|When you believe in a
thing, believe in it all
the way, implicitly
Have you ever had one of those days–or a long stretch of days–when the one thing you dream of doing the most is THE most difficult, painful thing you can possibly do (or attempt to do)? It doesn’t matter whether that dream is running a marathon, rebuilding a classic car, starting or finishing a college degree, writing a book, or building a theme park empire that is loved by kids of all ages. What matters is that it’s your dream–the one thing YOU want most in the world. You’ve spent hours, days, months, or years dreaming of the moment when you take that first step toward realizing your dream, but when that moment comes and you believe you’re ready to harness your energies and lift your foot to take that first, brave, beautiful baby step toward dream-dom… you’re stuck. Paralyzed.
If you’re like me, then right after that paralyzing moment… I’m pissed. Angry at me, myself, and I. Angry at the world. Frustrated with the universe as a whole, because… oh-mi-freaking-word, this is something I want for myself! This is the one thing–the one dream–that I selfishly refuse (and I mean REFUSE) to give up! So why the hell am I paralyzed? Why am I stuck? Why is the world out to get me?!!!
Okay, so that’s an over dramatization of 98.1% of the days I endured during my long bout (about 12 years) with writers block. Now, I’ve read blogs, self help books, been to professional therapists, attended enough workshops, listened to plenty of speakers about their opinions on writers block to know that there is a huge population of writers out there who don’t believe that writers block exists. I’ve heard them mock writers who say they’re blocked and call them lazy, procrastinators, and unmotivated individuals who are just wanna-be’s who like to whine to get attention. To those non-believers I say… you’re entitled to your opinion–and yes, I will admit that there are people in this great big, beautiful world we co-habitat that fit their description.
But not every writer in this world who has ever experienced writers block falls into that one-size-fits-all category. And yes, I realize that this blog post seems like it’s directed at writers only, but the concepts I’m about to wax philosophical on can apply to anyone who has a dream they’ve yet to realize or fulfill.
Notice that I keep using the word paralyzed to describe the feeling that overcomes an individual who’s preparing to take the first step to realizing their dream. Keep that in mind while I walk you through this first concept… and here we go.
As a scientist who has studied the nature of macro and micro organisms, I’ve gotta tell you that when an organism does something… there’s a reason behind it. Most of the time, it’s a chemical response to an environmental trigger–that manifests in the external world as a physical response.
For example, you have a plant that sits under an umbrella–you control the light source and only allow the light to shine down on the left side of the umbrella… given enough time (say a few days) and you’ll start to see that plant react chemically to the environmental trigger and lean to the left to grow towards the light.
Example 2, bears hibernate during the winter, because… food isn’t available in the quantities they need to survive during the cold, snowy months. So their bodies have evolved (chemically and physically) to adapt themselves to the environments which they live in.
Example 3, microorganisms (like bacteria) will adapt to their environment in extreme stress–like a lowered pH, too much salt, too little oxygen, the presence of a competing bacterial or viral (aka, bacteriophage) presence. Some bacteria work as a community to change the environment by sacrificing the weak cells to save the few–the sacrificing or death (lysis) of the weak bacteria cells releases chemicals to the environment which can drastically improve the situation for the good guys while impeding or inhibiting the growth of the bad (competing organisms and/or chemicals).
Each of those examples display something that all organisms on this planet have a divine right to pursue… SELF PRESERVATION. For those of you who like simple equations to plant in your foundation, check out this flow of operations for my very basic definition of self preservation…
In describing humans who are experiencing a block of some sort, this over simplified equation can also be applied. An environmental trigger (aka, lifting the foot to take the first bold step into a new personal paradigm) creates a physical response (paralyzed, stuck, unable to step out of your comfort zone into a new personal paradigm). The paralyzed feeling can be summed up as FEAR. In other words (as I see it), the moment you start to take that first step into your new world… you are overcome with fear… that fear is manifested in a chemical response that is triggered as a self preservation mechanism which is your body’s way of asking you, “Are you really, really, REALLY sure you want to take this step and leave your warm and fuzzy world you’re in right now?“
All of which is a totally normal response for a normal, healthy person. It’s not something to be ashamed of, mocked, or criticized. Because, honestly, this sort of internal Q&A system is what has helped humanity survive as long as it has on this planet. It’s called survival–and it’s easy to see how this works for individuals backed into a corner who have to act to survive, but what about when it’s a want or desire? A dream that isn’t essential to your basic survival? That’s where concept 2 enters into the picture…
As mentioned in a previous blog post (Facing Down the Barrel of a Flashlight Part 1), self esteem is a term that is comprised of 2 basic questions for yourself:
It took me a long time to figure out that self esteem is key to answering the self preservation question–to overcoming the fear that manifests itself in that paralyzing moment. Especially for women. Why?
Because women–in general and by nature’s design–are the ones who support propagation of life. They are the ones who build families by giving birth to children and raising them. Women who are mothers probably understand exactly where I’m going with this, because as a mother it’s (in general) the nature of the job to sacrifice your own wants and desires to see to the health and happiness of the family unit. I’ll give you an example, see me as a new mother who has just gone through hell to give birth to her daughter–I’m exhausted, in pain, and out of my mind with an infection and high fever. The baby is crying, she’s hungry… all I want to do is sleep and not move because it hurts too much to move… but my baby is hungry and needs a change of diapers and…. see me dragging my sorry butt out of bed to see to every need that baby craves to be happy and healthy. Is my body screaming with pain? Am I shaking with pain and half way out of my mind? Yep. But am I paralyzed with fear? Nope. I should have been considering the shape I was in, but I wasn’t. Instead, I grit my teeth, ignored the self preservation triggers, and marched my sorry ass straight through my comfort zone and did what had to be done.
Do that sort of mom routine for long enough without any help or support in the home and guess what… you wind up being trained (hello, I’m Pavlov’s dog, did you hear the dinner bell?) to sublimate your own wants and desires in favor of whatever anyone else around you wants, desires, whims, dreams, mentions, etc. The sad part is that every time you sublimate your own wants, desires, and/or dreams, your self esteem is impacted in such a way that you begin to be conditioned to put everyone else above (or before) yourself. Or even
better worse, you begin to attach your Am I lovable answer to everyone else’s expectations. And that’s just plain wrong.
(And yes, to my male readers, I do believe that this same thing can happen to you under the right circumstances. Which is my way of saying that self esteem issues are an equal opportunity messer-upper.)
The insidious part about this whole thing is that when you put others expectations of what YOU should be doing before what you want to do and sublimate your own wants and desires… you end up triggering a wholly eff-ed up self preservation response. You begin to view your wants, desires, and dreams as selfish things that are unnecessary to the health and happiness of your family unit. It’s a mess that leaves you blocked, paralyzed with fear about doing something (others have implied is) selfish… like taking a long hot bath. Or running a marathon. Or re-building a classic car. Or going back to school to get that college law degree you’ve wanted since you were 12 years old and watched your very first Perry Mason episode. Or, even, writing.
The truth is that when you’re in the moment of being paralyzed it sucks (on so many levels). It’s unhealthy and does nothing to support the health and happiness of your family unit. Because guess what… YOU are a VITAL member of YOUR FAMILY UNIT. Which means that if you want to do your job right the first time… then you have to identify your dreams, evaluate them to see if they are too selfish (in the grand scheme of things, that is), and work like hell to push yourself through that comfort zone to take that bold first step towards realizing your dream and your new world paradigm.
Will it be easy? Maybe, maybe not. In all likelihood, taking that first step may be one of the most personally painful things you’ve ever done. But it’ll be worth it. Hell, in my book, it’s always worth it when you take a step into an unknown world… because with every step you grow, learn, and improve yourself. And learning a new thing is (IMHO) one of the most precious and loving things you can do for yourself.
And now for the fun part.
I decided to write this 2 part blog series for me. I realized that the journey I’ve been on to bust through my own version of hell (writers block) was something that needed to be shared–hell, I lived it for a reason, didn’t I? But more than that, I needed to get this information out of my head and onto my blog so that I could see my own journey. See that it’s real. That I wasn’t a whiner or a quitter or lazy or a procrastinator. I had to read in my own words that I’m an explorer–a brave explorer who wasn’t afraid to dive deep down within to shine a flashlight onto my darkest secrets to reveal what my personal truth is. To uncover what it is that I want. Not what others tell me I want, but WHAT I WANT for myself. Then I want to share it, so others can watch me as I march through my journey to manifest my desires into reality. This isn’t an experiment. It’s not an adventure–okay, well it is an adventure, but it’s a real one. Not some make believe pipe dream. I will do it. I will make it happen. It’s not selfish. It’s not mean. It actually improves the quality of my family unit (a family unit that includes me) and my health and happiness. It’s attainable and right there in front of me–so close that I’m going to reach out and grab it… right now.
And now it’s your turn, my dear readers, leave me a comment and share… what do you want? What dream do you have that thrust you into a paralyzing moment? Do you need a cheerleader to help spur you on to success? If so, now is your chance to take the first step on your own journey of self discovery and recognize that precious dream that is cosseted and protected deep within. You can do it–stake your claim and take that first step towards realizing your dream.