Writing my last post gave me some food for thought. Actually, it felt more like heartburn.
I knew going back to Cuba was going to open up some wounds, but I couldn’t have predicted how filming this journey would rattle me to the core.
I never imagined that I would one day embark on a journey back to Cuba, much less that I would film this seminal experience. I often question my qualifications to bring my story to life and put it out there for the world to see, and I ask myself what kind of impact will this film make on my life and the lives of others. How will it all unfold? And that’s the big question: how will this journey unfold?
I have to resist the urge to punch people when they blithely tell me, "Just enjoy the journey." What does that even mean?! Maybe there are people out there who are oh-so-spiritual they can sit back and let Jesus take the wheel, but, for me, that’s a work in progress. Because letting go is one of the biggest challenges I face in life.
CONTROL--it’s one of my least endearing qualities. Then throw PERFECTIONISM into the mix and you have the perfect cocktail for a ticking time bomb.
One recent morning, I was on the phone consoling one of my BFF’s while she sobbed about how long it takes her to accomplish the simple things other people seem to manage effortlessly. I completely relate to the despair she was experiencing because less than 48 hours prior to our conversation I was on the other side of the table, suffering a panic attack while my nutritionist coached me over the phone, coaxing me just to breathe. What brought on this attack you ask? You guessed right: lack of control. I think I should be there when, in fact, I'm here. Here in the present in the company of all my doubts and insecurities. Flaws and all.
I always feel like I'm behind and trying to catch up with my "perfect self." Little Miss Perfect, as I like to call her, was going to town that day, whispering in my ear that I'm crazy for thinking I can take this journey to Cuba and film a documentary. She persisted, making fun of the fact that I started on this journey two years ago and am still unsure of the narrative. "You don’t have a film degree,” she chided. “Who do you think you are? You think you people are going to donate to your campaign? Ha!" If you’ve ever heard that voice in your head, you well know how it can whittle you down. I let her get to me that day, and so I fell apart on my way to a medical appointment.
Some of the most painful life experiences I can recall have been caused by my attempts to control people, places, and things to suit how I think things should be and where I thought I should be in life. And the demoralizing thoughts that tell you you’re not good enough and that you need to push yourself toward perfect are sometimes the loudest. Having suffered from panic attacks thanks to this compulsion, I learned to use the tools I gleaned from the many teachers and mentors I’ve been honored to meet on my journey. These tools have helped me tremendously in letting go and trusting my vision and abilities.
Crying. One of my great loves once said that he had never met a woman who never cried. I took that as a compliment, but now I know better. He also called me an "ice queen" (ouch). Today I cry--and a lot. I'd rather cry to let off the steam rather than numb my feelings until they return again and again, without vent or expression. I can use almost anything to check out, and trust me, I did!
Connection. I come from a family that rarely expressed their feelings. They were immigrants doing the best they could. Connection was something we did when we were at the dinner table or sitting around the T.V. watching Soul Train, but never did I see them connect by sharing their feelings directly. Those childhood influences don’t simply disappear when you become an adult--I continue to struggle with connection even now in my adult life. It's taken me hundreds of hours in therapy, endless talks on the subject, and Brené Brown's invaluable scientific findings on connections and vulnerability to help me learn to share my feelings with others. I always viewed feelings as crutches for needy types, and I certainly wasn't trying to join that tribe! The Funny thing is, that’s all I yearn for now. A connection with my family, friends, colleagues, and a partner...a partner...that's a whole other blog.
Gratitude. This is the game changer. There's something about gratitude that flips my perspective from gloom and doom to a more positive and productive space. There is always something for which to be grateful. No matter how sad, angry, or hurt I am while drafting a gratitude list, I feel a physical shift in my mood with that simple act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. It doesn't always stick, but at least I'm taking action, which brings me to my next tool...
Writing. Sometimes I can't verbally express myself when my feelings take over. So I write. Other times my mind is racing so fast that I can't articulate what I'm feeling. So I write. I've even found that writing my prayers inspires a sense of peace that washes over me instantaneously, bringing me back to that ubiquitous lifesaver--gratitude.
Prayer. I didn't pray for many, many years because I believed that, if there was a God, that higher power must not care much about me since I had years of prayers left unanswered. Like crying and expressing emotion, I thought praying was a sign of weakness. Then, one day, I heard someone say prayer is simply a conversation with God. It's been almost ten years since I decided to take the leap and give this one a shot, and, well, I've never regretted it. I've decided I have two choices: to live life with a HP, or without. I tried without and it sucked; nowadays, I would rather walk through the trials and tribulations not alone, but with.
Acceptance. This is the "Ninja Warrior" tool for me. For someone who likes to be in control, acceptance is the surest antidote. I have to pray A LOT for this. It never comes easy, but eventually happens when I'm in enough pain. They do say, "pain is the great motivator."
Today, I accept where I am on this journey. There is no there, without here. I will make mistakes. I will fail. People will not agree with what I'm doing, or understand my mission, and that's okay. Regardless of what happens and who thinks what on any given day (myself included)...
I am Here.
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