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Episode 41: Learning to Trust

I have a friend who has always made "crazy" decisions, like working for questionable startups and jumping off tall buildings. One day, I realized that I always looked at him with awe not because of the particular decisions he made, but because he seemed to operate in the world with the faith that everything would just *be okay.* I will never be the kind of person who base jumps, but I now operate in the same way — with the belief that things will work out, one way or another. Today, I share a little bit about how I made the change from control-freak to a person of faith (in myself).

Transcript:

My friend Ben has always been a little bit crazy in my estimation, and here's what I mean. He's the type of person who constantly challenges himself to do really weird things. He dropped everything and, seemingly randomly, joined the Marines. He has jumped off of really tall buildings. He gone to all these different places, met all these different people, been part of startups with Israeli pianists. I mean, he has done all kinds of crazy stuff.

And I remember back when I was going through my divorce and I was talking to my therapist about Ben randomly — and Ben, if you're listening to this, you're probably like WTF — but I was talking to my therapist about Ben because he had just done something crazy. I think he had talked about base jumping or done it or something. I don't know. And I was saying to my therapist that I thought he was nuts. And at the time I was going through this horrible divorce, I had just so much responsibility on my shoulders and I was doing my best to hang on.

For me, hanging on has always been about figuring out a way to make sure that the situation is as much under my control as humanly possible. That meant analyzing it and thinking of every potential outcome and trying to figure out how what I could do in this moment to affect the future and make things turn out the best way possible.

What this actually looked like for me was more like . . . not having any faith that things were going to work out without my intervention and I was holding on so tight that I could not release even a little bit of tension. My therapist was talking to me about how it felt to be so concerned about my daughter that emotionally it felt like I had strapped her to my body, and was holding on for dear life.

And she said, "What if you were to let go a little bit? What would that feel like?" And it felt like terror. It felt like if I let go of control, if I let go of trying to, like, orchestrate everything in my life, that everything would fall apart. Honestly, it felt like death. Like my daughter would not make it somehow if I let go.

So the last, I guess, six years or so have been such an incredible amount of learning for me. And I have gone from *that* state to a state of really trusting that things are going to work out. And for me, this has been a very long process. It's taken me a lot of years.

My personal experience in this moment is so much more calm and easy than my experience of eight years ago, that it almost feels like a completely different lifetime.

And I can really empathize for how I felt at that time and also be incredibly grateful for where I'm at right now.

So where am I right now? I am at a place where I have slowed down significantly. And when I find myself anxious or trying to control a situation or feeling like I need to do something, I recognize it and I stop. And when I say "I stop," I don't mean I stop the controlling. I mean, I literally stop what I'm doing. And I say to myself, "whoa, something's going on here. Something is causing anxiety. I wonder what that is."

And rather than getting on myself and feeling bad about myself for falling back into old patterns, I recognize that old patterns will probably always come up and I might recognize them right away, or it might take me a while to realize that that's what I'm doing.

But I come to the point where I trust myself more. I trust myself to understand that, you know, these things come up and not to beat myself up. And I also trust myself that I will recognize this is happening and that I'll remedy it and go back to feeling more calm. But I also trust the way that the world works, that I will figure out a way out of a situation and I don't necessarily need to plan for it.

So, for example. When you have cancer, you are taken from this long view of life into a very present, day by day, 24 hours situation. You are forced to recognize that you don't have control over what happens in the future. And all you can do is the right now. And because it goes on for such an incredibly long time, you begin to develop a pattern of being able to stay in that 24 hours and recognize the absolute terror that you feel when you start thinking long-term and try — at least for me — to avoid that feeling.

Because when you're in the middle of a life-threatening illness and you start thinking about the future, you go down a rabbit hole really quickly. And that rabbit hole is absolutely terrifying. So I started to develop some coping mechanisms to stay out of that hole. And some of that was just about reminding myself to stay present. And also, just like I was saying a moment ago, just recognizing when I'm trying to control those things and slowing down and stopping and trying to understand what is happening.

Usually there's something that has hurt my feelings or something that is triggering me to feel like I am going to be abandoned or that my daughter will be hurt and I will not have been able to help her. And when I can really identify in a calm way, (not in an obsessive, trying to figure out the reason kind of way), but when I can come to that that core thing, the core reason that I'm feeling this need, I can kind of come to it with with kindness and say, "oh, man, yeah, I'm really upset because I'm worried that my daughter is having a really hard time in, for example, school. And I'm worried that if she doesn't get help with this thing, that I will have failed her. That would be a terrible feeling. How awful to feel like that is all on my shoulders. Wouldn't it be helpful if there were someone out there to help me?"

Trusting that I can come to a place of understanding of what it is that is causing me this pain and then, trusting myself to figure a way out of it. I don't need to necessarily plan super far in the future, because I trust that in that moment or in that day or in that week, I will be able to come up with a solution that will help.

It isn't my responsibility to plan out my entire life. It isn't my responsibility to make sure that everyone around me is taken care of. My daughter, yes, she is my responsibility to make sure that her basic needs are taken care of and that I can guide her through difficult times. It is not my responsibility to make sure that everything is perfect. It is not my responsibility to plan out her entire life. This is her journey that she's on. And all I can do is try and teach her the skills that she needs in order to be successful.

With my partner, his happiness — while I want to contribute to it and do kind things to make sure that he knows that he's cared for and loved — it isn't my responsibility to make sure that his every need is met. That is his responsibility. And it is his responsibility to say, "I need you to do this because I'm feeling this," and the same for me. It isn't my partner's responsibility to make sure that every need I have is met. It's my responsibility to be able to recognize what I need, understand what it is, whose responsibility it is to provide that for me. And quite frankly, often it is mine. And then stand up for myself and and ask for that.

So all of this to say that having some trust in yourself and in your own ability to handle the difficult things that come to you is a big stress reliever. And it is a helpful thing to remind yourself of in the moment when you are going down a rabbit hole of all of the horrible things that can happen. You are a capable person. You are able to handle really difficult things and come out the other side, and you don't need to plan every single thing out. You don't need to feel like you have every single thing under control because you will deal with what is most important and find a solution to whatever needs to be solved.

So I would like for you to take this message and really think about whether you trust yourself to solve problems, whether you trust that you make good decisions and see if you can try to get into your core of who you are and what your integrity is and what you believe is right and wrong.

And if at the end of the day, you know the difference between right and wrong and you can kind of breathe into your body (I know this sounds woowoo, but this is what I do). If you can breathe into your body and really get present with yourself and try to get out of your head, you can make the right decisions when you need to. And you don't need to worry so much.

You know, when you plan 12 years down the line... The person that deals with those problems is is You with 12 more years of experience. That is not the You of Now having to deal with a 17 year ld kid. That is the You with 12 more years of experience, raising a child year after year, that gets to deal with that teenager. It's not the You of Now.

So trust that as you are growing, you will also grow in your knowledge. You will be able to grow in your abilities to help your kids and your abilities to help yourself and understand your own needs a little bit better. Hope that's helpful.

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher is the Founder + CEO of Mighty + Bright. She's a young cancer survivor, mom, and former single mom.

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