I’d been out of town for days, and there was no word from my administrative manager. She’d have an end-of-week report coming in tomorrow, according to the schedule we’d crafted, and she’d completed the beginning of the week account review, as she’d been doing for months now, but in between? Silence.
Could everything really be going that smoothly? How could everything be going that smoothly, when I’d spent the vast majority of my time and energy over the last 8 years fretting over this company, it’s contractors, and it’s clients, every day?
I was used to a constant stream of input. Of feedback to respond to, of needs I could leap into action to fulfill… an endless flood of responsibility, that I’d grabbed whole-heartedly, over and over, no matter how exhausted or burned out. I was the one ultimately accountable for everything we did – how could I not accept that downpour?
And suddenly, with my departure from the country, that flood stopped coming my way.
After my sunrise swim off the East Coast of the sleepy Balinese resort town of Sanur, and my tropical fruit breakfast, I jumped on the computer to start reviewing contractor’s session notes. And check email. And send request for statuses… anything… everything… I just needed to know everything was okay…
I caught a mental glimpse of myself from the outside, during a momentary break from my habituated frenzy of worry about the company, and saw a young mother, leaving her baby with a babysitter for the first time.
My administrative manager was no inexperienced neighborhood pre-teen, and my 8 year old company had legs much stronger than a tiny infant, but the feeling must have been similar. This was my livelihood, my primary project of the last decade, my plan for my future well-being, and an intimate heart-filled service, with deep and nuanced relationships with its clients. How could I not worry?
I was used to worrying. I’d strategized about the business through much of the one 10-day silent meditation retreat I’d taken a year before, making plans for its next steps, when I was supposed to be in the present moment. I’d agonized over the business, when contractors needed to cancel, and I got called into work unexpected hours, because I thought someone needed to. I’d run myself in circles over years of trying to craft perfect emails… trying to make everyone happy… trying to find the perfect balance of policies that took care of everyone… generally running in over-responsibility, all the time. I’d continued plotting and planning, and stressing, even when my business ruined my sex life, because I couldn’t get upset clients out of my head, and started inevitably bringing them mentally into bed. Not sexy. Not healthy.
And thus, burned out and needing a fresh start, I’d turned my recent focus entirely on replacing myself in the daily functions of the business, and left for Bali.
I knew changing the mental patterns wouldn’t be automatic. I’d started consciously working on it before I left… making friends with the unknown, trying to release my death grip on my plans needing to work out the way I’d envisioned, listening to intuition…
But as long as I was in LA, I was still running off that feed of constant input. My precious little one was still never more than a proverbial baby-monitor’s length away… I still heard it’s snores and coos and restlessness and waking up cries every moment, and, in ways much deeper than I realized, use those as my indicators of whether I was okay. Whether I could relax. Whether life would all work out.
And now here in Bali, the baby monitor was silent. How would I know if I was okay? If I could relax? If life would all work out?
Finding alternate answers for those questions took time. But they started, that sunny tropical morning, with trust. I quickly got an email back from my administrative manager, with supportive laughter at my habituated panic, and reassurance that everything was humming smoothly. I’m so glad I hired someone who naturally runs a lot calmer than I do, at least about this particular business.
I took a mental look at that manager, and at the team I’d hired over the years, and saw how capable and caring they all are. I took a mental look at myself and saw how I was slowly killing myself with the endless stress and worry that each little thing in the business had to be done “just right”. I took a look at the systems we’d created – and saw processes for each piece of daily and weekly business that our company did – clearly documented, and for the most part, well rehearsed by the people performing them. All the ducks were in a row. My responsibility now was to take the leap of faith, and trust those ducks I’d worked so hard on. The decision was only mine to make. The alternative felt like more of the torture I’d already become accustomed to putting myself through, so I risked actually setting it down inside. (While still getting twice weekly reports, and having constant access to real time logs online… I could still check in any time I actually needed. But I chose to update my concept of when that “need” actually was).
I’d imagine that young mother, finally out to a quiet dinner, can’t really keep the baby out of mind the whole night, if at all. Similarly, the stress habit came back, frequently, to visit and tell me I needed to solve some imaginary problem. So I made the decision to trust again. And again. And again.
Eventually I got so good at trusting, I once realized I’d completely forgotten to check my business email for 2 weeks… just forgot it existed. Success. Of course, everything had hummed along fine without me, then, too.
Leaving the country wasn’t enough to change my self-damaging mental habits. I started getting my life back, when I stop frantically searching for signal from the baby monitor. It makes sense – I mean, those things aren’t designed to work across 8,000 miles.
(photo credit: Let Grow Therapy)