My youngest son turned 16 a couple of months ago. He wasted no time getting his driver’s license. While I am excited about this milestone in his life, I lament the end of yet another chapter of motherhood. My husband and I decided he was ready to drive to school. To be totally transparent, my son and my husband embraced the concept wholeheartedly while I begrudgingly agreed. Instead of driving him to school and creeping along in the parent drop-off lane, I watch eagerly as he slowly reverses out of the driveway, fighting tears as the car disappears from my line of sight.
It’s not just being an overprotective mom, I also miss those sacred moments when it’s just the two of us in the car, chatting aimlessly about the serious as well as the mundane during those twenty minutes or so. We listened to the radio and provided commentary on pop culture and the latest celebrity antics. I got updates on the current project, anxiety about an upcoming test, or who blasted whom on social media recently. It was special, a few swatches of time with my youngest child, that meant the world to me.
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During a recent family vacation to an amusement park, we discovered that our youngest son loves roller coasters. Like a true adrenaline junky! We visited the park on two different days, and the highlight of both visits was the roller coasters.
While my husband and son enjoyed the rides, I was the designated backpack holder and cell phone keeper because I hate roller coasters. In fact, hate seems too mild to describe my feelings. Under no uncertain terms do I enjoy going uber fast, compounded by steep and unexpected drops, sudden, jerky movements, and/or being flung upside down. No thank you!
In spite of my aversion, I agreed to ONE ride. It was a family vacation after all, so I agreed to give it one try. It was the worst two minutes of my life. Afterwards, we walked around the park for an entire hour before I spoke a single word to my husband or my son. Did I mention that I hate roller coasters?
Later on that the evening, my husband asked me a question that really got me thinking: why do you hate roller coasters so much? And I really had to think about it. I can’t recall a bad experience or anything traumatic related to roller coasters. I don’t even know when or how I decided I don’t like them; I just don’t. I was stumped.
Since I couldn’t come up with a why, I started thinking about the way I feel on roller coasters. And that is when I had my “AH-HAH” moment. It’s the physical sensation that I dislike. It starts in the pit of my stomach. It’s a tightening deep in my belly, where my insides constrict. The feeling slowly spreads, moving up through my stomach, creeping upwards towards my chest. Next comes the sensation of being restricted, a literal squeezing that extends from my lower belly up through my chest cavity that grips me.
It is paralyzing.
It is oddly familiar.
It is fear.
So here’s my truth: I don’t like roller coasters because they are a physical manifestation of fear.
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“I don’t visualize failure; I visualize success.”
Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson
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I am quite skilled in visualizing failure, imaging the worst possible outcome. I can take any situation, dissect it, examine it, and see all the things that can possibly go wrong. Constantly, over and over again until my anxiety level is sky high and my negative thoughts consume me.
Focusing on the negative is my automatic defense mechanism, a way of preparing myself. And it can be a good thing until it is not. And lately it’s not. I am constantly stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious, always waiting and expecting the worst in all possible situations:
- A road trip would be fun, but what if we get a flat tire on the way?
- If I buy this, I’ll probably just end it returning it because something unexpected with come up.
- I can’t leave my job because I’ll lose everything.
But what if instead of failure, I visualize success:
- After the road trip, I am relaxed and recharged
- I will keep this thing, and use it to bless others
- Taking a leap will allow me to achieve success in another area
I am no longer bound by negativity, weighed down by anxiety.
My thoughts are free.
My potential is limitless.
I AM SOARING.