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  • Darci Daniels

Love, Anxiety, and Becoming Free

Or, I give it away in the title.

This cheesy grin is of genuine freedom. Sorry about the steering wheel, I had to capture "the moment". Don't worry, it was all legal. It only looks like I'm driving.

At 43 years old, I’m setting myself free.

Note the use of the present tense: I didn’t SET myself free, and I’m not GOING to set myself free.

I am setting myself free, today, and every day hereafter.

There are a lot of things I’ve “known” for a long time but did not quite feel. This is the problem with reading self-help books for oh, pretty much my whole life, and really immersing myself in the coaching industry for the past 10 years. I could spout platitudes with the best of them. I can tell you some mind-blowing stuff about how our brains actually work and why we do what we do. I can tell you about empaths, narcissists, The 5 Love Languages, MBTI, the Kolbe Scale, “The Work” of Byron Katie, ‘Finding Your Own North Star’ by Martha Beck, who Eckart Tolle is and why Oprah loves him, anxiety triggers and relief methods, why shame is the worst tool and how being vulnerable will save us all, Who Moved My Cheese, and why writers are going to save the world. (If half of that was gibberish to you, stay with me. And, welcome to my world.) I could talk about the life’s work of many great teachers, writers, and gurus, but until recently, I couldn’t articulate why I’ve felt the need for many, many years to “fix” myself.

If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I would have said I needed to love myself more. Although yes, that was true, it ended up not being the thing I needed to become happier. Or more peaceful. Or to find joy. I remember being frustrated for so long, because I “knew” I needed to love myself more, but I didn’t know HOW to do it. Turns out, it took A LOT of work. Like, years of coaching and thought work to really uncover why I didn’t love myself and how to deal with my pain so that I do. It took a long time, but I finally got to the point a couple of years ago that I could really, truly say I loved myself. And wowza, was it worth it!

But… it wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t a panacea to all my issues. And loving myself, like loving anyone else, has its ups and downs. It’s a constant battle in my head to not self-sabotage and to show myself grace. (My anxiety probably makes this more difficult than I’d like it to be.)

It was something I knew I needed, but it didn’t “fix” me. I’m not gonna lie, it helps, A LOT, to really, truly love myself. I believe it’s true that if you don’t love yourself, that’s where everything starts. But, that’s not where it ends. Just like when you love someone else, relationships evolve, stuff happens, and sometimes you need to find new ways to love them. The same is true with loving yourself – it ebbs and flows, and it’s a constant forgiveness of the new things you do to hurt yourself. You may have heard that we speak to ourselves in ways we’d NEVER allow other people to speak to us. If you pay attention, you’ll most likely find you are brutally hard on yourself. When you decide to love yourself, part of it becomes recognizing that voice is not the part that loves you and putting it in its place. So, it surprised me, when I still had “work” to do to feel how I wanted to feel. But I love myself now! Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? Doesn’t that make everything fall into place?

Well, no. But nice try kid.

Since then, I’ve been on a journey to figure out what the hell would make me happy. I used to think it was a special connection with another person, that elusive soulmate, a romantic relationship like no other. Everyone has a different dream. For some people it’s fame, for some people it’s money, for some people it’s becoming a parent. For me, it was my soulmate. Then I met that person, and it caused me more pain than I ever thought possible. Heart-wrenching, what-is-the-meaning-of-life, down on my knees, sobbing uncontrollably, begging a higher power to deliver relief, and I would do ANYTHING if God/The Universe/Buddha/the Source/Jesus/Goddess Aphrodite would make this work out for me PAIN. I damaged me, I caused my own suffering, far more than he ever did. However, I will say, it’s what brought me to fully loving myself, so it wasn’t all bad. Incredibly painful but utterly necessary, for me. So that wasn’t the thing, either.

After that roller coaster, and learning to love myself, it was my anxiety. Loving myself was one thing, learning to deal with and then embrace my anxiety was something else entirely. It was part of me, but it wasn’t ME. I knew it wasn’t the thing. Yet, like my beating heart, it’s something that’s ever present and I can sometimes feel it inside me, straining my sanity. As long as I’m alive, it will be there with me. I had to make friends with it, learn its particular shape and form and content, and not let it take over my life. It still overwhelms me sometimes, but I’ve learned (I think) how to soothe it and put it back in its place. Like loving myself, this will always be a work in progress.

That brings me to this: my freedom. Even though I love myself, even though I’ve accepted my anxiety, I still felt shackled to… something. There was something I was still missing, and I didn’t even know what it was. The self-help books all those years had been pretty clear: you need to love and accept yourself. It took around 41 years, but okay, done! Letting go of the dream of being married to a soulmate? Alright, begrudgingly, I let that go. (Thankfully, that gets a little easier every day.) Then anxiety gave me no choice but to deal with it and make peace, because it roared in my face so fiercely one day, it took me out at the knees for about 2 months. I ignored it until I couldn’t anymore, and then it was all anxiety, all the time. For around 40 days it dominated everything, but it really took me 7 months before I started to feel like myself again. Alright, whew, got it. But… what now? Why wasn’t I happier? Why didn’t I feel more peaceful? Where was my joy?? Why, after all this work, was I still not FREE?

I told the Universe once, in a very serious and forceful way, that I was ready to learn through joy now, please. I had learned through pain and suffering and searching long enough, and I was ready to learn through joy. That’s a thing, right? The self-help books said so. I know I didn’t make it up. It’s possible to learn through joy.

It took a while before the Universe delivered, and the fire of suffering had to burn just about everything up first, but I finally got it. The ah-ha moment I’d waited for ever since I heard Oprah say the phrase “ah-ha moment” … my freedom. You see, it wasn’t for someone else to deliver. It certainly couldn’t come when I was still pining for someone else to save me. *I* had to find it, because it’s MINE. The only person who could set me free to live my life, to love my life, to learn through joy and let go of the suffering, to stop caring what other people thought more than what I thought, to determine that I’m worthy of everything I long for, is me.

I could tell you about the exact moment, driving in my car listening to a podcast, and all the things that swirled around in my head, but I don’t need to go into all the details, because they’re only important to me. Except I will say this: it was something I already knew, but never felt, until that moment. I knew I “needed” to unbecome who I was not. I’d heard several people I respected and looked to for inspiration say as much over many years and in different ways. But it wasn’t until that moment, when the incredible writer Glennon Doyle said it on a podcast – in our 40s it’s about unbecoming who we are not. Like those little Russian nesting dolls, she said, we’re shedding the outer layers that are hollow, until we get to the smallest, solid one.

Then it clicked.

It wasn’t just what she said, I don’t think she even used the word freedom, it was everything that had been happening in my life to build up to that moment. When the ah-ha hit, it was my soul in the loudest stage whisper ever: Set Yourself Free.

So, that’s my thing. My freedom. I am setting myself free. From other’s opinions, expectations, and judgements. I get to shed all the stuff that’s been put on me my entire life, covering up who I really am. I get to stop being pleasant for other people’s comfort when it means my suffering. I get to free myself, instead of waiting for my Prince Charming to do it. I finally get to feel it, instead of just know it. The shackles are off, the hollowness is gone, my soul and I are on speaking terms, and I feel solid.

Joy. Is. Everywhere.

I am setting myself free!

Because bwahahahahaha! :)


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