Friday, June 25, 2010

Free falling

The other day during Savasana, I told the class as I always do to "let go." About 30 seconds into Savasana as I sipped my tea and scanned the room, I saw clenched fists, jaw bones pulsing, eyelashes fluttering, toes curled. Seeing the collective struggle, I tried to push them a little bit, "Holding on is easy people. Letting go is hard." Some slight changes were evident. Slight. Bodies shifted, big breaths were breathed, brows intermittently softened, but the struggle continued. Tight muscles, scattered focus.

This idea of "letting go" has been a prevailing theme in my life forever. Why is letting go so difficult? And why is holding on, the act of gritting through change, physically, mentally and emotionally, an easier place to be? Because staying tethered to things and ideas that are known, while not necessarily more comfortable, is so much safer. "I hate my job." Instead of quitting (stepping into the abyss that is the unknown) we keep the crappy, energy-sucking, life-draining, dead-end job. "I'm unhappy in my relationship." We plug away, staying in the mediocrity instead of listening to the heart.

The idea of stepping into the unknown is scary. Things might get worse before they get better. They might not ever get better. But we don't know if we hang out on the edge of the diving board day after day, week after week, year after year. If we never step off the edge and tread the waters of fear, we can never know what letting go feels like.

The times in I my life when I have been the most frightened, the most confused, the most devastated, have been the times in my life when I have had let go-- letting go of a marriage, a career, a city. At the time these decisions felt like I had no choice. I know now that I needed to some part of me deep down knew I had to make those choices. Not letting go, not moving on, for me was impossible. Each time I have been faced with big change, I have held on tight, pushed against it with Olympic heavy-weight force, before finally taking the leap.

The first time I consciously let go in a big way, I existed in a state of free-fall that I can still remember as the most horrifying experience of my life. Now each time I do it (which is not a lot), it gets easier. Taking a relationship risk I never would have made ten years ago or making a business decision that feels right but makes no sense on paper. There are moments in these times when I feel like I am ruining my life or throwing so much to chance that I am literally petrified, paralyzed like in a scary dream. And then, I am out of the free fall. The fear is gone and I am on solid ground, hardly able to remember that the fear existed.

Whether you are lying in Savasana wishing the person to your left would stop nose-whistling or sitting in your idling car at 2am pondering the meaning of your life, the act of letting go is the same. It is trusting that letting go will take you somewhere different. Letting go makes room for new feelings, ideas, sensations, pushing aside what would usually fill that mental, emotional and physical space. Angst, anticipation, analysis, anger. For most of us, these experiences are familiar, comfortable. Instead of staying there, try something different. Soften your jaw, relax your toes, let your fingertips curl. You'll be scared, uneasy, for a few seconds, maybe a minute, maybe a week or a month. But then you're there--in the land of the unknown. And that's just the beginning.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Home Base

At Lucia's preschool, the kids start every sunny day outside in the playground. They run their little pants off. Unless you are a sandbox kid, pretty much all of the games involve running in some form. Last week when I was working at school, I was selected as the "base." Over the course of the 45 minutes of outside time, I stood stone-still while adorable 40-inch tall bodies slammed into my legs, threw their arms around my knees, buried their faces in my thighs and screamed "BAAAAASE" to the gaggle of kids tumbling after them.

The kid on base holds great power. As long as she in physical contact with the base, she is untouchable. The chasers hover at arm's length jumping, lunging, pointing and sticking out their tongues as the leg-hugger shimmies around the base, until at an inexplicably random moment, she bolts, running away again, hotly pursued by the chasers for a few dramatic moments before ultimately slamming once again into base.

Base-- safety, freedom, power, comfort, control. We all need a base. In my ideal, fully-evolved world where I am enlightened, emotionally mature and competent, my base is internal (home base) and I can access it on demand. In this fantasy, I push a little magic button that lives somewhere in my torso when I want to feel secure, comfortable, safe.

In reality, this doesn't happen as often as I would like. I frequently find myself going outside myself to find a base. I go to one of my sisters to get affirmation about my embarrassing crush-induced behaviors. I ask a friend to tell me that my latest obsession with long sweaters is not too middle-aged. Touching base is equivalent to someone saying, "You are okay." I go to an external base when I forget that I can (and should) get that same message from myself.

The other day, in a panic of general insecurity about all aspects of my life, I ran headlong (metaphorically) to a friend for comfort. I needed to touch BASE. I was desperate to for her to tell me that I was okay. And though she tried to comfort me with words, the "you are okay" feeling wasn't coming. I actually started feeling worse. Touching base with this friend who I consider grounded, calm, smart, loving, honest, genuine was making me feel less secure, less okay.

Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with needing to touch an outside base, unless you step outside so much that you forget about your home base. For me, I often jump to an outside base before even checking in to see what my home base says. When advice from my sisters or my friends feels wrong or uncomfortably discordant, I find myself looking inward anyway. And now I am screwed because, by going to this external base, I have introduced a new voice to the mix and that voice is wreaking havoc with my home base.

It's like the kids who ran to my legs as a base of safety. They could only stay for so long before they were compelled to go out on their own again. They had to run on their own, to feel their own power. That's the key I guess. Touching base with people in your life who you love, respect, relate to, is great. The balance is in remembering your own legs, your own strength, your own home base.

What am I worth?

For the first time in my adult life I am in the position of not having a "real job." I am on a chosen hiatus from being fully d...