As I write, it’s 3:31 a.m., and I’m sitting in my kitchen with a freshly-brewed cup of coffee.
This is not normal, but I can’t sleep.
Then again, maybe it is normal.
If 47 percent of adult Americans say stress wakes them up at night, maybe I’m fitting right in.
To be honest, this has been building for the past few days.
It started with feelings of being slightly — how should I say this — on edge.
Not anxious, per se, but noticeably tight in the chest.
Then came emotion.
Since it’s pretty hard to make me cry, I knew something was up when I came this close to bursting into tears over something truly small.
Of course, the mindful response is to turn towards the issue.
To go deep.
And what you’ll usually find is that “stress” is just another word for fear.
In my case, I’ve been quietly working on a project that launches next week.
Yes, I’m nervous.
I wrote about something similar last December right before another big launch.
At the time, my head was spinning with questions about the feasibility of the idea, not to mention my ability to execute it.
This is what author Stephen Pressfield calls “the Resistance.”
Thoreau called it “the controller.”
I call it the inner critic.
It’s all the same thing: fear.
As my mindfulness practice has grown, one of the most extraordinary gifts I’ve received is the capacity to view fear as an impartial force and, thus, treat it impartially. In other words, when “the Resistance” comes, I just label it — “oh hello, fear” — and center back into doing the work vs. fretting about it. This is what allows me to move forward.
And yet here I am — awake and on coffee #2 — at what is now 5:50 a.m.
What’s interesting about the stress this time is that it’s not in my head. To be honest, I’m genuinely at peace with the work and confident in my ability to carry the message.
The stress is sitting in my body.
It’s in the tight chest, the borderline anxiety, the emotion, and the sleeplessness I’m experiencing while at the same time feeling content in my mind.
Because fear always, always, a-l-w-a-y-s comes attached to something we care deeply about, but we still act surprised, overwhelmed, and uncomfortable at even the slightest hint of it.
And so we get stuck.
But if fear is so predictable, why don’t we just plan for it?
In other words, next time you’re preparing for the big presentation, the big interview, the big wedding, the big course launch, the big whatever, why not factor in time for some good, old-fashioned emotional fragility?
Time to observe the fear.
Time to sit with it.
Time to allow it.
I mean this literally — as in calendar blocking.
As in a day with no meetings.
As in taking that hike.
As in scheduling that dinner with friends weeks in advance because you know you’re going to need it when the time comes.
Entrepreneurs plan for pivots so let’s also plan for the fear we know is going to surface as we’re giving birth to something new and exciting.
Yes, I am saying PLAN to NOT have it all together.
Then do it anyway.