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Thank Your Nervous System, then Make EVERY Day ‘International Dare to Suck Day'

Updated: Nov 25, 2022

APPARENTLY, (as in, 'so I've heard') ANYONE can learn to sing! Tell THAT to my parents, my dogs and my neighbours! 😝🤣 If I DO learn to sing good ... will it be worth it? 🤔 For me? Yes! As for the others ... only they can tell you!😁 Sorry-not-sorry!😘 For the people close to me; the best you can hope for, is for me to get good someday, AND for that day to be SOON! Then, at least you can say;

I remember when she was terrible! But she wanted it SO badly! We felt kinda sorry for her and took to wearing hearing protection ... but, Paige dared to suck! Gotta give her that!

IF, someone ever says that about me it will be: A) a freakin' MIRACLE and B) breaking a pattern!

For much of my life, my go-to move was to stop doing something I wasn't good at, the moment I discovered I wasn't good at it. Since I lived an isolated life in the country, without any experience with ball related sports ... or rackets, or rules of games, or pretty much ANYTHING other than ride ... it meant that I was exceptionally limiting myself.

I further narrowed my life experience, because I would do ANYTHING to not be exposed as less than perfect. I couldn't tolerate failure.

I did ride well; a result of the thousands of hours I spent with the amazing ponies and horses I had. Around the horses, I got it right just often enough to make me think perfection was doable. 🤣Sucker!

What a shmuck! But what did I know? I drank the Kool-aid as a child.

I lived by my coach Jack LeGoff's mantra; "Practice does NOT make perfect! PERFECT practice, makes perfect!" He generally said that a mano-second before launching a military attack on our intelligence and character, in front of a devoted (and often powerful and influential) audience.

As a kid, I looked like an adult by the age of 15 and had been competing against adults on my ponies since the age of 9 or 10. I got into bars at 15 with one of my coaches without getting ID'd, while HE (a thirty two year old) WAS!

One night with my coach after the bars closed, I found myself poised to jump someone’s suburban backyard fence to sneak in their pool with the Olympic medal winning swimmer and wild card, Victor Davis!

The riding world was a fast-moving river of power, youth, booze, and sexuality and I stepped into that river young. Without swimming lessons! This story could go off in another direction here, as it is bound to, someday. But for now, let's just say, WAY too much was expected of me for most of my young life.

At this point all you need to know is that for me, 'learning' almost always entailed public humiliation. So, I stuck to the one thing I had the most control over. Ironically, that was HORSES!

I grew up around horses from the time I could walk. I had a pony as a babysitter on our fenced-in lawn. I spent all day with him, between Sesame Street, Mr.Dress Up and inclement weather. As small children do, I talked to him, both out loud and in my head. I climbed on and off him from our picnic table and played all day long, all over the rocks and under the shady trees on my parents’ lawn.

I never STOPPED thinking and acting like the horses understood my intentions. I subconsciously picked up HOW to telegraph them from participating in life at an equine veterinary clinic and from watching pony club camps.

Universally, children go through a stage where they do imaginary play of all kinds; with dolls, toy trucks, pets and imaginary friends; then they typically outgrow that stage and move on, clearly understanding the difference between fantasy and reality. Well I never outgrew that phase! I suppose that's why I decided it was reasonable for a girl like me, from up here, on my little half-bred horse O'Reilly, to go to the Olympics! 😁

Hindsight is 50:50, am I right? 😉

Basically, if I wasn't in school, I was on a horse's back ... or grooming it, or treating it's injuries, or bathing it, or lunging it ... and dreaming of the Olympics.

Which was A-MAZING! I got SO CLOSE! 🤏🙏

AND, I was saved from discovering that my horse and I weren't quite up to the task of tackling THAT cross country course in Spain, in THAT heat.🥵

I was saved by a series of divine circumstances that at the time looked and felt an awful lot like injustice, and failure, and stupid bloody rules! But I know now, that I was saved.

I would have asked for too much from that generous little horse and had to live with that for the rest of my life. My teammates, in a sport that does not pass a baton or volley a ball, would have been eliminated if I stopped. We would have had to cross the finish line, to finish as a team.

I was 22; I would have been all adrenalized and cognizant of the pressure. O'Reilly was all heart; he would NEVER have stopped or slagged-off. IF we had finished the course, it would have finished us. It would have been the last thing that little horse ever did - of that, I am sure. I would have cooked him. And THAT, would have finished ME.

So, thank you Adversity, from saving me from that shame.

And thank you Nervous System, for being the resilient mother-trucker that you are! Thank you for showing me that the safest place to be was on the back of a horse, and for allowing me to communicate so clearly with them.

Thank you also, for automatically kicking into freeze/fawn mode when in doubt of my ‘safety’, which you had a pretty broad definition of. It helped me save face with my peers and mentors around the farm, when I made a mistake, and the pain of owning the public dressing-down and disappointment of my father - everyone's hero - was unbearable and felt ‘un-safe’.

Did I show it? No way! Nervous System - you were AWESOME! Kicking into gear with a quick laugh and a diversionary excuse. You helped me become the BEST, at saving face!

I thank you also, for always keeping me on edge and alert, with my Sentinel mode fully engaged, watching for the slightest signs; trying to predict was going to be needed BEFORE it was hollered for or about - BEFORE the fist came slamming down metaphorically on the dining room table, splitting it like Aslan's stone.

So thank you Nervous System. I get it - you were just trying to help.

Until recently, I didn’t realize that freeze and fawn modes were a part of a nervous system’s response to trauma. I didn't know that as a nervous system, you saw experiencing shame as 'dangerous' - something to be avoided at all costs - and you tripped the switch into fawning or shutdown mode to spare me pain when you saw it as inescapable.

The feelings of powerlessness, the inability to fight back, the nightmares of not being able to run, of punches landing harmlessly, of screaming without a voice, of wanting to please those in power – it all makes sense, under this lens.

Now, I understand WHY I grew up as such an ass-kissing, people-pleasing, teacher's pet!😘😁

Now I know why I connected so well with horses - it behooved me to become sensitive, to pay attention to the minutia of body language in order to predict the future, to do ANYTHING to stay out of trouble ... because I couldn't have bared to have been my brother - always in trouble! Not a chance! I didn’t have it in me. Instead, you helped me lean into to my empathic abilities, and hone my abilities to placate and impress adults, to stay a step ahead of embarrassment, shame and public humiliation. It got me far! So thank you, again ... AND ...

Nervous Sytem; it's time to let go of that pattern. I'm okay now! I understand failure and embarrassment aren't lethal, and that shame is overcomable, so I think it's time for us to evolve this relationship of ours, eh?

So, what do you say we don't jump into hyperdrive and release all that adrenalin every time I make a mistake? Or, when I even THINK I might make a mistake? How about we pull ourselves out of that well-worn rut in our neural pathways, that we are SO easily triggered into jumping into? And maybe, each time we climb out of that rut we congratulate ourselves instead of condemning ourselves, treat ourselves with compassion, dust ourselves off, kick a little dirt in the old groove, and try something new?

Oh NO!

There you go! 🤯

I said the word 'NEW' and that's a trigger! My sphincter tightened up just TYPING that!🙄😝

Now, remember! Learning is NOT dangerous. It just FEELS that way! You can’t tell the difference between the threat of public humiliation and the threat of death and dismemberment. To you, nervous system, it’s pretty much all the same – something to be avoided at all costs! But, by its nature, learning requires you to start out not very good at something and make mistakes as part of the process. I mean, NO ONE expects you to pick up a guitar for the first time and play a song without making a mistake, or missing a note, right?

D'oh!🤭 There I go again - I do!✋😬

I can't STAND making mistakes! In trying to learn new things, as I immerse myself in the world of singing and musical instruments, I have to teach myself this lesson OVER AND OVER again! It is the only way, to widen a world. Apparently, this isn't going to happen overnight, but when I pick up my guitar now I feel a little bit less like a new father in the 50’s, holding his newborn baby for the first time.

I tell you what; I will air some of this horrendous singing of mine to the world (which WHILE I was recording it, I thought was going pretty good and close to stage worthy ... 🤣🤣🤣). In retrospect, I can hear that I have a bit of work to do. AND, I will keep doing it and daring to suck, IF YOU WILL, TOO! (Well, I'll probably do it with or without you … but I will falter more often, alone.☺️)

Maybe let's call this 'International Dare To Suck Day'? Hell, EVERY day, should be International Dare to Suck Day!

If you are doing something and you suck at it, but it makes you happy, do it anyway! Chances are, you’ll get better! But only if you don’t stop. 🥳😎

Have a little chat with your Nervous System and thank it for sparing you pain in the past and for being so darned vigilant … then maybe suggest it take a little break, a wee nap, while you go do something, learn something, or become something new. I’ll be right there cheering you on!

Take a chance,

Paige Lockton-Wilde


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