I have a confession to make, something that has been weighing on me for quite some time. I am a bit of a . . . well, no, more than a bit. I am a full-blown, head-in-the-sand OSTRICH. Phew, I said it. What a load off! Wait, what’s that? What does it mean to be an ostrich? Well, it means that when I start to feel overwhelmed with life, I tend to hole up, putting my head in the proverbial sand and allowing myself to look at only what I must to get through the day, the week, or even, I’m embarrassed to admit, the year. Well, that’s not so bad, you might think. Focus is a good survival skill. And yes, in small amounts, it is a truly necessary skill, especially when you have a lot of balls in the air in this busy, busy life. But escapism and avoidance? They cut you off from your source, from love and joy and laughter, and ultimately from living.
The irony here is that ostriching is just about as opposite to my life philosophy as you can get and still be me. See, I am a big believer in self-awareness, consciously looking at myself and where I am and seeing what is keeping me from accomplishing my goals and attaining my dreams. I have invested a lot of time and energy (and I mean A LOT) in personal growth exercises, classes, retreats, etc. over the years, and, as a result, I have, well, grown a lot over the years because of it. I’ve weeded my mental and emotional gardens, exposing and excising all those hidden roots for the dandelion-like issues that always seem to find fertile soil to grow in. I believe in doing a little spring cleaning several times a year, not just in my physical space, but mentally and emotionally to keep exposing any missed roots that might be clogging up my flow. I believe in looking directly at what scares me, looking that fear directly in the face and calling it out for what it is. I believe in feeling the fear and doing it anyway, especially because I know that whatever I feel fear about is life’s way of nudging me towards my next area of self-growth.
So when I pulled my head out of the sand last week, I was astonished to discover that in many respects, I’d been hiding in that fear-based sand for over a year and a half. I’d gotten overwhelmed when my second baby was born (oh yes, that baby who is now 20 months old) and I’d managed to compartmentalize my brain so that things I couldn’t deal with went into a segment that was pretty much a black box, taking stuff in but not allowing things out, so I had fewer things to look at and deal with at any given moment. It is a very effective short-term strategy, but an absolutely abysmal long-term one that can cause mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical anguish.
I received an email from a friend recently with a story that eloquently describes what happened to me during this time of ostriching:
“A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, ‘half empty or half full?’ She fooled them all: ‘How heavy is this glass of water?’ she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz to 20 oz.
She replied, ‘The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.'”
Those “weights” that I stashed away for another day may have started out light as a feather, but by the time I realized I could not carry them anymore, each one weighed a thousand pounds. The longer I carried such heavy weights, the more I ostracized myself from my source. At different times throughout that year and a half I was filled with anxiety, struggled with depression, experienced physical pain throughout my body (migraines; back and knee pain), struggled with finances, and lived in a mental fog that I couldn’t seem to clear myself of. Every time I found myself in such anguish, I would be baffled by it. I was working hard at creating the life I had been wanting to live, enabling many of my life’s dreams to begin to be fulfilled, but at the end of the day I still felt somewhat numb, only halfway able to experience the joy that came along with it.
And so last week I gave myself the great gift of de-ostrich-izing myself. I lifted my head from the sand and shined a light on what was hiding inside that black box inside my head. I put down all of those thousand-pound weights and restored them to their feathery lightness. I took care of some long overdue tasks, and crossed about a gazillion things off of my to-do list in a flurry of clarity and lightness and energy that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. The result? In addition to all of the little tangible benefits of “getting stuff done,” I’ve had a return of my ME-ness. I feel more authentic, more at peace, more capable of taking on the world when I need to, and more capable of asking for help when I need to. I am returning to my practice, rewarding myself with my meditation time in the mornings, and sleeping better at night. The creative juices are flowing again and I have ideas bubbling up all over the places, just begging to be birthed out into the world. The numbness is fading, and my deep gratitude for this life I am creating and living is present without my having to work at it.
As I write this, I feel once again the deep sense of relief I experienced last week, along with a renewed sense of awe that I allowed it to go for so long. But I’ve found that’s what happens when you ostracize (or ostrich-ize!) yourself from life — you can no longer hear the messages that life is trying so hard to send you. And so, here I go again, doing my internal spring cleaning, clearing out the weeds in my internal garden, planting new seeds that I hope will shine light when the dark places try to re-emerge, grateful for this opportunity to continue to grow, and grateful for this awareness that has once again pushed me out of my comfort zone and back out into the world to share my stories along this crazy journey called life, my own personal journey of learning to fly. Namaste.