Less fear, more confidence

I was having a bit of a negativity shit storm this morning. Nothing serious – I caught myself before I dived off the cliff and could not recover the balance of my Friday.

But still. Some moments are harder than others.

This morning it was triggered by a voice message from the police department about the Very Bad Incident. I was in a meeting and could not take the call, and when I got the voice mail my mind went blank and all I could do was relieve the emotions and sensations of those moments – the fear and the smell of them. I wish I could forget both.

I made myself return the call. But first I did some ridiculously mundane tasks. I texted a friend to see if his cold was better and J to ensure I had not poisoned him with the kava drink this morning. I pep-talked a coworker about Valentine’s day and prepared expense checks. Then I finally worked up the courage to return the officer’s phone call.

Very Bad Men are still in jail. However, I am needed for another identification and statement next week, although there is a good possibility it will be cancelled. We scheduled the appointment and that was that.

I was alternatively freezing and sweating in my office, my reaction to this so visceral. It has been 3 weeks, and most the time I am fine and can get through entire blocks of days without thinking about it or reacting to it. One phone call and my obsessive mind is unleashed.

Mostly I shook it off. I am far from as fine as I was upon arriving at the office this morning,  when I was cheerful and happy and thinking about the new J-crafted exercises and my incremental success with practice this morning, but I am in control of myself and my emotions. I am at least well on my way to being back to that level of fine.

Fear. It has my brain chugging on several cylinders and fronts today.

There is the very real and very understandable fear from the Very Bad Incident. Unfortunately it is not something that I can shut off like a lightswitch. With time and patience on my part it will fade further from my system. Patience is not a strong suit for me, but I am trying to not obsess. Probably 70% of the time I succeed. Progress.

However, it reminds me that there are all sorts of other things I have fear and anxiety about in life. Some are more severe than others. And to my surprise, as I am thoughtfully dissecting this idea in my mind, not all of my fears are as prevalent as they once were.

I am still ridiculously phobic about frogs, toads, and other disgusting little hopping creatures. When we moved to our home I was afraid to go into the backyard because of the abundance of tree frogs everywhere, including in our pool. Forget actually swimming in it unless M had raked it thoroughly and examined the skimmer basket and the pool sweep to ensure there were none in hiding in the pool machinery. At that time there were some large rocks secured to the back of the pool deck and M would examine between the cracks to ensure there were none lurking there either. Phobic much? Why yes, thank you for noticing.

Much of the original shrubbery that was planted in the beds surrounding the house and the pool was removed that first year. First it was the privet trees along the back of the pool. We wanted to do that immediately anyway, because it would open up the view of the greenbelt as well as allow us to feel the full expanse of our backyard. But a big part of it was the frogs and getting them out of our yard and pool. From there it was the overgrown shrubbery along the fences between us and our neighbors and then out into the front yard. The planter beds that have not been replaced with concrete now sit empty while we decide whether to install gravel or other rocks and put planter boxes on top for flowering bulbs or something. The frogs no longer visit our backyard and our pool; there are few places to hide.

Working with TM, training with J, changing jobs and growing my tiny little self employment empire has brought about changes in my outlook and confidence level. Everyone changes, I suppose; hopefully we all grow and become better versions of ourselves. I have never thought of myself as someone who dislikes change, because I am a realist in that change is part of life. However, I am also honest enough to say I have an overly developed sense of concern about change and things within and outside my control. Perhaps my burgeoning confidence levels will eventually shrink those concerns to a more manageable level and degree.

Today I have been perking about the recent confluence of events that have increased my confidence and how it has affected me.

Becoming an entrepreneur instead of an employee. Last summer I had finally had it with my former full-time employer and decided to look for another job. Just reading through my posts during that period is a hilarious walk down memory lane and makes me glad that I started blogging. The number crunching, the planning for contingencies, the job interviews, and finally the serious, hard look at self-employment. I clearly remember being so scared of failing. Through and through I was sure I was about to commit financial suicide and that M and I would soon be homeless and eating cat food.

Timing must be everything, though, because I am actually amazed and grateful at how quickly I acquired a bunch of little projects and clients, several of which have evolved into ongoing work. Between referrals from my existing side gig clients, other business folks I knew, and former employers, I had a lot of little jobs lined up almost immediately as well as working part-time/hourly for my former full-time employer.

Since then, I have steeled myself for self-promotion and marketing. I am usually fine with chatting on the phone or corresponding with prospective clients about what they are seeking, but it’s a visit to crazy town before I have to show up and actually “sell” services to a prospective client. I have learned to just not allow too much emotional investment into the idea of acquiring or losing an engagement, because otherwise I seem to take the rejection far more personally than is warranted. It seems like my pre-meeting panic attacks are not a terrible, end-of-the-world way to be, as I find myself relaxed and able to just talk to people about myself and what solutions I can offer when the actual meeting does occur.

I presently have an adequate backlog of upcoming and routine work to be comfortable with the work/life balance and not feel desperate for another client and more work every time an opportunity presents itself. The day may come where I am completely confident and comfortable in my own skin to be able to market myself without having negative, anxious feelings flooding my system. Everything from “I am not qualified” to “I am a creepy stalker person” for trying to get in touch with someone about scheduling time goes through my head as I am trying to do the business development dance. It is a lot better than it was when I started last year, but it remains relatively imperfect in execution.

Better is good. I am delighted with better if it means I am not contemplating throwing up or breathing into a paper bag every time I have to try and woo a new client.

Training and growing more serious about improving my health. Reading back through my posts last summer, there was a lot going on in my life and trying to figure out how to make exercise work for me. J must miss the days when his phone was not blowing up with texts or our paths were not intersecting nearly every day at the gym. The level of anxiety and insecurity back then and my inability to conceal it better almost makes me wince. At the time, it was normal to be fearful and anxious about the gym. There was/still is to a lesser degree so much shame and judgment threaded through everything I feel and do, and it is painful to read how paralyzed I was and trying so hard to get better about it.

Just this morning J and I had a conversation about the gym and trying not to take yourself too seriously. Had we been capable of that level of interaction 6 months ago I would have made excuses to not return for quite awhile, if ever. Because I was so afraid of my own shadow and treating myself and everything around me with an unstainable level of frazzled, sensitive nerve endings. It was a vicious cycle. My fear and anxiety about the gym was real, but to try and have a conversation about overcoming my fear and anxiety only led to shame and greater levels of fear and anxiety.

Trust is not and easy thing for me, and I am fortunate to have had enough time and enough big and little successes in these first months to be able to develop some baseline trust in the process and the training partnership with J. Where we are now, it is a good place. I am more willing to experiment, to try hard, to practice, and to put myself at risk than I ever have been with exercise, and I am reaping a lot of rewards from it.

Beyond normalized blood sugar. Beyond being stronger and changing size configuration. There is a fundamental, slowly evolving belief that I am capable. Of learning. Of doing. Yes, I am still clumsy and I still have issues with balance. I have a long way to go to being my stronger, fitter, even better self. I am more confident with what I am doing in the gym and my ability to learn from J. I am still taking it way too seriously, but my confidence is holding sway over my fear. Someday soon I hope confidence will eclipse fear completely in the gym and my practices.

As for the food and diet, I am in day 3 of tracking my eating. It  has been the most awful, resentment-inducing process. But I am soldiering on with minimal bitching and moaning about it. I will be so happy when Monday morning comes and I can just get back to normal and not feeling as if I am obsessing about food every waking moment and dreaming about whether or not I wrote it down or took a picture of it and noted the time. Pain. In. The. Ass. Hopefully there will be some amazing breakthroughs to share with me about the error of my ways or atta-girls for things I am doing right.

Working with a therapist to improve my self-image and quiet the negative voices inside my head. Of all the things I have done in the last year, this is probably the hardest and most difficult for me to articulate. Once I got more serious about consistency with my gym practice, it was easier to make it a habit. However, it has proven to be tricky to enjoy my big and little victories. There is always something inside my head whispering things, like I am not really succeeding, I am only pretending, I am a poser, I have merely delayed the ultimate failure; believing I can succeed is going to make my fall that much harder. When I try not to hear, not to listen, they get louder and more vitriolic, until I have little choice but to falter and give in to their acidic undoing.

It becomes an ugly cycle. I take a tiny step forward into believing I am making progress, inching forward toward something better that I have truly worked for and deserve, and then the voices in my head cut me down at the knees and devour me whole. And I am back to square 1.25, which is at least not completely back at square 1.

During the holidays, after James’ death, I began to recognize that I cannot make the positive steps forward on my own, or I cannot make them stick with me and become part of my day-to-day reality. M is loving and supportive; he is unflagging in his belief and faith in me. J, other friends, so much cheerleading going on they should have their own positivity fest and sell tickets to elevate the down and depressed. But since it is almost impossible for me to truly state to them how bad, awful, destructive the noise is – because after all, I am getting myself out of bed and to the gym, I am off insulin, I am working and succeeding, I am so articulate and so nice all the time – nor would I want to burden those relationships with my toxic shit.

So I waited for my annual mental and emotional health tune-up with TM. Even that was hard. We have known each other for several years. He has treated me for everything from anxiety and anger to fear and depression. Always I come out on the other side more solid than when we began. Yet I was hesitant to ask a psychotherapist to help me overcome my next phase of crazy.

Gee, I know you have helped me enormously with the anger and anguish of a terrible childhood and denial from my parents of the sexual abuse I endured and felt they knowingly subjected me to, but I do not want to tell you I feel crippled with fear and anxiety and what happens if I continue to succeed and am no longer physically defective? What if you say no, there is no hope for me and my demons? What if you, TM, my dragon slayer yoda, says those remaining dragons are immortal and unslayable and I need to just suck it up and deal?

What if here, afraid of myself and my own ambitions, is the best I can ever hope for? What if I cannot do or be better?

I am not very brave. I am so far from courageous. I write here what I cannot really say in real life until I have written it down or obsessively rehearsed it in my mind. I cower in fear and cry inside and outside when challenged or pushed too hard. I want people to be happy because my own misery seems like a cloak that envelopes me, always, and I cannot bear the idea of anyone else feeling so crappy about who they truly are inside.

The scary smart that enter my realm … I marvel at them and their amazing abilities. They know so much. They can speak of things they have read, they have seen and experienced, they have such amazing recall for details, they have such easy charm and grace dealing with others, they are so truly kind and generous. I listen and I learn, and I feel as if I am the village idiot (in good ways) trying to keep up and to learn.

Such is TM. His training makes me feel like he has X-ray vision and examines my thoughts and soul before he speaks. I always feel like he knows what I want to say before I say it. Realistically I know that is not the case; I know he is a smart guy trained in his field to deal with people with problems. And I also know, despite my own overly dramatic characterizations of me and my issues, that I am not nearly as troubled or in desperate straits as I was once upon a time. These are tinkerings and issues that have existed for a long, long time, only now coming into a alignment with my readiness to address and resolve them.

I think this time, I am ready to not be so afraid anymore.

The confluence of these events are not really coincidental. I wanted to get into better shape to appear more marketable to prospective employers. Deny it or not, discrimination or bias based on age or weight are both real factors that are never discussed out loud by any responsible employer. I felt with some basis and merit that I was at a disadvantage on both counts. I began covering the gray in my hair and I joined the gym, hired a trainer, and began contemplating ways to make myself appear more competent and confident. While I still kinda/sorta could care less about my appearance beyond being clean and neat much of the time, I recognize that not everyone feels the same. I have also conducted enough interviews and hired enough people to recognize my own bias and have a healthy respect that other people share the same qualities to a greater of lesser degree. To do less is to be naive and stupid about the world in which we live.

So now I am a self-employed and part-time employed someone. Now stakes are even  higher and I have appearances to maintain, so I retain the trainer and stay focused and consistent on my exercise. I have to maintain and perhaps even up my game to get to some mysterious next level. Drop some weight, I think, so kick myself in the ass and get serious about the diet and eating. Kinda sorta working on it, in a sidling sideways sort of way.

I am less afraid than I was a year ago, and my life is certainly different. As my confidence grows, my fear lessens. And my hope for being comfortable, happy, and able to truly like and protect myself with the next rendition of me improves exponentially along with it.

Change, in this instance, is a very good thing; I will try embrace it.

4 thoughts on “Less fear, more confidence

  1. Embrace and enjoy it. I have no idea if my blog is going to show up here…your showing in my reader but everything else is all wonky. Sigh hopefully I can fix it or start all over again.

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