It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To
I threw myself a pity party all last week because I had to cancel my trip to Orlandowhere I was scheduled to be on an expert panel speaking to my peers in the coaching industry. This cancellation came right on the heels of another business conference I had to forgo both due to an ongoing health problem that has a tendency to flare up at the most inopportune times.
Since discovering two years ago that I have a chronic, progressive disease with no cure Ive had my share of pity parties, but I always manage to keep them fairly brief. I dont want to be one of those guests we all hate who hangs around long after everyone else has left the party even if it is my party. I literally set my kitchen timer for 15 minutes to cry, whine, complain, kvetch, etc. At the end of 15 minutes I pick myself up, dust myself off and go back to the business of living.
Getting really sick was the wakeup call of all wakeup calls. It forced me to take a good hard look at the life Id been living up to that point, and make some significant course corrections to shake me loose from that sense of complacency Id been hanging out in for way too long. I started my own business, got cracking on that book Id been talking about writing for the past 5 years, and proceeded to shed the weight of all those outdated, overplayed, self-limiting beliefs that kept me shackled.
Well, I thought Id shed them all. I couldnt quite put my finger on why I was having trouble letting go of this latest disappointment until today when during a private coaching session (yes, even coaches have coaches) she asked me what was preventing me from seeing myself as truly successful. I thought it had to do with my lack of confidence. She didnt buy that, and continued to probe and dig and explore the way coaches do until I realized that what is keeping me from reaching out to my future is remaining tethered to my past.
As a child I often felt invisible. My parents werent intentionally negligent; they werent evil or cruel, nor did they consciously ignore my sister and me. They just werent able to nurture us. They were there, but they werent there, if you know what I mean. Their bodies were present, but their minds were far, far away battling addiction and depression and their own complicated demons.
They didnt see me when I accomplished something: When I got a 100 on a school paper; when I performed a solo in the school choir; when I was chosen to be the editor of my high-school paper. They paid attention when I was sick or hurt. Those were the moments they gave me love and affection. That was the pattern that began when I was three and broke my leg in a freak accident, and continued well into my adult years. I learned to equate love and attention with being sick; being weak; being powerless.
As I got older the natural consequence of that conditioning made me feel anxious whenever I began to imagine myself successful at something. Whether in my professional or personal world, I didnt know how to accept the love, affection and attention that came my way for something I did well, and not because I was sick or hurt.
When I was diagnosed two years ago it brought me face-to-face with the vestiges of that sick little girl, but the image of that weak, powerless child clashed with the woman in me who was ready to launch; who was ready for a rebirth. Lets face it, birth is messy. Its long and its painful, but after the labor comes the gift. I gave birth to the strong, powerful woman Id always wanted to be, yet I didnt know how to say goodbye to the sick, weak, powerless child Id been.
Whats been keeping me stuck is the push/pull I feel: one foot firmly planted in past conditioning, and one foot planted in the here and now. I dont want to reject that little girl whod found a way to help me feel wanted all those years. Yet how do I feed her less and feed the woman I am now more so that I become stronger, more capable, and fully committed to living life at full throttle despite being ill? How do I give voice to the part of me that is truly sick without letting that part make me feel powerless and weak?
Its relatively common to revert to old familiar thoughts and behaviors when were under stress. They have a really long shelf life like a box of Twinkies they can last forever, but who wants to eat a 40-year old Twinkie when they can have something freshly baked instead?
In talking with my coach I realized that Id been engaging in myopic thinking deciding there are only two ways to go; only two options: choose A or choose B when what I needed to do was to choose C. The beliefs Ive held are so engrained that to give birth to something new must surely mean the death of the old, right? The truth is I dont need to reject the little girl. I need to acknowledge her; honor her, and thank her for helping my spirit survive all those years when I felt invisible. I need to feed and nurture the woman I am now more, and reframe my way of thinking so that I can rid myself of that either/or mindset when there is room for both.
All this excavating took much longer than my usual 15 minute free for all, but Im giving myself a pass this time. I figure since Im the host of this little soiree, its my prerogative what time I turn out the lights and call it a night.
by: Evelyn Kalinosky, CRC