I’ve grown impatient with needing so much.
I don’t want to have to pay $6 on a small Campfire Mocha, white chocolate, skim milk, extra shot of espresso, less whip every morning for me to feel good about my day. Besides, every barista’s interpretation of what less whip means is different. I would order it without the whip, but then my daily order would require more words, because I still want the little marshmallows and white chocolate chips. It’s just one more thing to get irritated about.
Neediness is the drop ski.
I used to water ski several times a week every week from early June through October, if weather permitted.
When water skiing, the drop ski is the one you take your foot out of in order to slalom. The difference between skiing on two skis and one, is the difference between pleasure and exhilaration. Once the drop ski, that crutch, that superficial need is cast off, oh…it…feels…so…damn…good.
It’s the difference between faking it and not.
Early mornings as leaves started turning and mist began lifting from the water were best. I remember breathing in cool, piney air. The chill in the air was less about being cold and more about being awake, like Thelma and Louise awake to living.
On the back of the Mastercraft, I’d put my skis on and push off into the water. As my ex-husband Mitch would say, it’s best to do it like taking off a Band-Aid. The shock of cold was refreshing – and so cold. Even in October, I refused to use a wetsuit.
The boat moved away slow until the rope was taut. He’d yell, “Ready?”
“Hit it!” I’d holler back.
On two skis, I’d go over the wake to where the water was soft, so I could drop the ski from my right foot. I skied goofy foot forward. Sometimes a boat would go by or the water would change and I would wait for things to smooth out. I needed to feel confident that I could drop it without falling. I fell more when I waited and worried.
The more times I skied and the more years that went by, the less time I spent fretting. Hesitation wasn’t helpful.
“Right before we’re about to do something that feels difficult, scary or uncertain, we hesitate,” writes Mel Robbins in The 5 Second Rule. “Hesitation is the kiss of death. You might hesitate for just a nanosecond, but that’s all it takes.”
Robbins was writing about achieving success in life. I had it illustrated for me many times out on the water without being able to translate it fully until I read her book. “It’s like I just need to drop the ski. I want it off my foot already.” I’ve said it about jobs, relationships, and unhealthy choices. The problem is hesitation. The solution, according to Robbins is to, “5-4-3-2-1-Go!”
I’m with her.
Painful falls on the water were caused by hesitation. The pain left fast, replaced by laughter. Trying is a hell of a lot more fun than standing still or dying.
Shoulders braced yet relaxed, arms strong, I’d shift my weight and root my left leg into my ski. Then I’d kick my drop ski off from my right foot. The stripe of orange paint on its bottom floated behind me. As I inched my right foot along my slalom ski and into the back binding, water sprayed against my ankle. Sometimes the spray was so hard and fast it left bruises.
Do the Deaths of Friends Help Hesitation End?
It’s a morbid question. When a loved one dies, there’s an inevitable time for self-reflection.
I stopped wearing wetsuits after Ben died. He was a friend of Mitch’s. I knew Ben long before I dated Mitch. Ben was the one at college parties who older girls told me it was okay to ask to make a drink. He was nice and respectful and wouldn’t over pour a drink to make moves on a girl. When I struggled to get over my ex-boyfriend Brian during the holidays, Ben serenaded me with, “Brian’s nuts roasting over an open fire.” Ben died in a plane crash on his way back from a fishing trip up north. It was a 4-seater.
It may have been days or a week after Ben’s funeral when we were on the lake. More than 13 years have passed since he died. I remember that the Mastercraft was new to us. One reason Mitch had given for buying the Mastercraft is that it would be less tippy than his old boat.
I had put the wetsuit on and was about to jump in the water when I couldn’t do it. Mitch was upset with me and gave a lecture on not being so afraid of everything. He was and still is a teacher. Lecturing was often how he communicated and is part of why he is my ex-husband.
“I’m not afraid. The wetsuit smells like death. I’m not wearing it.” Then, I sat behind the wheel of the boat, gunned it hard down part of the lake, and whipped it around fast to prove to him that fear was not the problem at that moment. From then on, it didn’t matter how cold it was, even during October in Minnesota, I did not wear a wetsuit.
That wasn’t the only time we wrestled with death out on the water. A few months after Ben died, Brandon, the best man at our wedding died of a Leukemia-related complication. The summer after Brandon’s death, Mitch taught me how to pull a barefooter. He barefooted at least once every summer and always thanked Brandon for the water and the weather. It was like he could see him on the horizon setting up an opportunity for the perfect run.
Less than two years later, my friend Kevin died in an apartment fire. He had been celebrating his birthday hours before. Mitch’s parents watched my daughter. He and I went out to the lake and I slalomed my heart out. There’s something so therapeutic about the way slalom skiing forces focus.
Commitment Minus Hesitation Equals Focus
The opposite of hesitation is total commitment. I could feel it when I carved the water on my best ski runs. I could breathe the piney morning air in deep, watch mist moving up the tree line, glance at the sun’s reflection dancing on the water, once muscle memory kicked in. If I lost focus and forgot the commitment required, an unexpected wave or the wake sent me stumbling into the water.
Focus is one of the gifts of The 5 Second Rule. “Just 5-4-3-2-1 to assert control and shift your focus away from the destructive or impulsive behavior,” writes Robbins. Impulse control is something I’ve needed to work on for about as long as I’ve been breathing.
5-4-3-2-1 Drop Anxiety
I’m sick of making myself sick with worry. I love to travel and hate to fly. Flying is one of those things that I do anyway. I’ve made those I’m close to suffer so that I can board a plane. Nervous, fidgety, disorganized, frazzled, with a need to have certain rituals followed has been the best I’ve done on a plane. I’ve had bouts of hysterical, inconsolable crying the night before a flight. I’ve self-medicated with alcohol and pills to the point where it wouldn’t be possible for me to transport myself anywhere after getting off the plane. Strangers have consoled me with stories and reassurances.
A few days before I flew from Rochester, Minnesota to San Diego, my yoga instructor told us the story of Hanuman’s Leap. Then he asked our class, “What do you have to let go of to make the leap?”
My answer was fear. It was the spring of 2013.
Yoga is a practice. So is life. As I’ve leaned in and pushed myself to my personal edge in both, the answer has changed.
It’s not fear. I need to let go of neediness.
Being fearful is another expression of needing. It’s been a way I’ve demanded reassurance that I am loved by friends, family, and strangers. The magical a-ha moment, the unearthing of my new level of understanding came while reading The 5 Second Rule during flights from Rochester, Minnesota to NYC.
A couple of days before our flight to New York City, I decided I wanted to be productive instead of needing to be coddled on flights. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I had no idea that Mel would address her own anxieties, including her fear of flying in The 5 Second Rule.
Even before reaching that point in the book, I was taking deep breaths and 5-4-3-2-1’ing my way to thought-shifts.
“5-4-3-2-1 my thoughts and emotions do not control the plane. I might as well be happy.”
“5-4-3-2-1 focus on getting the work done, on improving my life. I’ll have it to live when we land.”
I wrote all over the book’s margins. I wrote the names of friends next to ideas I thought would help them. I read passages to Chris. When I finished the book, I gave it to my daughter. It’s a book I feel pretty passionate about sharing.
While reading, I came to realize that my fears are a habit-loop that received the feedback I was looking for as a child. When I was afraid as a kid everything that could be done would be done to make what I feared stop. Rituals were done to help me cope.
The 5 Second Rule eliminates hesitation and encourages a grown-up, take charge approach to life. Things do not need to be just-so before I commit. I’m not going to wish for the crystal ball to tell me the end before I dare to begin.
I’ve Practiced Not Needing Before
When Chris and I went Paleo, I let go of my food and drink crutches. One day as I went for a walk, I felt happy about how good it feels not to need certain drinks and food to have a great day. I was all Buddhist or Hindu about it. I’m sure it’s all Christian (and any other religion too). I don’t recall Jesus having an inner meltdown, because a barista put too much whipped cream on his Campfire White Chocolate Mocha.
While we were Paleo, I wanted to go back and tell my Mountain Dew chugging, Cajun Cheese Fries dipped in ranch eating, asthmatic, 18 year-old self who complained of stomach aches to quit the bitching, whining, and blaming. Put down the Camel Lights. Don’t even think of taking another toke. Get out there and enjoy and live and risk and laugh your ass off. It’ll look better in the mirror.
After all, as Mel Robbins said in The 5 Second Rule:
Doing the work to improve your life is simple, you can do it, and it’s work you want to do — It is the work of learning how to love and trust yourself enough to stop waiting and to start leaning into all the magic, opportunity, and joy that your life, work, and relationships have to offer.
Based on the advice in the book, my four months from 40 year-old self is:
- Putting my cell phone with the alarm clock on across the room from where I sleep. This helps me avoid social media until more important things are done for the day.
- I write a must list instead of a to-do list. I get to cross off a lot more and feel more accomplished. My musts align with what is important to me.
- I do my purpose-driven work as early in the day as possible instead of waiting to try to fit it in when I can.
Could The 5 Second Rule help you? There’s only one way to know. 5-4-3-2-1 Try.