Living Your Worst Nightmare

For a week, I couldn’t sleep. Trying to fall asleep was a challenge: I was partly convinced I need to use the time to visualize the upcoming event I was attending, trying to see myself succeeding, but instead falling into a strange meditative state that wasn’t quite sleep. When sleep finally came, it was broken. I woke one night panicked that I had heard something. It wasn’t just one worst case scenario that mind was stuck on — it was all of them.

Then Friday came. On my drive from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, I could feel that uneasiness at the pit of my stomach start.

I was shooting in one of the biggest archery tournaments around, and it was my first time on the line at a competition since last January.

By most people’s measures, this would have been a bad idea. You don’t go into a competition so green, with hardly any regular weekly practice.  But I was going to spend time with friends more than anything else.

There are many reasons I shoot: To discover who I am. To learn what I am capable of. To dig deeper into my psychology. To meet new people. To be with friends. To challenge myself. To flirt. To learn how to be in a moment deeply and fully.

Two weeks prior to the competition I had shot a 501 in a practice round. If I could shoot that on the line, I could have potentially been towards the top.

Instead, the exact opposite happened: I bombed.

It was the worst case scenario: 5 missed shots, problems with my form, and a terrible score. All of the target panic I thought I had worked through came flooding back. I literally had the worst day of shooting I could imagine.

And yet, it was exactly what I needed.

Sometimes, you have to live your worst fears to get over them, to realize you can survive them.

Once I realized I had pretty much hit bottom, all the pressure I had been putting on myself eased. I was able to make some really good shots. I wasn’t obsessed with scoring anymore; I was just shooting for myself and trying to execute beautiful shots. Even then, I could still feel a bit of the panic, but it began to die.

What I valued even more was that I could find myself in a terrible situation and not allow emotions to overtake me. I didn’t break. In fact, I had fun. I laughed with friends and encouraged others. I kept smiling. There was a resilience that I had never seen in myself before.

Maybe my score was a losing one, maybe I was even in last place, but it was a different type of win — one that I needed more than a high score.

And maybe that means that in the bigger picture of all that’s happening in the world right now, this reality may not be one we want but rather one we need to break through finally.

The Rut

To put it simply, I’ve been stuck.

I find myself in a place where it’s hard to breathe, where I feel the weight of expectations heavy on me. It is as if I were at the bottom of a lake in an air bubble, unable to break through to the surface and the glint of sunlight I see so far away.

Let’s start at the beginning: A year ago, I took archery on full speed, practicing five to six days a week, shooting state and national competitions, traveling all over the country to compete. It was awesome — except when it wasn’t.

I had promise. I had potential.  But I also had a big problem.

Me.

Archery is a sport of repetition: you breathe, pull an arrow from your quiver, nock the arrow on the string, breathe, position your left hand on the riser of the bow, position your three fingers on the string, breathe, tense the string, lift the bow, breathe, take aim as you draw back, breathe, feel your body align, settle the bow, and shoot.

If only it were that easy.

But in between breathing and moving, there are the thoughts that come at me, that drag me down: I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, they’re waiting for me to fail, I know I’m going to fail because I always do, I can’t trust myself, this is panic, it doesn’t matter how hard I try, what does anything matter. The demons in my mind are monsters, fighting over the chance to claim the kill.

I have confronted some in the past months, slaying them, burning them, banishing them to places they’ll never be able to reach me from. But there are so many, and sometimes, especially when I stand there, poised for a shot and someone summons one in, I feel their power for a moment. So I learn to fight in new ways.

There are more battles in my future, more competitions, more moments where I’ll doubt if I can do this.

That is where I found myself last week, in a place where the doubt was thick like smoke around me. So I did the only thing I knew might help me: I wrote a list of all the reasons I am grateful for this struggle.

Because I’m not alone. Because others have reached out to help me. Because I’m learning the importance of a moment. Because this is teaching me what true focus and resolve are. Because greatness isn’t achieved if we give up when we encounter obstacles.  Because the only person who can stop me from being successful is myself. Because I am discovering where my true power lies.

I am grateful for these opportunities, because they will make me stronger, make me wiser, make me new.

There is a way out. There is always a way out. And it is mine to create.

Be Epic

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Every now and then, I have these strong instincts to do things. Some of these instincts are so intense that they become compulsions, and I quickly find myself swept away.

There’s a little strain of divine madness running in my blood.

It came over me last Thursday and took me down it like a fierce river.

I’d been looking through the photos on a friend’s Facebook account, someone I know from archery tournaments, when I came across a photo of him smiling on a fishing trip. I realized that there weren’t any recent photos of him smiling at all. And his smile in this photograph was more than just an average one: he positively radiated. I was entranced, and I so wanted to tell him this.

I sat down and began an email to him. It could have been a simple “you have a brilliant smile” compliment. But I wanted it to be epic. I wanted to say exactly what I was thinking, and I wanted him to know precisely how special he was. Even if it made me look absolutely mad. So I wrote and hit “send” without any expectation of what might happen afterward.

He said it was the best email and compliment he’s ever received.

And I felt positively magical, powerful, radiant — because I knew he was smiling

The world needs more epic compliments.

“Your poetry has saved my life. You showed me it was okay to feel these emotions.”
“Our conversations always renew my faith in the Universe and in love.”
“You look so feminine and powerful in that shade of red lipstick.”
“‘Handsome’ is an understatement when you smile like that.”
“The world needs so more of you.”

Whatever it might be, speak it. Let yourself be divinely mad today.

{photo taken by me}

Country Boys

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There’s something about these country boys — the way they hold open doors for a woman and insist on paying for friends’ drinks, the way they look at you and are really there, the way their accent deepens or slowness of speech lengthens as the night and drinking wear on, the way they all seem to have an instinct about the outdoors.

I’d known a small handful prior to moving down to the Washington, D.C. – Virginia area, and there was a part of me that had fallen in love with each of them just a tiny bit. But as I’ve descended deeper into the world of archery, I’ve met more, and these men have been incredibly generous to me — teaching me, helping me, cooking for me, reminding me that I’m special just because I’m me.

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And while I’ve learned useful skills like how to set up a tent and how to work on my bow, I’ve discovered some unexpected lessons as well.

I have been taught how important it is to be unapologetically me.

I have learned that a person’s true influence comes from their radiance and generosity.

I have discovered that the best remedy for any heartache is love — first, by loving yourself, and later, by finding a way to love the person who hurt you.

And even deeper than that: I have found that love can’t always be defined or neatly categorized, that people are so much more complex and beautiful than you might suspect from first impressions, that the best way to understand another person is to be vulnerable with who you are.

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They have a gravity that’s uniquely theirs. And so many have hearts of gold to match.

{images used under Creative Commons License from Andy Tolsma, Adam Cohn, and Satria Nugraha.}

Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.