Dismantling Doom Balloons

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Entering the Conundrum of Cumulonimbus Feelings 

We are doing a 7 Day Calming Anxiety Mindfulness Class every morning as a family. I really wanted to do the Peak Performance one, because, well, who wouldn’t… Optimize success vs. minimize suffering. Not a seemingly tough choice. 

And yet, against my will, my finger betrayed me. 

My soul intervened– put my giddeyup and go girl in the backseat. 

Luckily, I’ve learned to listen. Even over a bratty amount of resistance. So, I rolled my inner eyes, recoiled and hit play. Reluctantly. Immediately, I regretted my decision. 

I am partial to the kind of calm that organically grows out of a moment. Compulsory calm feels dangerously similar to the torturous good cheer of forced fun company Christmas parties. The way they loom out on December’s horizon, the way they last an ungodly amount of time, the way they suck you into their soul-stealing vortex and spit you out in some oversaturated red and green reality. 

I like genuinely calming voices. The ‘trying to be’ calm voice is like fingernails across a terra cotta pot. Add the torment of an intentional smile and you might as well fill the room with screeching crows and hissing cats. Super cringy, as my son would say. 

It is dumbfounding to me how others find this soothing. 

It creeps me out to be coddled and coerced– to be spoken to like an angry kindergartener with a bat or a hopeless teenager teetering on the edge– to be taken hostage by a happiness terrorist for a 12-minute marathon.

However, thankfully, since we are a unanimously discerning family, I thought for sure when it was finally over, we’d have a good laugh and agree Peak Performance would be a much better choice. A manic motivational voice would at least be entertaining. 

But, to my horror and in an act of mass betrayal, my family found it relaxing.

The torture would continue for a full week.

By accident (soul-interference) I pushed play this morning, on the wrong audio clip. Two minutes in, my anxiety spiked. We were doing Day 4– AGAIN. I felt terrible. I opened my eyes eager, intent and ready to fix my monumental mistake right away. They all had their eyes closed. Peaceful. Relaxed. Ugggghhhhhh.

I almost came completely unglued. 

We know from yesterday, the voice reminded us, how common it is to have our anxiety triggered by our perception of past events or speculation of future catastrophes– catastrophes that will probably never happen. 

Perception? Speculation?? Probably never happen???

I burst out laughing. She couldn’t be more wrong. Or right. 

The paradox of catastrophic thinking, even when it’s based on real events and hurtful situations was funny. It cracked me up– and cracked something in me open. Her voice took on a welcome irony. My resistance began to fade. And I leaned in, just a little.

She reminded us, to watch our thoughts, like clouds, move cross the sky of our awareness. Not be carried away by them. Simply observe and ‘note’ them. If it is sadness, she said, note ‘sadness’. If it is anger, note ‘anger’. No need to judge it. We are just ‘noting’ what comes up.

I kept trying to ‘note’ one feeling in particular. 

Left out? Unacknowledged? Handled? Sort of. Not exactly. 

The cloud would not pass. 

I am serious about words. Truth. And marrying the two. So, I would not give up. But with each failed attempt to ‘note’ IT, the cloud grew bigger, darker– heavier. I wanted to just throw a catch-all phrase around it, like giant hairball, and send it on its way. 

But what we call things matters. And walking away too early lets us off the hook for figuring out what’s really going on. For taking personal responsibility. For being able to move on with our day and life clear and clean.

The meditation ended. I noted ‘failed’. 

Then immediately, I called bullshit on myself.

Are you kidding, I said to myself. This is a ginormous cumulonimbus cloud. It isn’t interested in being shooed along like some kind of long-overlooked homeless bum. Not interested in being tied up with a nice little bow. 

It needed to be acknowledged, not ignored. So, after the kids went to ZOOM, I went to my room, sat down with my cloud and asked it what it wanted to be called.

I am your big doom balloon.

I laughed out loud. Okay, I said, what shall we do with you?

Puncture me, it said. I thought this odd, but I am an excellent follower of intuitional direction. Appreciative for the powers of metaphorical alchemy and their ability to transform doom in one thunderous boom.

So, I picked up an imaginary stick, and poked it. 

My doom balloon shattered. Sharp shards scattered. Slow-motion show. Glass flock flying– towards me. I punched them. Pierced them. Flight… fight… back. Protect my face. Break them down. Tears fell. They fell. My indecipherable façade fell. 

The ground glittered– littered with fallen fragments of fear. 

Fear is funny. It begins with the shadow of itself– with the ominous threat of its great big cumulonimbus girth. In the miraculous instance that this does not dissolve you into despair, it shape-shifts. And now, you must see beyond its shimmery deceptions. 

Break through the distorted distraction of too much reflection. Stay relentlessly focused on the task at hand. Obliterate the hidden mirrors that magnify doubt, multiply distrust and monopolize the present with the pain of the past. 

Our deepest fear is a time-traveling magnet.

Under the guise of being about what is happening now, it pulls us back to the primal pain of what happened then. And gathers iron-clad evidence from all directions.

Mine is being left. Left behind the door of my mom’s depression. Left out for being fat. Different. Quiet. Left believing I would never really belong. Left knowing I was fundamentally and unjustifiably broken. 

I sat amidst the leftover shards of my doom balloon.

Although happy, to no longer be wrestling the cumulonimbus cloud, I was not feeling great about cleaning up the doom balloon mess. It felt a little like Cat In The Hat on acid. The conundrum was gone but the pain remained. And I was overwhelmed at where to even begin.

But just then, as grace with a little imagination will do, I was given a clear command.


Bring Your Own Fairy Godmother, the voice said. Ain’t no one else gonna clean up your mess. And in some kind of Mary Poppins Wizard of Oz merger, I was handed a magic wand and told to take charge.

Made sense. I mean, even if someone else was willing to give you a magic wand, how do you know where they got it? Is it a regift? A Walmart knock-off?  Did they forget to charge it? There are a lot of sketchy possibilities. WAY better to get it from your own fairy godmother.

Bippety Boppety Bippety BOO!

You’ve got to stop hiccups in their tracks. Usher the white elephant out of the room. Scare up your mojo. Get back your go-go. Welcome back the Blue-jays and blueberry muffins.

Bippety Boppety Bippety DO!

Get sassy, saucy and saddled up for a new adventure. You just have to pivot sideways to see a spectacular new horizon. Walk away from the trash. Trust it will become the compost of your future garden. 

Bippety Boppety Bippety YOU!

No more stewing. No more brewing. No more cooking up a cauldron of consequences. Time to bake up a bold batch YESES to you. 


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