In March of 2011, the universe sent me a rather messy message via my pantry. Last Friday I got sick. And I mean the sort of sick that found me in fetal position on the floor of our closet text messaging Jimmy a distress signal.
Jimmy lovingly calls me, Deep-End-Diver, because when things go wrong he often observes me run (more like sprint) to the deep-end. And that is precisely where I was when he arrived in the closet: The deep-end, convinced I had contracted diverticulitis in all of three hours.
No. I did not. But in that moment I seriously wanted to die for 24 hours.
While in the throes of moments like these I almost always find that my brain begins sending me hex-messages. While in bed my list of things to do began screaming at me. OK, really? I’m trying to get healthy and my mind begins to chant that I won’t be ready for a speech I am delivering on November 14. November 14th? Mind you I have already written the speech and completed my slides.
I found it, re-read it, let the words soak in and that is how I found the paradigm shift I desperately needed. I decided I would re-post it.
If you struggle with an inner-voice that on occasion seeks to undermine you, then this one is for you.
To be clear right up front—this is not a “you are what you eat” ramble…it is however a “you are what you think” epiphany.
No more than an hour and a half into my day and 24 hours away from leaving for a conference I was scheduled to speak at, I had sent what I can only guess would be close to 500 hex-messages to myself about, what I couldn’t do, hadn’t done, and who did I possibly think I was for thinking I ever could, in other words; serious amounts of negative self-talk or what I have dubbed: hex-messages.
For three weeks I had been pecking away at formulating my presentation, but for the three days leading up to the aforementioned didactic bulletin from on high, I had hit a road block with the presentation I was working on. There had been a series of false starts at eradicating the pitfalls but really they amounted to staring at a blinking computer cursor while trying to tune out the abysmal chants my little voice was sing-songing in my mind.
Do you ever do that? In a moment of self doubt rather than drawing from your personal strengths your brain rushes down the highway of self deprecation as if trying to defeat you?
Well left unchecked mine does exactly that, which brings me back to the morning in question and my pantry…
While on our way out the door to get him to school, my son stopped and said, “Mom, what’s that smell?”
“Eew. Not sure.” And much like a blood hound goes on patrol I double backed to the trash assuming the offensive odor was the result of rotting food cast from a plate lurking somewhere within. Nope.
Sniff, sniff, sniff…it seems to be coming from over here…my mind having temporarily abandoned it’s hex-messaging was telling me while picturing a dead mouse or worse. As I drew closer to the pantry the offending odor took hold. I can honestly say what was hidden behind the door and about to reveal itself was the farthest thing from my mind.
Yup, that’s what my pantry looked like when a four year post expiration date can of tomato sauce decided to spontaneously combust and blow its contents out from its bottom inside the pantry.
I didn’t need to consult the clock to know there was not a possibility of cleaning the putrid mess and getting my son to school on time. I took a deep breath and told myself—“pull it together…think of the people in Japan they would GLADLY trade places…” With that thought circling like an airplane coming in for a landing I gently closed the doors to the cabinet, turned, and with a smile said to my son that of course I wouldn’t make him late for school…the mess would still be there when I returned.
Off to school we drove…minutes later my son climbed from the car and as he did I paused to watch him head toward his school day…all that promise and ability alive in his long legged gate, and as if by magic a thought crept into me…
What do I tell my kids when they doubt themselves…” followed by, “why don’t I extend the same patience and grace to myself?”
Messages of self deprecation are learned—what do I want my children to observe when it comes to my own self-talk—clearly I do not want to pass on to them the quasi mini-series-drama that has been performed in my mind as of late.
Even when self-deprecation takes hold internally it still finds a way to manifest externally—so I cannot delude myself in the “at least I haven’t said these messages out-loud” reassurances. Negativity oozes from pores, shows up in body language, and in my case —no doubt was shutting my family out—clarity of vision almost always comes from backing away, by staring at my work with my nose up against the screen I was trapped in the “I am too busy to think and feel anything but this” paradigm and all the while cemented in misery not solving one smidgen of my dilemmas.
By the time I returned home the internal voice noise was grounded freeing my mind to see that self-defeating messages are toxic. In many ways they lead to self-hate and I knew I had traveled way too far to allow myself to implode, or like the can, explode.
Better the can than me.
I grabbed the camera, rubber gloves, paper towels, a sponge, my sense of humor and began the clean-up.
For me cleaning often is a cathartic process—something about restoring order to domestic chaos re-aligns me with myself. In the case of the cabinet it’s as if the objects needing removal were symbolic of an unsolved trouble spot in the presentation I had been working on. The more I tore that cabinet apart the more my brain worked on the trouble areas of my PowerPoint. As each item was replaced I found my confidence emerging what had previously been a message of doubt, “You seriously can’t make this into a deliverable message—it’s too fragmented!” Was replaced with “Bullshit—it isn’t fragmented I simply have a couple of areas to flesh out—I have what it takes to make this a deliverable message.” What once was, “Who do you think you are?” was now usurped by, “A woman who is trying to make a difference by sharing her own observations and experience.” Last, “why the heck did I agree to this,” was stomped out with, “I am so excited by this privilege I can’t wait!”
By allowing my hex-messages into my thought process…they acted as road blocks creating an obstacle course cluttering the path to my desired goal. The toxicity of negative self-talk can lead one down a slippery slope that can dead end in potential self hate…so taking time out to hear the messages inside my head, in a word, stopped the personal attack. We all need to do it—no more hex-messages— it emotionally arrests us in a place of negativity.
Cabinet cleaned, order restored, message from the universe absorbed—back away for clarity, turn down the noise, tune-up the mind set, and above all check myself when negativity sets in—
Like the contents of the can, that way of thinking has long since expired. Hex-messages be gone…because, I am what I think.