Learning to Navigate the Storms in Life
I don't do too much in the way of deeply personal shares online anymore, but given that I actively advocate for emotional expression and vulnerability, it seems like the appropriate thing to do. It does get a whole lot scarier the more I put myself out there as a professional though. How strange that I should still equate professionalism with lack of emotion....especially considering that I run a business focused on emotions. Even “professionals” doubt themselves at times and have human feelings, right?!
Today I feel...frightened, depleted, inadequate, and demoralized. Honestly, I have felt this way for a few weeks now. It starts off as a tiny nagging worry and then grows into all out anxiety, sleepless nights, and ultimately disorientation and dysregulation.
As much as I practice befriending these feelings, I still struggle when they arise. I tend to flail around a bit while I try to remind myself that everything in life is temporary and nothing lasts forever. My chest tightens, I feel like I’m frequently fighting back tears, struggling to remember to breathe, feeling exhausted and mobilized at the same time. As I slide into cognitive distortions of catastrophizing, personalizing, and filtering everything for the negative, it becomes harder and harder to open up to others. From this state the world feels like a threatening place. A place where I struggle to find belonging and feel valued, or even connected and present. Everything feels topsy-turvey and disorienting, and it takes me a while to remember that life seems to always come in waves and to remember not to panic and react, but to respond with gentleness, self-compassion, and assertive action.
Nearly a year ago I started to put into motion the plans to fully step into supporting myself as an entrepreneur and giving it my all to The Emotional Literacy Movement by offering educational programming for youth, educators, organizations, and the general public. While there have certainly been many bumps in the road (and a huge learning curve), I have felt nothing but support from the people I have aligned myself with, the families I serve, and those who have participated in my workshops. It’s been wonderful to feel that the work in emotional literacy education that I have spent so many years studying, assembling, and trialing, truly lands with those who have witnessed and experienced the impact this work can have in their lives.
And yes…I see this work growing and expanding…but just like the Manitoba spring weather, this past month has had a lot of false starts. A lot of praise for the work, requests for workshops, and then no action…and that’s scary when you’re a small business trying to make ends meet. I can get into these stories of how “no one values or cares” about this work, how “I’m letting everyone down”, “I made a mistake in taking such a risk” or how I’m failing at getting the message across…and maybe I am, but I’m green at this and getting your product out there is challenging with all the analytics at work. Sometimes It’s hard not to feel like I’m speaking into thin air. I’m still learning the ropes and I assume I always will be in some form or another.
So how do you manage in life when you give it your all and you feel like you’ve fallen flat on your face and the harvest of your efforts is just not enough to sustain you? How do you come back to the passion and perseverance required to see through the most worthy of goals when times get tough and you are tested more and more? How do you keep your chin up and keep moving forward?
Maybe sometimes you don’t. Maybe there are some days where you have to give up so you can get up again the next day. Maybe somedays you need to put your head down just like you would when walking into a storm, and walk through to the other side. Maybe one foot in front of the other becomes a crawl until the pressure subsides. Maybe in these times you batten down the hatches and just ground yourself to the best of your ability to keep from being swept away. I don’t know the answers to these questions, all I know is that I’m in the storm. I care about the work I do and I want more than anything for it to be available to more people, because I am not exaggerating when I say that it saves lives.
Maybe there are some days where you have to give up so you can get up again the next day.
One thing I do know? Despite all the cognitive distortions that crop up when I’m feeling overwhelmed and slipping into flight/flight…I know that I’m not broken. I know that I am a human being having a very real and valid human experience in response to real and valid challenges. I am not a failure because I doubt myself sometimes, struggle to remain optimistic, or fail to meet my personal goals or expectations from time-to-time.
This is me: passionate, dedicated, scared, and tired.