So how’m I doing in my quest to re-invent my life, follow my evolving Blisses and create the life I really, really want?
First, a story
Once there was a young couple who were very much in love. They had so much love, in fact, that they wanted to share it, and they wished fervently for a baby.
But the years passed, and no baby came. Finally, after five years went by, the young couple decided to adopt.
Then, lo and behold, a miracle – the young woman became pregnant! The couple couldn’t believe it at first – they’d been trying for so long with no luck. But it was true, and in 9 months’ time the young woman gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
The couple was now a family, and they were happy. They loved being parents, and they hoped for more children, though they believed this might not be possible. After all, it had taken 5 full years to conceive the first time.
But they loved their baby boy, and life was good.
A year passed, and the young woman – now a young mother – took the baby boy in to the doctor for his one-year exam.
Suddenly, things went from fine to terribly scary: the doctor felt a lump in the baby’s abdomen, and within hours the baby was in an operating room, having his abdomen sliced open from side to side to remove a cancerous tumor on his spinal chord.
Imagine the couple’s terror: their beloved baby boy, faced with a life-threatening disease, being cut into on an operating table. They were in shock, paralyzed with fear and anxiety. Their lives were turned upside down in the space of a single day. All they could do was cling to each other, and cry, and pray.
Thankfully, the baby boy came through the surgery, then a course of radiation treatment. “We don’t know,” the doctors said, “how this will affect his growth, but we have to be sure all the cancer cells are gone.”
What could the young couple do but hope?
A few weeks later, much to their surprise, the young woman discovered she was pregnant again.
Imagine, if you will, the atmosphere inside that household. The intense and conflicting emotions that the young couple must have felt:
Joy and excitement that the second baby they’d long wished for and never thought they’d have was on the way.
Fear and anxiety about their beloved baby boy, who was still recovering from surgery. Would the cancer come back? Would he heal and grow normally?
It was into this household that the second baby was born.
That baby was me.
I’ve known this story for years, of course. I grew up with it. I remember the special treatment my brother got every year when he had to go through the annoyance of a week-long urine test, to make sure there were no stray cancer cells in his system. As a child, I didn’t really get the ramifications of this annual test, but you can imagine the anxiety and fear if must have provoked in my parents.
This story has always just been another part of my family legend. Like the story of how my parents met. Or how the German shepherd they got as a puppy long before we were born used to guard our bassinets.
It wasn’t until Friday, though, that the ripples of this particular part of my family history on my current life started to make sense.
Defogging the window
Let me be clear: my parents left no doubt how much they loved me, and how wonderful, talented and smart they thought I was. Why, then, did I never feel enough? It’s always left me mystified.
Why the desperation to be extraordinary, amazing, The Best, perfect? Why do I, even now, decades later, after years of therapy and co-counseling, feel this constant urgency to prove myself? To do everything to the nth degree? Why the irrational fear that if I don’t, I’ll be left unnoticed, unappreciated, forgotten? That somehow, unless I do extraordinary things – kinda like all the time – I don’t matter?
It never made sense to me.
On Friday, my wonderful life coach, Susan, used an NLP exercise to help uncover the mystery. Certainly, part of my pattern can be explained by birth order. Second children tend to feel “less than” their older siblings, who can of course do more than they can, by virtue of human development. And they’re usually allowed to do more too: they can stay up later, play different kinds of games that the baby doesn’t get to. (Especially if the older sibling is a boy!)
But in my case, of course this was amplified!
Rewriting History: an NLP exercise
Susan stood me at the center of a timeline, had me fill myself with the feeling of not-enoughness that’s plagued me all my life, then step backwards in time, to my earliest memories of feeling this way. And further back, to the time before memory.
Then off the timeline, where we watched the drama unfold, as if far below us. The young mom and dad, the baby boy, and little baby Melissa entering the scene already in play.
Some people take their feeling of not-enoughness and turn inward, hiding from the world, afraid to show themselves at all. Little baby Melissa quickly found a different survival mechanism: she learned to be a good girl. And not just that, but to be remarkable, outstanding, extraordinary.
As if her life depended on it.
Do more. Do better. And don’t ever stop, or they might just forget about you.
That was the irrational fear that got woven into my makeup.
Present time is not past time
The beautiful thing about human beings is how resilient we are. Our pasts do not define us – or, rather, we have the power to define ourselves. If we choose to.
On Friday, back on that imaginary timeline, Susan had me imagine a different history. One in which that terrified and traumatized young family I was born into had all the support they needed. Where little Melissa, already very much loved and wanted, was showered with all the utterly focused, undistracted, relaxed and fully present attention she needed and deserved. Unshadowed by fears of sickness, loss, death.
Imagine, Susan prompted, how it would have felt to know, deep inside, that I was completely whole. Fully enough.
I filled myself with this feeling of enoughness, of wholeness, as I stepped forward on the timeline, through each memory I’d stepped through on the way back. Watching the scenes change, filling myself with the knowledge and deep feeling of wholeness as I moved toward the present, and projected out to the future.
How different would my life be now? And how different into the future? Freed from the sense of urgency and desperation. Knowing, with every cell of my being, that I am whole. Complete. At peace with myself.
I don’t expect that Friday’s revelation will suddenly transform me from “overachiever” (a word I’ve always hated, by the way, implying as it does that the achievements are actually beyond your ability, rather than within them) to laid-back surfer dudette. I do think, however, that it will have an effect on me, though time will tell exactly what that effect will be.
I don’t think I’m going to stop wanting to be outstanding, and I think that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be outstanding.
The problem is not the wanting, or the questing, but rather the urgency and desperation that attaches to it. And perhaps that’s loosening. We’ll see.
I know that this story plays some role in my not playing as big as I want. You’d think a desperate urgency around being extraordinary would result in my playing big, but my relationship with bigness is conflicted. On the one hand, I want it desperately. On the other hand, I get stuck by fear, just like everyone else. And not feeling good enough keeps anyone from playing as big as they could.
And then there’s the… er… rather inefficient use of time (shall we say) because my desperation to be extraordinary pulls me in so many different directions at once. In my attempt to climb the mountain, I’ve spun my wheels at least as often as I’ve had real traction.
One way to spin ones wheels is to go from course to course, staying always in learning mode, never in doing mode.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with learning mode. It’s a good thing. But it can also be used as an avoidance technique. You know that guy who’s been getting his Ph.D. for the past 15 years? Or that woman who’s getting her 19th certification, but she’s never actually practiced any of the skills she studied?
Or how about buying or downloading every internet marketing course you can get your hands on, but never putting them to actual use? (Sound familiar?)
Which is why I’m under a self-imposed moratorium right now. No more online courses until I’ve gotten value out of all of the ones currently on my hard disk! (Ha!)
There are two courses in particular that I’d love to do right now:
• Tara Sophia Mohr’s Playing Big (affiliate link), which looks absolutely amazing,
• The ARTbundance coaching certification program, starting up in late April, which I have been sorely tempted to apply for, despite my moratorium.
But then I reminded myself that:
- I’m ridiculously overextended as it is
- wedding season is ramping up, which means so (hopefully) is my ketubah business, which means I’ll be even more overextended
- what I need most right now is to bring in income and de-clutter my crazy schedule, NOT spend more money on something that will clog it up even more!
So I sigh and put the coaching program on the back burner. Maybe in the fall…
Wrapping up (finally)
Here’s the rub: maybe I can trust that I’m actually enough just as I am. Yes, I can add new tools, read more books, take more classes as I move forward. But more courses are not the solution to my not feeling enough. That feeling can only come from inside. It’s good for me to practice knowing I’m good, right now, in present time.
Intellectually, when I can “step outside the distress,” as it were, I can see the amazing work that I do. I know I’m an excellent teacher and an inspiring, intuitive coach – my students and clients tell me as much, and when I’m working with people, I can tell.
I know I’m a good performer, and the songs I write entertain people. I know my wedding artwork has made an impact on 100s of clients (maybe even 1,000s by now), and I get emails all the time from people who resonate with my Creative Sandbox art and my writing here on the blog.
Of course, feeling enough – really owning it – is not going to happen overnight, or all the time. But in a calm, relaxed, non-urgent/non-desperate way, I’m working on it.