Something big has to happen for me to leap.
A four foot snake sliding under my Adirondack chair—I am levitating in about 2.8 seconds.
A bad MRI for my brain tumor kid—I sign up for a half marathon, even though I hate running far.
But getting into a pool—I go slooooooowly. Oh so slowly. No leaping. Not enough reason to willingly freeze.
Even when everyone is yelling—I can’t leap.
In high school we went on a trip with a bunch of other families up to New Hampshire, and at some point in the trip we went to this rope swing on the side of a hill. Everyone was excited to try. You had to jump off a rock while holding this rope, and then sort of flop onto the board that served as a little seat thing. When my turn came, I stood on the rock paralyzed. I just could not do it. The drop seemed so far, the chances of landing on the board so uncertain. The folks in charge helped me down to the little rock that served as a smaller leap spot, and I was still paralyzed. Younger kids were yelling at me, everyone was trying to get me to go…
I could not do it.
I was mortified, but finally gave up. I still remember the kids making fun of me.
I am not upset about it anymore, but I remember.
So leaping is not my thing. I have realized more and more the power of intrinsic motivation. I have to have a really, REALLY good reason for leaping.
I have to have a why.
More accurately, a WHY. All capitals.
More accurately, a WHY. All capitals.
In some ways that is super un-zen, right? I should just zen for the sake of zen. But my zen needs a Why. Everything I do needs a Why.
Anxiety tries to outweigh the Why with worst case scenarios that will happen if I leap. Nightmares. Crabbiness. Ever-spiraling circles of thought.
But Why can be so powerful—more powerful than anxious second guessing. That snake was a Significant WHY for me to stand on top of a chair even though normally I would not recommend balancing on an Adirondack chair’s arms like stilts. . The bad scan was a huge WHY to make me run, even though I look like a cartoon character when I galumph along, and everything hurts–the Why was my daughter’s future. As I slogged through the streets by my house in the August heat I kept repeating my why like a mantra … “bleep NF…bleep NF”…you can fill in the bleep.
As I try to work towards zen, I keep coming back to Why.
My brain needs order and reason at the same time my brain tends towards colorful chaos. I have to work to organize myself in a way that seems to come naturally for others. And the anxiety really does work against my forward progress, stirring up all the thoughts even as I try to put them back in orderly-ish boxes.
But in this time of medical respite, I am finding I am able to grab on to the why to make myself do the “hard” things.
When my daughter was so ill, the Why—surviving the catastrophe, getting her well, keeping a brave face on for her and her siblings, getting out of bed in the morning even on the most hopeless days—that Why simply kept me going. I think in the midst of crisis that is what the Why does. When people would say, “I don’t know how you do this!” I was always a bit befuddled. What choice did I have? It was my kid. Anybody would try to keep going for their kid.
I see my friends who are navigating rough waters with their children right now, their tenacity in putting one foot in front of the other, and the power of Why just shines through—even when that power is just barely enough to keep a family above water. The Why helps you survive, even if thrive seems inaccessible.
With space from catastrophe, I am trying to take advantage of the Why and to figure out what my Why is now, now that we aren’t at the hospital 4 times a month, or dealing with improbable yikes of other kinds. I am still not used to having the courage to commit to anything more than a few weeks out.
So I am tackling “hard” things, trying to take little leaps (things that are admittedly not so hard for other people—but hey, I have to be ok with me being me. It is what it is).
* I took on a new work project that ended up going really well—Why? Because I need to figure out how I can best use my passion for education and research, and the only thing holding me back from this project was my fear of not doing it perfectly.
* I scheduled (and went to-no wimping out!) my annual-ish physical—Why? I need to be healthy for my kids, my spouse, my own future. So far so good.
* I then scheduled (and went to-gosh I wanted to wimp out) another annual sort of appointment that maybe I hadn’t done in 8 years. *cough. Same Why as before. Even though I kind of broke the machine…another story for another time.
* I am trying to be open to opportunities—WHY? Because I want to live with vision and purpose, and right now I am figuring out what those are in this new season of my life. I want to work at something that helps the world be better.
* I am getting on a plane this week for the first time in almost 8 years—WHY? Because I know I need to be there for my R when she competes in Florida, this might not happen again, and I want to be there for her—and last year I could not go. I am remarkably zen about this, actually, which is a little weird.
(side note, if I don’t make it—because…airplanes-- know that I truly have no regrets about going. Being brave is better than hiding from life. I keep telling myself that. But really—you can pray for me on Thursday when I get on a plane (and then again on Sunday—and my husband and daughter who are on different flights), that would be awesome. )
Side side note: this is why I have not blogged. All my energy went to these things. Womp womp.
I want to do the things. I want to see the places. I want to not hide from the disasters that I still see around every corner (a Pavlovian response to 2004-20015). Why?
Because I want to be zen. For me. For my husband. For my kids. For my friends.
It’s like the old Hoobastank song, “The Reason”. This song helped me so much when I signed up for that first half marathon (I had 5 times worth of Why for 13 miles. Urp). Having a Why, a reason, can counteract the power of anxiety—especially when that reason is the people we love. I am working on having my OWN Why (ie for me) being enough—and I am starting to figure out that when I am intrinsically motivated to do things for my own improvement, that actually makes me a better wife/mom/friend for everyone else.
Sorry, should have had everyone sit down for that Captain Obvious kind of newsflash. Hmph.
Anyway, having people cheer (or yell derisively) or push won’t do it. The motivation has to be intrinsic—helped along by the outside circumstances, perhaps (GIANT SNAKE!)—but the Why has so much power, if we can just take the time to identify what the Why is, and how it drives choices. Focusing on the Why helps me tell my anxiety to shut up already. I have more important things to focus on.
And yes, I have to repeat it a lot. My fears are super persistent and naggy and talk just as fast as I do.
So—what’s your Why? And where has it lead you to leap?