I’ve struggled with writing outside of my personal journal for more years than I care to admit. All the reasons why anything I do would be better and more successful than writing have seeped into every crack and crevice of my life. I’ve gone down several career paths, while being married for more than thirty years, renovating a house and turning into a home, and nurturing two pretty neat human beings who call me ‘mom’.
In spite of all the accomplishments, I still feel as though I haven’t done much with my life because I haven’t written. At the core of my being, writing is something I am supposed to do and I haven’t done it. And when I get out of my own way, writing is something I seem to have a knack for. Funny how that works.
I was gearing myself up for the approaching of November, when I waded into the idea of participating in NaNoWriMo. (National November Writing Month.) Dare I commit to such an endeavor when the very idea of writing anything for anyone other than myself triggers my deepest anxieties?
Two events occurred synchronistically within 24 hours of struggling with this.
The first coincidence was Cal Newport’s Study Hacks blog where he shared a link to The Four Hour Work Week, author Tim Ferris’ podcast. Trolling his archives, I found Ferris’ brief treatise on negative visioning, inspired by the writings of Seneca, a Roman general who won many successful campaigns.
The idea intrigued me. I’ve spent the past dozen or more years working diligently with alternative methodologies bordering on self help, including affirmations and thinking positively, identifying my shadows, and clearing outdated programs and beliefs.I drilled down into sustainable transformation and became certified in several modalities, even developing a practice to assist and support others in their journeys. As I got deeper into my core patterns, it became more and more challenging and yes, difficult to release the hold my own limitations had on me. It became a case of ‘healer heal thyself’. I could no longer offer assistance to others when it seemed obvious to me that I couldn’t even help myself.
Weary of it all, I’d pretty much given up on getting out of my own way. Pep talks and positive thinking can only get you so far when there is what feels like a gap the size of the Grand Canyon between you and ‘showing up’.
But this negative thing – heck yeah, I’ve had plenty of practice – count me in!
Knowing I deeply fear telling my story because it would leave me vulnerable and exposed, I was stumped as to how to immerse myself in that. How could I experience my fear to its fullest in a way that would not cause me to completely give up on myself?
I wasn’t stumped for long. A trip to the mall provided me with an idea when a vendor from a kiosk approached, offering me a packet. I reached out to take what he held in his hand. As he told me how young I look and what ‘great skin’ I have I mused at his prepping me for his sales pitch. And there it was: he contradicted himself, telling me my pores are very clogged because I wear so much makeup — I should try his product. My initial thought was to ask myself, “Am I wearing that much makeup that he can actually see my pores are clogged?”
And I wondered what he would have said if I weren’t wearing makeup.
That was my light bulb moment: I rarely leave the house without makeup. What a perfect way to experience pure exposure and vulnerability!
For the next thirty days, the entire month of November, I will go sans makeup. No foundation to cover uneven skin tone. (gulp.) No concealer to cover under eye darkness or blemishes. (double gulp) No blush to enhance my high cheekbones. No eyeliner or mascara to open my ‘big brown eyes’. No mask to hide behind, nothing to falsify my true appearance or meet anyone’s expectations, including my own. Nothing to make me more acceptable, or believe that I am, to everyone who sees me.
But do they really? Does everyone I interact with truly see me? Do I let them? Other than those beach vacations and the two times I gave birth, I know I haven’t … not for forty years.
Others have done this, and I am sure they’ve written about it, too. Given that each of us is unique in our experience, I’ve forgotten what it is to be exposed and vulnerable as I was as a child. How could I not add my voice?
Showing up differently than I have for the past forty years, noticing what’s different, inside and out, there will be a change in how I experience myself. And in the noticing what’s different, everything is possible.
I am terrified.
What have you done to overcome your fear? Are you able to be vulnerable?
(Please share in the comments section of this post.)
Cal Newport’s Study Hacks http://calnewport.com
Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Work Week podcast, Episode 17: http://feeds.feedburner.com/thetimferrissshow
5 thoughts on “unmasked”
This is awesome! You have always had such courage and what an inspiration to others. Feel the fear and do it anyway. What a clear and simple message you area sharing. Unmask yourself! You go girl!!!!
Thank you, Bonnie! The availability of built up energy around the anxiety has been incredible — so much opening up, it’s challenging to know where to begin. I find myself scribbling ideas in my little notebook so I don’t lose a single one. And, too, am so very inspired by everyone I’ve been interacting with. More about that in future installments…. ;))