Anxiety is nothing but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.
– Seth Godin
When I’m startled awake at 4 a.m., I sit and stare at my dead plant.
Marty, as we affectionately called the former thriving houseplant, sits on the windowpane of our bedroom. He was Aaron’s beautiful addition to the apartment when he moved in last spring. Since then though, I killed him. Accidentally, of course.
His gradual death was over-watering. I feel mine will be anxiety-ridden sleepless nights.
In the last three weeks, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night. Nearly every night. Marty and a chorus of voices from patrons of the three bars on our block keep me company, after the fear and anxiety and remorse and regret and inner judgement collectively shake me from my slumber.
These voices, not the ones from the street, but the ones inside of me ramble on and on about the decisions I’ve made. The ones that I can’t take back. They laugh at me about telling my story, about trying to be a leader, about my highty-flighty, self-helpy intentions, about my audacity to add more to our ongoing conversation as human beings – and most importantly about being a leader.
Who do you think you are? they laugh at me while I lay awake staring at Marty. You’re going to regret this!
Within the first half-hour or so of my sudden alertness, I give into the voices, agreeing with these inner insomnia opponents. Who the hell do I think I am? I’m not a leader. What makes me so damn special?
Defeated and doubtful, I begin to regret my decisions, from the magazine article to my Facebook splash page. In it, for example, I grappled for weeks over the words that appear underneath my name. They’re meant to describe me, who I am in, in just a few nouns. Before settling on the tag, “writer, believer, inspiration,” I debated several similar options. Several. But after one of these sleepless nights, I wanted to log onto my computer and delete the entire Facebook account. I wanted to throw it away because I felt undeserving.
Who are you to call yourself an inspiration? I can hear them snickering at me as I put my head under my sheets. She actually thinks she’s some kind of thought leader? Puhleeze!
But a few nights ago, after a string of these sleepless nights, I had a mini-revelation, a breakthrough of sorts.
On this particular night, when the voices woke me, I let myself accept the doubt, the fear, the anxiety. I recognized them. I even said hello to each. But I did not validate them this time. I did not let them take over my thoughts, leading me to a trail of additional questions and fears.
Instead, I tuned into the voices downstairs, the ones of the night, of the people outside my window, the ones aching to connect with one another. I allowed their collective voices, a chorus of sorts, lull me back to slumber, back to dreamland. Those voices downstairs were real; the anxiety was not. The anxiety was attempting to get me to concentrate on failure that had yet to even happen yet.
What was real were those voices downstairs, and my intent: I’m telling my story in the hope that my belief in the power of dreaming and the power of certainty will resonate with other believers.
I refused to fret, I tuned out the anxiety and tuned into my dreams. I haven’t awaken since.