Hopeful New Year

I have a real love/hate relationship with Michigan. I absolutely adore Michigan from May through September. Subsequently, I absolutely abhor it December through February/March. (The other months I tolerate.) I have to really keep my crabbiness in check during the winter because I truly dislike being cold and all the implications that come with it. If I’m not on guard, I could become very whiney. No one wants that, including me?! Thus imagine my potential demeanor when for most of us across the continental United States, there was a winter storm for days right at the beginning of the holiday break. It would be realistic to think that after having lived in a mid-west state for over 30 years that I would be used to wintry conditions. And the truth is I am. I know the preparations that are required to ensure a successful hunkering down commences. And I’ve become very good at it. I learned through COVID that I’m actually very happy being forced to stay home. In fact, I don’t mind the bad weather as long as I don’t have to be out in it.  A realization I’ve recently come to as well, is that one of my issues with winter is contending with the driving conditions. I can drive on snow covered, icy roads, I just don’t like to. I believe that is a common feeling, but I know people who don’t seem to mind it. Bad roads don’t deter them from carrying on with their day-to-day activities. They are still fine to run errands or go to the gym and to be out and about. For some reason I’m missing that gene.

There have been a couple of occasions in the last several weeks that forced me to be on the roads in those wintry conditions. I was not happy. I have enough self-awareness (which is good since I train on that competency frequently) to know how I was feeling. I had to do a lot of mental gymnastics to get myself to a place of acceptance and peace. “It’s ok to go slow, you will be fine”. “All will be well”. Ultimately, what I experience in those moments is fear. I’m afraid of getting hit, hurt, and/or stuck, in that order. I don’t like to be or feel out of control. I hate when other drivers fly past me as I’m inching my way forward ever so slowly, splashing slush on top of me. I get irritated when I’m tailgated by people who want me to go faster, or impatient when stuck behind someone who’s maybe going slower than necessary (except for to them, so I try not to judge). I worry about loved ones when they are on the road in those instances too. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. It may not necessarily be on the road in the snow and ice, perhaps it shows itself in other situations for you.

I saw my fearfulness rear its ugly head in another situation. There was some transition happening in a work scenario in which I’m involved. Things felt unsettled and fluid. It was unclear how I could contribute meaningfully in the new set-up. I got negative, insecure, and reserved. That’s my defense mechanism when I don’t feel safe or protected. I become self-shielding and insular. I don’t like being like that. It doesn’t feel authentic to who I really am or aspire to be. Fortunately, I was able to candidly process my actions with a trusted colleague and do some more self-reflection to get to the heart of the matter. Fear. 

I am the kind of person that wants to make a difference. I want to impact the world for good. I want to leave things better than how I found them. I’m confident that many (all) of you reading this feel the same way. That is typically the type of person that chooses a career in a field such as we did. I can imagine that there are times when you may feel out of control. That you are forced to go slower (or faster) than you’d prefer. When it feels as someone may “crash” into you, take over your lane or throw something into your line of sight. You may be in a time of transition as well, feeling unsettled or uncertain about the future. The unknown can be scary.

What helped me through my own little personal winter storm, was to name it, to get humble, vulnerable and call it was it is, fear. It felt freeing to say, “I’ve been afraid.” Or “I am afraid.” Just like I have to do while driving in inclement weather, I have to slow down, get self-aware and come to a place of peace and acceptance. “All will be well”. The universe underlined this for me when the very next day after my fearful wrestling I saw a quote that said, “Hope is stronger than fear”. My friends as we start a new year, let’s hold onto hope as it is stronger than fear. That is my hope for you (& me). Happy New Year!

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