Ball of Fire
Lately, I’ve been feeling VERY scared. Actually, terrified. I feel like if you peeled away my skin, you’d find a huge ball of firey fear. It’s raging. It’s consuming me. And while I’m doing my very best to move through it, I can’t help but admit I’m panicking.
Contrary to what you may expect, this blog is not about cancer. This time, I’m going to break an old social taboo and write about something most people don’t share openly. I hesitate only because this extends beyond my own experience and involves my entire family. Mostly, I want to honor my husband’s privacy. But true to form, he supports me one hundred percent in my experience and has given me the green light to share this publicly. So here we go.
Money. It sucks.
From the time I was a child, I didn’t have visions of marriage or career. I had visions of being a mom. It’s all I ever wanted to be. But before I was able to manifest that dream, lots of life happened. I was a fiercely independent woman, having spent several years in NYC as a (hopeful) actress and eventually finding my way to a great career as a Casting Director for television. I loved casting! But my dream for kids was strong, so when I found myself pregnant after three miscarriages, I chose to stop casting and become an incubator. This wasn’t a tough decision to make- I knew what I wanted and I went after it. And after many years of pain and disappointment, we gave birth to our first son. Another loss and eventually son number two came three and half years later.
After clearing up a big ‘ole misunderstanding about expectations once I became a Mom, my husband jumped on board with me choosing to stay home to be a career mom. (That sentence is very weighted. Although it’s said with one breath, it took months of therapy to work through!)
Here’s the thing- at the time, my husband was an actor. Nowadays he’s more of a writer. Neither of them offer consistent, sustainable income. Not unless you’re one of the very, very lucky ones. So one of the challenges for me, the girl who grew up contentedly middle class, in the same house my entire life and craves stability, was becoming more improvisational and flexible, especially when it came to money. For the most part, my husband has managed to find consistent work. And I’ve learned that there will be ebbs and flows of income. More like feast or famine, honestly. So I adapt: when money is flowing, I’m packing it away like a squirrel stores nuts for the long winter. (Do squirrels really do that? I’m not sure, but I like the image.) We live a very frugal life, putting the bulk of our income toward the boys activities. But when work slows for my husband and stored money begins to dwindle down to a place where I’m uncomfortable, it gets bad. And scary.
I gave up a lot by choosing to stay home with the boys. Sure, I miss having a career of my own, but not nearly enough to make me want to trade in my career as a mom. However, I do miss the income and financial security the career outside the home provided. We have spent many conversations about the guilt I have by not generating a regular income. My husband understands the value I offer our boys and continues to support my decision through all my hemming and hawing, even though this puts tremendous pressure on him as the sole provider.
So when we get to this scary place, I panic. And old programming makes its way into my head.
When I was in my twenties, pursuing my acting career in NY, I was encouraged by my Dad to find a job that would offer a more sustainable income. His solution was to become a Pharmaceutical Rep. Those of you who know me can stop laughing now. Here’s why it’s humorous: First of all, I’m not a salesperson. I’m way too honest and transparent to sell something I may not completely believe in. And that leads to…Secondly, I don’t like taking medications for anything! Not even aspirin!
But I began to notice a feeling in my body whenever Dad would suggest the career move. It was an intense anxiousness. My heart and blood race, there’s a tightness in my chest and tears begin to form in my eyes. That’s how terror shows up for me. As I matured in my awareness of my body, I was able to identify the feelings as a sign that I’m on a path that may not be in service to myself.
But there’s always a small little voice in my head whispering, “Or is that how you justify avoiding doing something that you know you need to do?” The conflict is almost always there.
And that’s how I’m feeling right now. It’s the fear of having to be forced into a position that doesn’t fit me. Something that just isn’t right. I feel like I just can’t breathe. Somehow this fear is scarier to me than almost all of my cancer experience (except the part where I was afraid I’d die). And I’m terrified to my bones that if I don’t take one of “those jobs” that we will run out of money and be homeless. T E R R I F I E D!
So if you saw me right now, I’d look normal to you. But in reality, that big ‘ole ball of fear raging like a fire. All. The. Time.
I resort to my training. First, I acknowledge that although the fear is real, it isn’t necessarily based on truth from past experience. We have never been entirely broke or homeless. Ever. False Evidence Appearing Real. True, it has been very, very scary at times. (Like now!) But somehow we have always managed to pull ourselves out of the situation.
But the fear says, “What if this time is different? What are you going to do? It’s time to suck it up and go get a job- anything that will bring in money. Anything you big ‘ole wuss. Most women don’t even have a choice- they HAVE to work, you spoiled brat.Who do you think you are? Nobody gets to live their dream their entire life! Get out there and get a REAL job.” Fear is not nice to me. I feel the tightness almost strangling me and the panic sitting in my stomach.
The voice keeps me up at night. When I get overwhelmed, I once again turn to my training.
Because this seems to be a pattern in my life, I understand there must be opportunities available to me. What have I been overlooking? What lesson is this situation offering me? I hear a much more gentle voice reassuring me. “It’s ok, Sarah. It’s going to be ok. You are held. You are always held. This is unfolding perfectly. Keep your heart and mind open.” And slowly, I can feel myself loosening. My breath deepens. My panic begins to dissolve and I feel a softening; a way to look at this all a bit differently. And it feels much better than the tight, anxious, panicked feeling of fear.
So if this is perfect, what IS my opportunity? Well, I’ve been hovering in a space of not knowing what the next chapter of my life is going to look like for the last several years. Maybe this is exactly what I need, a kick in the pants, to get me thinking more in that direction? I sit in that for a while. And then a plan begins to form. And I’m reminded that working does NOT have to look like my fear’s images. There is a world where I’m doing something I enjoy, generating money AND being the kind of mom I want to continue to be.
And that’s where I am today. Still terrified, but taking small, action steps. Trusting that I have enough time left before our funds run out to allow the plans to evolve into something that generates income.
Trust- that’s a big one, right? I’ve always had a hard time discerning the fine line between trust and denial. Right now, I’m too dang scared, so I’m going to lean towards trust. I don’t want to give into my fear because the past has shown that when I make choices from a place of fear, they just don’t work out. And sitting in this space FEELS much better. I’m breathing easier, the tightness in my chest is gone and the panic has lessened. So trust it is. For this moment. And then hopefully the next and then the next.
My son had a big gymnastics competition recently. He started out really strong on his first event and then fell on his second, dropping him from first place to ninth. I went into a tailspin as I kept re-playing the moment he fell, wondering why, trying to somehow change the outcome in my mind. In the meantime, my son just kept working hard and competing beautifully at his subsequent events, chipping away at the lead that the other athletes had gained by his fall. Going into the sixth and final event, only four tenths separated him from first place. He prepared to mount the pommel, an event that had been giving him so much difficulty throughout the season. I tried my best to not cheer very loudly because I didn’t want to distract him. But as he worked his way through the routine, gaining momentum, clearing each skill, I just couldn’t hold back. My cheers became louder and louder, knowing full well if he didn’t fall, he’d win. And then, just like that, it was over. He’d done it- stayed on the pommel, did what he was supposed to do, what he’d been training for all season, and completed a clean routine. And yeh, he won the competition!
I can’t help but consider the symbolism of this event and extrapolate it onto my life. If I can just keep pushing, even after falling, trusting that I can do what I am put on this earth to do, it will all be ok. And maybe I can cheer for myself a bit too, knowing I can win if I can just hold on!
At least, that’s what I’m gonna tell myself today.