Old habits die hard. Old patterns ingrained by ego almost refuse to die.
I have spent many years “performing”. I performed as an athlete. I performed as the cool girl. I performed as a good worker bee. I performed as an Executive. I performed when running marathons. I performed at being Miss Independent. At being a Feminist. At being a Listener. At being kind. At being tough. At being quick-witted. At being Erudite. At being what I thought others wanted from me. At being the star in whatever play I put myself in. I even performed at being perfect. I had so few needs that friends were genuinely shocked or caught off guard when I was upset, needy, or insecure. With all my might, I was holding up a facade of who Maggie Helm “should” be. And as that facade became more layered (and more complicated), holy shit, it got heavy. I was exhausted. Like Atlas holding up the entire world on his shoulders. I spent years not realizing that at ANY point, I could actually put the facade down, and stand comfortably in my own skin. I worried that if I shrugged (like Atlas), or misstepped, carrying such a weight, I would inevitably stumble and fall. Then what? Exposure? Shame? Imperfection? Helplessness? The Unknown? Uncertainty? Did I mention how exhausting it all was? But if I did put it down, what would be left? Who was I anyway? I’m proud of being driven. I’m proud of being a feminist. I’m proud of being a good listener, and of being kind. I don’t want to trade those pieces of me in. The perfectionist? Her, I could live without. It’s terrifying to do away with masks and labels, because, then who am I? And would I like who I actually was, vs the cool, strong, driven image?
As I make small and huge changes in my life, taking steps to better reflect who I am, and who I want to be, I feel out of control. Utterly out of control. I have no idea how it’s all going to go. Yet, I am conscious that this is by choice. I’m giving up a way of living that has worked out for me most of the time. It was sometimes painful and inauthentic, but it got me where I needed to go. Or believed I needed to go. I willed (translation: forced through sheer blood, sweat and tears) many good (and bad) things in my life. Now, I am putting down a sword and a suit of armor that served me well for a lot of years, but was starting to not only weigh me down, but to crack. It didn’t allow me to breathe. And most importantly, it protected my heart from allowing in real vulnerability.
To not know the answers, or better yet, to not PRETEND to know the answers, is absolutely unnerving. Yet exhilarating. Some quiet but resolute voice is telling me that it will be okay. That I am doing the only thing I was ever meant to do. And to just keep going.
But I’m at an in-between stage. Meaning, I’ve pushed away from the old shores, where I no longer felt at home… and I believe I am steering towards something wonderful. I feel Honest to God hope. Except, now, I’m at the stage in the journey where I can’t see the land I left behind, but I can’t see the next stop/new place yet either. Water is all around me. I’m uncertain where I am. Everything looks the same – navy blue waves and the distant blank horizon in every direction. I’m doubting my navigation capabilities. There’s the calming voice again. It says, “Stay the course.”
What I can’t see from my little boat, surrounded by choppy waters, is this plain and simple fact: I’m not actually navigating. And maybe that is what the small but insistent voice wants to impart. You are not in charge. You can stop holding on so tight. You can stop willing with all your might. Things are working out exactly as they should – good and bad. Which means something beautiful. It means I am not alone. And I don’t have to take this life on alone. To let go of control feels horrifying, until you do. Then it’s liberating and supportive at the exact same time. I’m still here. I can see my little boat bobbing up and down on those little waves. And if I pull back from my scene a bit further, that body of water is actually being cradled in the universe’s cupped hands. So I’ll do my best to steer, and to make plans, but I am most certainly at the whim of the universal energy alive and conducting through all of us. I make choices. So does everybody else. Even doing nothing is a choice. Call it chance. Call it the universe. But it connects us, those choices. And opportunities await. I’m reminded that it’s wonderful to be alive and experience the magic that happens as soon as I stop pretending to run the show called MY LIFE. And just like that, I think I spot land. Or a ship. Or light reflecting off of something. “Keep going”, the voice says.