each sentence: “Exactly – after just about every single screwed up thing that has happened. It was I who helped you get through that month in 1972 when your parents disappeared after daddy crumpled to the floor. It was I who made you safe after you got into a car with a drunken person and got yourself run into a train. It was I who made sure you didn’t dissolve into your anguish after daddy died. I am the one who picked you up off the floor after you and Steve split up. I am the one who has held you together, sometimes with twine and Duck tape, but make no mistake, I’m the one – not this vulnerability crap.”
Authenticity, shining her vulnerability: “You’re right. You helped me stand back up, literally and figuratively and helped me put one foot in front of the other. You helped me get back into action so I could renew my purpose and my super-power of love. And I thank you. I am grateful for you. However, right now, tragedy is not striking. Right now I am in creation mode. Right now, I acknowledge the truth of your genius in helping me survive the hardest times. And you must hear me: you aren’t needed on a daily basis now. I am okay today, somewhat thanks to you. I am okay today. I am strong. I am in charge.
COOC, becoming normal-sized again: “Oh, well, I’m not used to seeing you be okay, or strong.
Authenticity, speaking with gentleness:“Exactly. You aren’t used to seeing me this way because you live in the past, and in fear of the future, dear mask of mine. You live in the pain, fear, disappointments, and challenges of the past, not in the present moment. You live for trying to help me avert pain, fear and challenge for others and myself. And you know what? That really isn’t possible.”
My COOC mask deflated further until there was only Authenticity. My head became a calm place, uncluttered by extraneous and panicky thoughts. My heart rate slowed down as the cortisol stopped pumping. I sat down and just watched the palm trees for a few minutes. I really saw that when rooted to my vulnerability, I was in charge and didn’t need to control anything, not even myself. Yes, I would go to Vegas and leave some to-dos undone for now.
So, the next time you find yourself pacing or mind racing with anxious thoughts flitting from fear, averting disaster, etc., here are the four steps to take:
- Look out a window and anchor to something – yes, something in nature. Next, observe it. How is it moving in the moment? What are its characteristics? See if you can step into the experience of being this thing in nature for a few minutes.
- Identify what mask is pushing you off your center.
- Sink into your authentic vulnerability. (Often, by simply placing one of my hands on my heart center I feel my vulnerability expand while my head noise shrinks.)
- Have a conversation with that mask. What is it afraid of for you? Share what you really know about the situation or people, acknowledging a time in life when perhaps you didn’t. And then offer some gratitude for the protection the mask offered to you at one point.
- Identify the experiences you want to have going forward around the situation triggering the mask.
*Rinse and repeat as often as necessary.