What’s Your Trigger?

I’m writing you while brewing garlic, purple onion, cardamom, ginger, honey and lemon tea. I’ve had a cold for about five days. I’ve tried to figure out how I got sick. Was it that I eased up on green juice? Was it that I started consuming more dairy? Or was it that I missed some vitamins? Didn’t rest enough? Did too much? What did I do?

Um, how about nothing? How about I just caught a cold? And I have to wait it out for days. Rest. Tea. Liquids. Binge reading.

I love reading. I love television too. Lately, I’ve been loading up on so many books at the library. Ripper by Isabel Allende. Five, Six, Seven Nate by Tim Federle. And I finally started a book I own: Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown. I recommend all three books. Crime novel, elementary fiction and a breakthrough book on vulnerability, shame, perfectionism and the courage to connect.

I’m only on page 90, but what I’ve found is that men and women both suffer from shame about not doing enough, being enough, enough, enough.

I once worked for someone with whom I did a subtle dance where I let her push me into working with such intensity that I would have trouble sleeping and perpetually get sick. I let her pull the trigger on my “if I just work hard enough, I can do enough to stay under the radar and not suffer her wrath” button. Hers was a wrath cloaked in disappointment and shame. Let me tell you, if this was a dance on a reality show, I’d win. I know every step. I know how to please and how to anticipate better than the highest ranking general in a war room. I know how to make moves to keep the peace, to my own detriment. (Man, I love mixing metaphors!)

I also know how to blame myself for not doing enough.

Guess what, I am learning to recognize those dance moves and stop. Stop the thoughts that trigger an old script. I am not actually in that movie anymore. I’ve created a life I love. I’ve created a life I deserve. Also known as, “I am worthy of happiness.”

What happens when people, even those you love, trigger an old script? My husband is reading the Brené Brown book as well. He started it when I was binging on elementary fiction. Lately, I’ve been going through a strange emotional regression at home and have fallen back into a weird needy pleasey annoying (my word because it’s even annoying me) behavior. He’s been saying, “I want my Rebecca Villarreal back.” And I’ve been looking at him cross-eyed, confused, saying, “I’m trying! I’m trying!”

I was meditating, doing yoga, exercising, working, being a good mom, trying to be intentional in my marriage. Striving, trying and exhausting myself. (You can see how I’d like to blame myself for being sick?)

Well, here’s the good news. Yesterday, I was reading Brene’s book and watched how shame, disappointment and a scarcity mentality were triggering that pleasing button. Scarcity is about thinking you can never do or be enough–the house isn’t clean enough, your work isn’t good enough, you’re not thin enough, smart enough. When you flip that thinking on its head, you end up with, “I am imperfect and I am enough.” Cool beans because that means you are worth a life full of love. Trust me, you are worthy.

Basically, by slowing down and being sick, I could actually watch things happen in my mind. I watched old thoughts pop up about doing more for my son or my husband, or doing more around the house. I started squinting my eyes and looking sideways at those thoughts and saying, that’s not what’s happening right now. You’re just a thought. Go away. And sometimes, I even laughed at those thoughts.

I told this to my husband yesterday through some snot-filled tears. And even some laughter. I pointed to the intensity of editing my book and making some major decisions about content, timing and release. And what I could humanly do given that I have a full-time job and family and life. I pointed to some childhood scenarios that didn’t exist, yet trained me for certain life sports: pleasing, keeping the peace, anticipating villainous and crazy moves. I have no reason to use those muscles now. So I’m in training, a sort of emotional Olympic training, to use my muscles of courage, connection, vulnerability and enoughness—also know as, IMPERFECTION.

So, dear friends, my tea is ready, I bid you adieu. If you have triggers or are trained in any sports or dances that no longer suit your life, or the life you want to create, I’m sending you a special wish for a new hobby. Connect with someone you trust. Tell that person: I’m choosing to use my courage muscle now. (Be aware that a lot of the fibers that make up that muscle are comprised of fear and that’s okay.)

A toast to you and your new week! Much love in perpetual pajamas,