Safety is not the endgame.
I want to repeat this over and over to myself.
Several years ago, I was in an era of expansion and growth in my life. My heart was open, and I felt like I could take on the world and enrich it while I rocketed through.
At the time, I had rebounded from the shocking death of my husband who was lost to me way too young. I was surrounded by friends and family. I was in my element.
It is not that difficult to help people around you when those people already love and respect you. In that small east Texas town, I felt needed. Wanted. Loved.
When I moved to “the big city” in the Greater Dallas area, I was still in touch with many friends via texts, social media, and phone calls, but I was stripped of the energy of in-person interactions and the emotional connection of community.
Now I had my relationship with my boyfriend and a new life—with a new job and lots of promise. And somehow all the growth, expansion, and openness of heart disappeared in the need to reorder my life and make it feel safe.
My need to regain some control turned off my creativity, my zest for life, and much of my love and hope for other people.
I didn’t like much about myself, and the worse I felt about myself, the less joy I could feel for other people’s successes. The less I took physical, emotional, and spiritual care of myself, the less I could have any care or empathy for the struggles of others.
I found myself frozen once again—dependent on approval.
I am not the only one who has taken some proverbial steps backward—taking the echoes of unhealthy behaviors and giving them present sound.
For those with me on this journey, let’s do some things to reconnect to the hopeful, open, beautiful humans that we are and meant to be. We can:
1. Learn again to sit in discomfort.
We can be mindful of the underlying struggle we have tried to mute with denial, mindless distractions, and addictions to anything such as alcohol, shopping, food, and even people. Though we may quiet the pain, it is still there, festering and growing exponentially with all the refuse we are piling on top of it.
2. Although it does not always feel safe, we can set boundaries and have a voice.
I am trying to develop this skill, but much of my truth has been spoken in times of anger. Truth fueled by anger will rarely connect like truth fueled by self-love and love for others. We can do this in our friendships, our professional lives, and especially with those that we might stand the most to lose.
We are not doing those we love any favors with a lack of authenticity ignited by fear. They deserve the best you—the real you—the one who can and will make mistakes, get angry, and get her feelings hurt, but who can and will also love, feel joy, and bring joy to others.
3. Learn once again to sit still.
I used to express this to my friends and coaching clients often. Sometimes we have to sit still—stop chasing the things we want and running from the things we do not. This is especially true with people. It is an unfair burden to make anyone the center of your universe, and it is also unfair to hide your depth and inner beauty for fear someone will use it against you or reject it.
4. Surround ourselves with people that bring out the best in us—not from a position of dependence but one of magnification.
I had a great group of friends in that small town and I love all of them. But I need to cultivate new people—new energy—instead of believing that was some magic that will never happen again.
I spent time and energy finding people in order to feel a connection, and my closed down self almost had me convinced that I don’t want or can’t have that anymore. The reality is my fear has taken what should be a fun process of connection, and made it into perceived opportunities for failure.
I am still a loving and lovable person. It’s time to share that again.
5. Give ourselves some grace.
I have not committed any grave sin against myself or others, even though I checked into autopilot for longer than I would have liked. But I am back engaged in my process of becoming, and instead of thinking of the downtime as wasted, I am going to frame it as hibernation. A much-needed rest from which I have awoken hungry for an engaged life.
6. Celebrate our victories, no matter how small.
Not every win in life is extraordinary, so I will look for even the smallest step in the right direction. The time I look in the mirror and see the things I do. The expression of an opinion that is against the grain in the group I am in. The request for help when I need or want it. I want to see all these small threads of success as part of the tapestry—each one adding strength to my overall vision for my life.
Thinking about my new mantra, I have to ask myself if safety is not the goal for my life, what is?
In this moment, I see that the goal will change as I do, and if I keep my heart open, these changes will bring joy and excitement instead of fear.
I am grateful for the time I had to bring some order to my life and now I am ready to decorate that framework with light and energy.