Updated: Oct 31
Today's morning journal entry had something unusual about it. It was demanding to show up as a blog instead. So I am typing this on my desk after peeling myself out of bed at 5 am.
I had an epiphany last night.
There was a discussion at our dinner table with our two 14 year old boys about one thing that is guaranteed to grab and hold their attention, Fortnite. To my readers without hooked teens and preteens in their lives, Fortnite is an infamous online video game everyone is talking about, well until the next best thing is here at least. Like any good online game, it immerses the player in realistic and engaging virtual worlds of battle.
Per usual, our sons were telling us about newest features on the game and what 'skin' (a word for a virtual costume they purchase and apply to their avatar while busy in battle or showing off after a win) was the most recent and popular when my stepson shouted out,
"Oh, I forgot to tell you guys, I played in Arena last weekend"
I could gather from the excitement on his face that this must be big. A version or section in the game that was more sought after for being demanding, risky. One that had the potential to earn you respect from your peers if mastered.
While attempting to return my attention to him, I caught on to the word 'ARENA"
Not too long before dinner was served that evening, I had mentioned that word to my husband. I was describing to him while standing in the kitchen how it felt like to be in the public eye. To share on the daily a piece of my soul through my work in creating content for UnchainingMe.
One of my favorite people on earth who wrote powerful books on shame, vulnerability and courage, Brenè Brown talks about 'arena' as it was referred to in the famous Theodore Roosevelt quote "Man in the arena".
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
The word 'arena' described fully how it felt to show up and be seen. It meant a stage, a battle ground, elevated to assist in visibility, a boxing ring, an amphitheater. Whoever steps in is signing up for anything that is 'fair game' while in the arena. Being judged, booed off, misunderstood, criticized, scrutinized, ridiculed and downright failure are in the package. Triumph, cheers and applause are also possible scenarios, but the ego loves and isn't frightened by those. Either way, the promise of the arena is that you never know what could come hurling at you. You are showing up not knowing if you will step off being the winner or the loser, the fan favorite or the mortal enemy.
The arena is a ruthless space.
My son continued "I hate it! Every time I play it, I get so nervous"
I couldn't help but pick up on the irony. A game meant to be enjoyed is being described as sufferable. "What's with that?" I thought.
Yom added, "Especially when only two or three players are left behind, my heart ponds so hard. I get so anxious that I end up losing. I just want to stop that, I don't want to be so nervous"
And there I was, about to utter the words that my teenage boys would find confusing.
"You can't. You can not stop being nervous"
"I can't??"He looked perplexed.
"Oh" he added, with a mixture of needing to trust me because he felt he had to but disappointed because he really didn't want to.
Little did he know that I was talking to myself.
Not unlike him, the arena was getting to me. It would, more often that not, carry the theme of a game to suffer and not thoroughly enjoy. Missed events, unmet deadlines and half-done projects were showing up in my creative practice and service as a result of and sometimes because of arena-induced anxiety.
Unable to empathize with myself about matters beyond my control, remind myself that this is a process of growth for me too, I was experiencing nervousness. One like my son felt when he realized he was within the reach of something desirable. Victory, a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction and accomplishment.
I knew how far I had come to the kind of success I could only long for in the past. So fear was threatening to cripple me while self doubt could be felt sinking it's ugly teeth into the flesh of what I know to be my purpose in life.
"You can't stop the nervousness Yomiye" I continued,
"Getting ever so closer to that which your heart desires is meant to make you nervous" I attempted to explain, hoping a day won't come when he would use my words against me after he falls in love at an age I probably will find is too young.
"Any victory you have worked hard and invested into getting near is going to scare you crapl-ess" I congratulated myself for triumphing over a close encounter with the 'S' word.
"The nervousness and self doubt is there to confirm the very importance of that win to you Yomiye"
What I was really saying was this
"Listen Tiemert dear. There is a valid reason you fear sabotaging what you have created with UnchainingMe. That you keep doubting you have what it takes to see it through, to shoulder the burdens it requires you to carry. There is a valid reason you fear judgement. The cheap seats around the arena are occupied by those who can not fathom being in the arena themselves but would rather remain spectators and judges of the work that you do and how you do it. Some know you from your past, holding on to an image of you that no longer exists and remain fixated on trying to preserve you the way they believe they should know you. Many can not fathom the level of authentic vulnerability you show, teach and strive to expand. Your work gives others permission to free themselves from entrapments maintained or sometimes even constructed by themselves. It reassures them of their transformation, that the dark woods give way to bright days through releasing the cast, braking the chains that bind them. There is a reason UnchainingMe makes you nervous sometimes. It is much bigger than you!"
My soul was being fed at the dinner table.
"But It should not debilitate you " I continued advising myself through my son.
"It must not stop you, fear has a reason or two to visit you but it hasn't done it's purpose if it has won"
"It should make you alert, prepared, reassured ready, not paralyze you. You must believe that you have what it takes to see it through"
I feared that my Ted talk only had me and my husband as an audience and that the boys were a little lost so I concluded with an unorthodox but methaphor-free, non ambiguous punchline.
"So you give your nerves a wink and go shoot some avatars dead"
I dedicate this to all of you fellow badasses in the arena. Keep showing up and being Seen!