Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Get Thee Behind Me Satan

Sitting and staring at the unknown vista of a new work or new city or new house, I start to get vertigo.  My usually sure balance is shaky as I reach for a foothold of anything steady to push off from.  The transition to what is sometimes called retirement has brought up huge insecurities around change.  The changes may be big like choosing a new career or moving to a new city.  Or low risk such as publishing my poetry and even just building a new patio in the back yard.  There is a field of industrial psychology called 'work-life balance.'  This is more like life-dream balance.

Where were these emotional mines hiding before the 'retirement?'  In regular employment there is always a rush to get to the job, to get the work done, to promote or at least protect one's career and then when it is done there is great relief.  For awhile.  Then after a few months and margharitas, a wild trip, or whatever you do to change set; in the quiet a new new anxiety emerged.  Many changes can come up of course; physical aging, making new social connections, starting a business, moving to the dream house and seeking the dreaded 'meaning of life.'

These changes have many facets and the one I am concerned about today is the one they don't talk about in retirement planning;  fear of failure in this new life.  Because, as I have said, this phase brings about many big changes and it is 30-40 years since the other big change of growing up and going to work.  For myself, I have pursued a dogged personal/ spiritual growth path over these years.  I was fearless in trying new spiritual practices, going on retreats and seminars, making new relationships, traveling in foreign countries, taking new jobs.   My mantra was check it out.

While in the cocoon of employment I had a secure home base and jumped into the new without much thought or consideration. Now, fear of failure in the big things looms large today while fear of small things is non-existent.  The decision to move to a new town immobilizes.  The decision of publishing my book stalls.  The decision to travel to a long awaited destination lingers.

Fear of this type is not rational.  What I am talking about is not about physical survival.  It is the emotional survival of my old life.  As I transition from my old identity defined by my job and into one that is defined by my choices, I am building a new rainbow of interests, activities and friends.  Then a while ago I hit the wall.  I used to run marathons and a common experience is running fine for 15, 19, 20 miles and then you hit the Wall.  It is like the body shuts down to about one cylinder, barely moving.  The crowd cheers and encourages and somehow you limp across the finish line.  I am at that point in my retirement transition and pulling the trigger is tough.  Pep talks and life coaches and friends and support groups can only point me in the direction.  They can not take that leap into the new, the unknown, the exciting, the growing, the satisfying.

Last year I took a big leap and had my first solo art show.  As the event approached all manner of fear and doubt arose.  What if people make snide comments?  What if no one shows up?  To comfort myself I wrote a bio and realized that I had something to share that I valued.  Buoyed by that inner truth I went to the opening and enjoyed it immensely.  Strangely enough some of the paintings that I did not think were at all good received great praise.

What causes this inhibition?  My sense is the old baggage of past mistakes or failures have piled up.  Impervious to rational analysis it is a heavy ball and chain.   Escaping from this load demands attention and awareness.  What is an old story is polluting the potential future?  Clearly seeing the limiting ideas is challenging.  What is the real bottom line fear?  For me, it is like the news everyday where 99% of events are successful and we pay attention to the aberrations.  So, I take the few incidents that did not overtly work out the way I intended and move them into the road as big boulders to avoid.

Taking that leap of faith into the new demands suspension of that version of history.  It is a choice to be excited and embrace the change, regardless.  It may look like there is less time to waste by failing now but that is a con.  There is only this moment and then the next.  One experience will then dictate the next action.  And the next.

The prescription is; 1)  Decide what you want to do, 2) Share your vision with a trusted friend, 3) Consider what is the worst that could happen, 4)  Inquire into where the fear is coming from, 5) Take only the next step, and 6) Engage with the experience, 7) Celebrate.

Hello fear of failure. Today I am taking that next step and publishing my poems.  Get thee behind me Satan.

1 comment:

  1. Great job on communicating a difficult topic, moving from an identity shaped by occupation to one you shape yourself. Lots of food for thought here for anyone trying to break through fear and inertia.