I walked outside tonight to watch the lightning roll in. The full July trees were swaying in the dark as I walked toward the storm – greeting it, willing it my way. Until it lit up the space in front of me – a brilliant light of no color at all, just pure energy – and I ran back inside. Give it to me! Bring it on! … until the real thing is there and I run.
Which is my fear of myself: That I run. That I’m all talk. That I’m not enough to take on life’s hard work, its challenges.
Listening to another mom tonight talk about the Master’s swim team she’s on – six in the morning workouts, more yardage than I did even as a kid – I thought, “I could never do that.” Which is just what I thought yesterday when the bus driver, a man in his sixties, told me he was doing his fourth RAGBRAI – the annual bike ride across the state of Iowa that invariably occurs at the hottest ebb of summer. And I thought it every day I read my friend Jeanelle’s blog in June about her run across the state. And I think it when I hear of someone’s odyssey to India or a mountain climbed or an illness overcome.
I can’t. I couldn’t. I am not big enough, strong enough, brave enough. I want to be Diana Nyad, swimming from Cuba to Key West at age 61 and saying (more or less via a story with Diane Sawyer), “Each night I go to bed and think, ‘Is there anything else I could have done today?’ If the answer is no, it was a good day.” But instead, I have this nagging fear: I could never do that!
Is anyone else on this page? I know you are. I know because of the people who react with awe to things that I have done. Single parenting. Natural childbirth. Writing a book in six months. Yoga teacher training (which sounds heavenly until you get to the 6 AM to 9 PM schedule for a month and the dorm room shared with 22 women). “I don’t think I could do that,” multiple people have told me about each of these things. And yet I have. And I’m proud of them and would never take one of them back.
“I don’t want to be this person with this fear; this person who thinks she can’t,” I say now to Chris as the thunder rattles the house and the windows are illuminated with the electricity of late summer.
“Why not? Is it so bad?” he asks, a toothbrush in his mouth, his shirt unbuttoned. “Is it that you prefer the image of yourself as being confident or is it that you want to embody who you really are?”
“The latter,” I say. (I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying – not one hundred percent – but I’m used to this. I follow his particular logic because it always leads somewhere that, if not entirely recognizable, is at least deeply and curiously challenging.)
What would it take for me to simply stop choosing fear and self doubt.
“There are only two choices,” he says. “Either we are that person – the person who can do it, who believes she can – we are it and we sense it. Or we fear we’re not it. Both choices are true; but the extent that the second one is true keeps up from fully being the first, from radiating the first one, radiating truth.”
I still don’t entirely get it, but it resonates as being right so I sit with the idea and consider what it would take for me to simply stop choosing fear and self doubt.
And, of course, by morning the desperation had lifted.
This time last summer I was finishing a month at Kripalu. It was heavenly – often. But it was also one of the harder things I’ve done. It taught me a lot about where my mind goes when it’s uncomfortable. My friend Mary – who I met there and now holds the dearness that the friends we make during life’s peak moments possess – recently reminded me that just before we were about to finish, at a point when my kids were desperately uncomfortable with my seemingly interminable absence, I spoke seriously of leaving. “I’ll take you,” she replied to my request for a ride to the Albany Airport. “But in the morning – ask me again in the morning.” And, of course, by morning the desperation had lifted. I knew I could do the final days – and so could they.
A year later, I don’t even remember this. Not until Mary re-told the story did I have any recollection of my moment of nearly throwing in the towel. In my memory, it was all glory and happiness by that final week.
I wonder if now my discomfort comes from not having a trial in front of me or from feeling soft? Does one need to be in the midst of a challenge, a storm of sorts, or can we find a way to make every day its own gently, exhilarating challenge? How much ease can I bring to my day, to my interactions with others? Can breathing itself become a small mountain worth climbing? Can the storm that is sometimes the dailiness of life in this house – the busy schedule, the shifting emotions of five people – can that be my race across my own personal Iowa? (I end on a question because I truly don’t know. … sending this thought out into the Universe in hopes of some direction.)