My first “I’ve passed the point of no return” moment was April 2, 1995. It was the day of my first daughter’s birth. It was also the shortest day of the year, the day we lost the hour we gained in the fall the year before. That day. It was also the era where insurance paid for only 24–48 hours in the hospital to bring a life into the world safely and then recover. Yep… .
My water broke at 4 a.m. My husband leapt out of bed like the house was on fire, then disappeared for 10 minutes and returned with our good lasagna pan. To this day, I’m not sure what he was thinking—maybe he was going to put the baby in it if I delivered in the car? In his defense, we had been up most of the night with what I thought was indigestion from a fine dining experience the night before. We were having a baby on about an hour’s sleep.
We arrived at the hospital @ 4:30 a.m. Clock ticking. The nurses were super nice as they took me to a room. Then the fun and excitement was basically over. There was probing and needles, after which they attached wires and equipment to me and led me around the hospital like I was a circus pony on parade. Walking would speed things up, they said, tick, tick, tick. They took me down the halls of to see all of the laboring women and the newborn nursery. There were smells and hanging bags of this and that and screaming. My pain and fear grew worse with every step.
I became acutely aware that I was going to be asked to push a baby out through this incredible pain in this strange place. It was what I call an “I’ve passed the point of no return” moment. It felt akin to deja′ vu, only with terror mixed in. This moment was a terrifying awareness that, something too big is happening, combined with the realization that there’s no going back now. It’s only forward, and it’s all on me.
If you’ve had one of these realizations, you know they’re awful. I call these moments conscious panic attacks—your mind sees something it cannot handle happening and tries to think it’s way out, then realizes it can’t.
Then, my mind went into nuclear neurosis:
My life is over. I’m going to be a terrible mother. I’ll probably die in childbirth.
BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. My scientific training had taught me enough about the human body to scare the crap out of me if I let it. And I did frequently. Somehow every contraction meant an organ was failing or the baby was in distress. Surely contractions did not feel this bad!
Today, we remind ourselves before we lean in to look for purpose, and hence, thrust ourselves into potentially big, fearful situations, we must truly understand that staying small was never an option.
We must acknowledge the fear that comes from doing important things like having a baby or creating something that has never existed before. (Get it? Purpose is like childbirth in many ways.) It is the great unknown, the frontier.
We are all called to a frontier called purpose, and to be successful we must master fear.[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]We are all called to a frontier called purpose, and to be successful we must master fear.[/pullquote]
When you make the choice to stay safe and “play small” from some occasionally terrifying moments, you allow fear to dictate every choice from then on. Essentially, fear decides what life you can lead, and fear still drives every decision whether you are conscious of it or not.
You have not escaped the fear; you’re living a different life because of it. You are constructing a life in the swampland, and any vision or dream or knowing you’ve had for yourself is repressed. If you stay there long enough, you will have a similar “past the point of no return” moment from a very different place at some point down much later in life. You may feel as if there’s no way to make up for all the years you lived in fear. You may feel like you’re literally past the point of no return.
As an aside, I would like to assure you there is no such thing as a literal “past the point of no return.” Whenever you awaken and feel called to purpose is the perfect time. The point is, if you are living with unrest or scary feelings about your path, you owe it to yourself to figure it out. You are not designed to live this way. You deserve peace.
The wisdom that I would like to leave you with today is the knowledge that even though fear feels real, it’s based on illusions to which your mind has given power and light. You can work through it, and, I would argue, it’s your most important job on Earth. Living with fear is not living. You will have fear occasionally, but you were not designed to live with it.
So, what is “I’m past the point of no return” really about?
I define fear as mind-body divorce. Your body is given a voice that you usually know only as a pain, an urge or an emotion.
I’m tired. Eat a banana, that sounds good. Need to go to the bathroom.
This is the kind of wisdom we usually allow from our bodies. But did you know it can give elegant, detailed messages about everything, including your destiny? Neither did I. Until I worked on it, that is.
We experience fear when we are completely blocked from our body’s messages. When the mind denies the body’s messages, the fear gets worse. When we feel extreme moments like, I’m past the point of no return, these are signs of a momentary mind-body disconnect—not that we are doing something wrong on our path. Usually, theses moments occur when we feel out of our comfort zone, somewhere before panic when the fight or flight response kicks in.
The good news about being past the point of no return is that you are witnessing yourself doing something big that you really care about, something purposeful. Simultaneously, because you are blocked from the wisdom of your body, you feel like something is deeply wrong.
Here are some tools to reframe your approach to being purposeful this summer and addressing the fears and illusions that may come with it.
Step 1. I will pursue my purpose, unapologetically. I refuse to live to fear. I will accept that fear is going to be a part of this occasionally. I will say I’m afraid when I am. I will ask for help and reassurance when I need it. I will practice compassion with those who are struggling with their fears. Above all, I will be compassionate to myself.
Which leads to step 2.
Step 2. I will find and invite people who understand fear, compassion and purpose to be part of my dream team. I remind people they would not have their best friend deliver their baby, unless they were highly qualified OB’s or mid-wives, right? Our friends are awesome, yet sometimes we choose friends that actually help make it safe for us to stay small. This is why professional help is important. I will accept that there will be many who cannot yet understand what I’m doing, and I will not depend on them or make them for feel bad for not understanding. I will work with my team to reframe my world when my mind tries to convince me to flee from my passions and my mind-body gets triggered into a panicky state. I will learn how to approach a real fear.
Which leads to step 3.
Step 3. We all have fear because we all get disconnected from the intelligence of our bodies at times. If you are having a “past the point of no return” moment, then you are moving into consciousness. The ability to witness ourselves moving though life is consciousness. This is a sign of incredible strength, not weakness.
When you allow your unique purpose, the thing you are meant to do, you may have occasional moments of deep terror, where it truly feels like you cannot go forward or back. With the right team and approach, this will likely not happen. If it does, you have a team to call! Ultimately there is something even worse than these moments, which is talking yourself out of doing anything before you begin.
I had picked the best hospital in Houston to have my baby. I had the best OB at that hospital, too. I had read every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and had attended Lamaze classes. The pain and the bigness of a one minute moment overwhelmed me, but because I had a good partner and a good team, I knew that whatever happened, we had done our best.
This is all we can do, and grace fills in the rest. To that point, the nurse who was leading me around saw my state and knew exactly what to say. She and my husband talked me through the moment, and I left the next day right on time with a beautiful, healthy daughter. It was an awesome experience. I’m still not sure what happened to that lasagna pan though.
See you next week! ONWARD!