Italia! A follow up to the Letting Go post

Hello my friends!

Taking a time out from writing about writing to revisit the whole anxiety thing... Then maybe I'll post an update about my book.

Remember back in April I wrote a post called Letting Go? Well, I wanted to follow that post up with the incredible time Fishubby and I had in Italy this June.

Here's a line from that post:
The thought of going abroad again made me so nervous, I couldn't even talk about the trip without my heart racing, my mouth drying up, my armpits sweating, and my intestines squealing with sudden gassy-ness (anxiety is so glamorous, isn't it?)
The first thing I want to say about our trip is... IT WAS AMAZING. It was hands down the best vacation I have ever had. Once I got a handle on the anxiety, the thought of Italy was so exciting. Where I usually loathe traveling because of the anxiety of the airport and security checks and customs and the long long looooong flights, I was looking forward to every step of the way. Our first night in Italy, instead of wanting to hang out in the tiny apartment we rented, I wanted to go out and explore Rome by moonlight.

Here's another tip or trick, fair reader. You have the power within your mind to transform your anxiety into excitement or something else. I did this a couple years ago when I ran the Bear Chase Trail Half Marathon. As the race date approached, any time I felt anxious about it, or scared, or nervous, I told myself I wasn't anxious/scared/nervous, I was excited. By race day, I really WAS excited! And I was able to beat the time goal I'd set for myself.

Mind over matter, right? Even back then I was practicing something to get me through a tough situation, though it didn't help me the way my recent practices have helped me. It wasn't long term. It's just another tool in your tool box.

Okay, back to Italy...

I kept up with my morning practice up to and during the trip. I can't say I never felt anxious while we were there, but I used the techniques Lana taught me, and the mindfulness Diane taught me to overcome the challenges. I distracted myself from the situations that were scary, and I made it through.

One in particular was when we were in Sienna. Oh, Sienna. So beautiful. So glorious! It was a busier town than some of the others we'd visited, but that wasn't what made me anxious. It was the Torre del Mangia. A narrow tower. You can climb up its 300+ stairs to see amazing views of the Tuscan countryside. During our climb, there was a spot in the stairwell that was extremely tight. It felt like my shoulders were brushing either side, but I know that can't be true because Fishubby has broader shoulders than me and he had no difficulty.

I know it was the anxiety creeping up on me, like a monkey-monster on my back whispering things in my ear. "Claire, the passage is so narrow. You're going to get stuck! The walls are closing in! There's no way out!!! There's people in front and behind you! YOU'RE TRAPPED." Cue ominous music... or maybe the theme from Psycho... not sure. Anyway, I gripped my protection amulet (a beautiful amethyst) and I recited the opening to Disney's Beauty and the Beast (yes, I have the opening prologue memorized because that is my favorite Disney princess movie) over and over until we were out of that tight, crowded section of the stairs. Then, they opened up, and all was well in the world because we were at the the top of the the tower and there was a cool breeze and you could see the patchwork quilt of the Tuscan countryside. Glorious. Coming back down the stairs was so much easier after that. I do remember needing to practice mindfulness again when we reached that tight section, but I got through it, I survived it, and in the end? It was nothing. A tiny pothole on the road of what life has to offer.

I took my mind away from the terror and I was able to distracted myself. I took deep breaths while I recited those lines in my mind.

That was really the only time I remember feeling anxious. Every morning I did my practice. Pranayama. Meditation. Journaling. I mentally prepared myself each day to grab that day by the horns, wrestle it into submission, and own it. Every day was MY day.

Because there's one thing I've learned. Anxiety doesn't own me anymore. My inner turmoils don't have a role in my life anymore. This is my life and I am finally starting to live it.

At work, as I mentioned in the Letting Go post, I'm doing more. I'm advancing my career! I never thought I would ever be able to do that! Just yesterday I kicked off another project! In September, I'm going to a boot camp as a stepping stone to obtaining my PMP (starting with a CAPM certification - Certified Associate in Project Management). Credentials! I've never had credentials before!

Life is so much more enjoyable when you can just let go of all the fears of the past and live in the NOW. I know I make it sound easy, but it isn't. It's hard work and I'll repeat something else from the Letting Go post. You must be willing to let it go. You must be willing to set your crutch aside, face the fear of experiencing things outside your comfort zone, and, well, feel the fear and do it anyway!

(I do have to confess, for the sake of full disclosure, I did drink more wine on vacation than I usually do when at home. How can you not drink wine when you're in Italy? "When in Rome," right? It wasn't excessive and I need to stress that before the trip and after we got home, I typically have only one or two drinks per MONTH. I also did not use alcohol as a way to cope with anxiety. My meditation practice and practicing mindfulness made it so I was able to sit back, relax, and enjoy a glass of wine with lunch and dinner.)

I still meditate in the morning, but I have sort of fallen out of my entire morning practice. Each week I tell myself I need to get out of bed a little earlier so I can do the whole 15 minutes, but lately I've just been doing 5 minutes of meditation. It still works wonders on my mood and how I handle things in the morning.

I hope my posts have been beneficial to anyone out there who is suffering from anxiety. Be willing to try different techniques. Find what works for you. YOU are in control of your life, not anxiety, not the affects of anxiety. Every day belongs to YOU. So own it!


Claire L. Fishback

P.S. My new favorite Disney movie is Frozen. I know the song Let it Go is about Elsa being able to let go and use her powers instead of hide them, but it also goes along with anxiety. She was anxious about having to contain her power and hold it in and what would happen if it came out. She was so much happier after she could just let go and be herself. I also love that the story is about choosing love. One of the things I've learned in my journey is there are two primal emotions, Love and Fear. All other emotions stem from these (anger and hatred from fear; happiness from love, etc.). If you make the choice to chose love, your life will change. People will notice this change. I learned this from Gabrielle Bernstein's book a year or two ago the first time I tried to take this journey. It's also one of the teachings from Buddha.

So, let go of your anxiety and live the life you want and have always dreamed of. Find your frozen mountaintop ice castle. Find your peace.


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