I woke up the other day with a need for fun. I think it has to do with the springtime and the stirring I see outdoors. It may also have to do with the unnatural nature of the shelter-in-place mandate that has chafed against my need to be absolutely free in how I move in the world. I noticed on the news that there were tons of people protesting without masks, all clumped together outside demanding rights. I thought of how liberated they probably felt, demanding their rights, shouting and clustering, and releasing all of their pent up fear and stress.
Humans are meant to take action. We're not like slugs, who can sit for long windows of time in one place, oozing into the earth. We're predisposed toward movement, and when we're asked to be restrained, we find it difficult because even when our bodies are still, our neurons are firing off at a gazillion miles a minutes, and there's a literal lightning storm going in our heads.
I'm just thinking out loud.
This week is a special one for me. Every year I celebrate something I've been doing for over 20 years, called "Opening Up Your Life" Week. During the week surrounding Earth Day, every year, I challenge myself to push my edges by doing whatever is on my bucket list, and whatever I feel is so overwhelmingly frightening that it may be blocking my true creative self. It's a fantastic week, because in it I give myself permission to fully let go of all layers of social or familial conditioning in order to explore who I might really be in my next iteration.
The first years that I did this "OUYL" Week, my list was very physical: I dyed my hair brilliant shades, I confessed my feelings to a boy, I tried new hobbies that frightened me. A testament to the work is that I can no longer remember the fear. Those experiences became a part of me, laying rivers of gold into the hungry cracks of my developing persona. I took my first solo vacation during an OUYL Week; today, I can't imagine my life without the occasional solo vacation.
My list shifted over the years as the adrenaline wore off. I began to look inward. One year I decided to "heal my daddy issues." I laugh now, thinking about how intense the idea of it was. Nonetheless, I knew I had outstanding issues with both my biological father and my stepfather, and I determined to aggressively get to the bottom of all of my hurts, any misunderstandings, and fears, in as loving a way as possible. All in one week, of course.
A 1-week challenge that started out as a way to jumpstart my personal growth became a beloved ritual over the years, as I discovered that my one-week quest was bleeding into the rest of my life and becoming the way that I thought and moved constantly. I became more willing to be daring despite an ever-present wall of fear deep inside, and that fear became smaller with each challenge. One year was so full of OUYL-like transformation, that when the month of April came and I sat down to do my brainstorm, I realized that what I needed then--and what scared me most--was rest. I needed personal permission to integrate my life, to not do anything for a week, and to know that everything would still be okay. It was.
Some years my growth was spiritual. I remember deciding to do 5 hours of chanting meditation per day, for the entire week, and fully sticking to it. It developed within me a sense of solid confidence--a sense that if I put my mind to it, I could really focus into anything. It also deepened my appreciation for life and for living, in unexplainable ways.
I don't yet know what this year's "Opening Up Your Life" Week will hold, but I know I'm ready for it. And you're welcome to join me.
First, I make a big list, an unedited brain dump of everything I would like to do that frightens me or makes me uncomfortable. It doesn't matter if there's no chance in the frozen-over underworld that I'll be able to do it-- I still write it down if there's even a tinge of desire for the experience.
Taking the time to write the list is half of the work.
Sometimes the list doesn't want to come out. Our personal shadows are very comfortable in the dark and don't always want to be illuminated. Even the fun ones. Some of us are conditioned to deny ourselves true permission, and so the list can be quite difficult to assemble. It requires a certain level of honesty. But you just start wherever you are.
It's okay if you don't have anything that scares you. Your fears may not be the rattle in the closet or the ghost under the bed. It may be something so old and crusted over, for your own self protection, that you choose not to even look for it. You may not even know it's there. But if there's any level of stuck-ness or discontent in your life at all, then there is a fear hiding somewhere, I promise you. Can you sniff it out? Can you begin to work on lesser fears or smaller discomforts?
One year I applied for a huge raise at work, and got it. I did that because the other fears on my list were way too large to tackle! Some years, I've chosen purely fun fears, like zip lining and travel.
After you make your list, sit with it. Look at it. Burn some incense, dance around, raise some energy. Decide how much of it you actually want to do. What would it feel like if you could do everything on that list?
Psyche yourself out like an old school warrior. Dive into your list like a berserker, ready to laugh in the face of fear and have fun living your life. I once pulled together a fashion show presenting my own designs, in a week. It was because of OUYL Week that I could. For some people, having a fashion show wouldn't be scary. For me, it felt deeply vulnerable, exciting, and like just what I needed to open into a greater version of myself.
Why are we here, if not to live?