"The anxiety is unbearable. I only hope it lasts forever." *
Tomorrow my 17-year-old daughter Natalie and I leave for a three week trip to the Dominican Republic. We've been invited by a Peace Corps Volunteer there to lead a mosaic mural project, and to teach art classes to local youth. Specifically, we're headed to the southwest part of the country, to the small community of Batey Isabela, not far from the Haitian border.
What if and what if and what if?
I'll be honest: I've lost quite a lot of sleep over this trip. In the wee hours, my chest clenches up worrying about where we'll find mosaic materials, whether our hosts are actually prepared for us, what their expectations are, how much money to bring, how we'll get around, whether the mural will turn out ok, and how the heck I am going to pull this off en español. What if adhesives work differently in the tropical heat? What if we run out of time? What if no one wants to help? What if...?
You might recognize this line of panic-filled thought. If you're female and around 50 years old, chances are you're awake on a regular basis with similar worries. Different topic, perhaps, but same line of questioning. Am I prepared? What if I screw up? Have I already screwed up? Is this a bad idea? Do I even know what I'm doing? What if people find out I'm a poser?
Except for during the 3:00 am hour, I've gotten better at taming my negative mind-chatter. I recognize it as fear—a safety mechanism whose aim is to keep me out of trouble, but which can also stop me from having any fun at all if I cave into it. And stop me from evolving into the person I am working on becoming.
We could have chosen the easy way.
Since the time of this project's inception as a vague notion spoken over a long-distance telephone line last July, there have been times when it teetered on the brink of not happening. There was no funding—we'd have to raise the money ourselves. Communication and planning would be difficult. It was a long way off: What if our hosts forgot about it, or lost interest in the project? What if it was a passing whim, and they weren't really serious?
It would have been easier to just say, "Nice idea, but I don't think it will work. Thanks anyway."
But every time the fear or the easy-way-out threatened to choke the trip, I thought back to that first phone conversation. Actually, there were two: first was the single call home that Natalie was allowed in the middle of her seven-week stint as a volunteer with Amigos de las Americas. She had left all electronic devices at home, was in a wi-fi-less locale anyway, and instead hand-wrote letters that mostly arrived after she returned to Oakland. We hadn't heard a peep from her in the month since she'd left for the DR. The good folks of Amigos say, "no news is good news," but still it was sweet relief to get that call, hear her voice, and find out she was doing well.
The second call came a few days later, beginning with a quick, "Don't worry, Mama -- I'm ok, there's nothing wrong!" because this call was unexpected. There was excitement in Natalie's voice as she told me that Diana, a Peace Corps Volunteer in her community, was thrilled to learn that I was a mural artist because she'd been wanting to make a mosaic mural, but didn't know how to do it.
She'd asked Natalie, "Do you think your mom would want to come here and lead a project??"
Now let's back up a month or so. Immediately before she boarded the plane in June, I had told Natalie, "You're doing my favorite kind of travel: Going somewhere to live, work, and get to know people, not just play tourist."
So when she asked me on the phone, with Diana listening in the background, she was not surprised at my answer: "Tell her YES, ABSOLUTELY 100%! YES!"
That was my gut talking, not my fear. It was not the worried middle-of-the-night voice, but my core intuition and heart's desire. My soul heard an opportunity to move in a direction I've been wanting to move in, and it responded without hesitation. The details could be worked out later.
And they have been, and they still are today as I finish packing, and they will be once we arrive, and as the project gets underway, and as the classes take shape. The important thing is that we're going. No matter the outcome, it will be an adventure, and a step forward on my path. I've said yes, and now it's up to the angels to work their magic. :)
What about you?
I have a question for you: Has the universe showed you an opportunity recently, one that sends your heart all aflutter?? Maybe not as loud and clear as a long-distance phone call, but instead a tiny whispering saying, "Wouldn't it be great if...?" or "Someday I'd love to..."
Do this: Hold fast to your initial YES, and take tiny steps forward to make it happen. I know, I know, you don't feel ready. Spoiler alert: You never will.
Starting is how you become ready. Your biggest challenge is preventing fear from protecting you all the way to inaction. To complacency and stuck-ness.
Have a story about your battle with fear? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
* quote by Oscar Wilde