I spent most of my life being afraid—afraid of failure, afraid of success, afraid of what people might think, afraid of change, but also afraid of horror movies, rollercoasters, big cities, dark alleys, travel, and the boogey man. My mind could invent worst-case scenarios like Hollywood’s best screenwriter, and I’d watch those movies in my mind in such vivid detail that they felt real—and paralyzed me.
My fear led me to stay in medical school, even though every part of my being was longing to be a writer and an artist instead. My fear fueled me through 12 years of medical education and kept me in a full time OB/GYN job which I hated for eight years because, although I felt called to be a healer, I didn’t sign up to work in a broken managed care system that forced me to see 40 patients/day and failed to allow me the freedom to listen to someone’s heart beyond what my stethoscope could hear.
I was miserable, but I was also terrified that if I left my job, I would lose everything—my home, my boat, my vacation house, my retirement fund, my social status, my purpose, the support of the people I love—everything. My fear overpowered my intuition, my desires, and my yearning to be free and happy.
I gave birth to my daughter, my dog died, my healthy young brother wound up in liver failure as a side effect of a common antibiotic, and my beloved father died from a brain tumor—all within two weeks. As horrible as it was, I know the Universe planned it this way because it took a storm of this magnitude to shake me out of my nail-biting complacency and wake me up.
Having witnessed my father—who went from diagnosis to death in a short three months—die without an ounce of fear, I was inspired to change my life. I asked myself, “If I knew I had only three months to live, would I be living like I’m living now?”
This realization made me hit my wall. I had had it up to here with Fear. I marched right over to Fear and told him to go to hell. Fear looked me in the eye, and we stood there for quite some time, each daring the other to make a move. Fear told me I was crazy to even consider what I was considering, that I’d lose everything I had worked so hard to achieve, that I’d regret making such a bold step, that I should just be grateful for what I have and stop wanting so much.
Fear threw daggers at me, and when I failed to turn and run, Fear got vicious and started spewing evil nothings at me, telling me I would never amount to anything, that I didn’t deserve the life I desired, that I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, young enough, [fill in the blank] enough to have my big dreams come true.
But, inspired by my fearless father, I saw Fear for who he was—a pathetic, slimy, figment of my lizard brain who I created to protect me, but who was actually holding me back. For years, I had believed Fear, thinking that Fear would keep me safe, but in truth, Fear had locked me in a dungeon where the love couldn’t get in and my dreams couldn’t possibly come true.
The bolder I got, the more wicked and panicked Fear became. Fear started making up all kinds of lies to rein me back in. And Fear was a crafty little devil. Fear attacked me when I was sleeping and vulnerable, lashing out at me in dreams. Fear possessed the people I love and came at me in the voices of my mother, my best friend, and my colleagues. Fear didn’t back down. So I learned to see Fear for what he was—a powerless ghost who couldn’t actually hurt me unless I gave him life by believing in him and letting him suck out my power.
I called him The Gremlin. I imagined him something like Shrek—big and ogre-like and seemingly scary, but ultimately a big softie. And whenever I noticed The Gremlin—in my mind, in my dreams, in the voices of those I love—I chided him and said, “Pipe down, Gremlin!” I’d pat him on the head and feed him peanuts.
The Gremlin didn’t like this one bit. But after a while, The Gremlin realized I was serious, and I had inserted earplugs. The Gremlin was still prattling on, but I wasn’t listening anymore. By taking back my own power, rather than handing it over to The Gremlin, I was able to feel the Fear—and do it anyway.
So I quit my job, sold my home, and liquidated my retirement account in order to buy my freedom (I had to pay $120,000 for the privilege of quitting my job). With the support of my precious husband—who wasn’t bringing in any income—I moved with my family to the country, where I planned to pay the bills by painting and writing books. I pursued this life for two years before discovering that you can quit your job, but you can’t quit your calling, and I was called to be here on this earth to help people heal, even if I wasn’t in a hospital anymore.
During this time, The Gremlin got ballsy. With the money running out, The Gremlin shape-shifted into recruiters seducing me with fancy six figure offers to work at Kaiser and go back to seeing 40 patients/day in a job that didn’t resonate with my authentic self (which I call my Inner Pilot Light). The Gremlin showed up as publishers rejecting the book I had spent two years writing. The Gremlin tempted me like a snake in the Garden of Eden, whispering to me during dark nights of the soul that I wasn’t a good enough writer or a talented enough artist, that I should just suck it up and crawl back to the life I left. The Gremlin kept possessing the people I love, who called me crazy.
But I kept right on patting The Gremlin on the head and feeding him peanuts. I posted Gandhi’s words on my wall, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet”—“anyone” was The Gremlin. And I just kept right on sending The Gremlin to time out.
This time in my life culminated when my literary agent, who loved my book and affectionately called it “Eat, Pray, Vagina,” told me that all 30 publishing houses had rejected my book, not because they didn’t love it, but because they didn’t know how to sell it. It didn’t conform to any of the boxes they knew, and so they wouldn’t publish it. In complete surrender and tearful release, I wound up taking the pages of my manuscript, burning them, and throwing the ashes into the ocean. And while I threw out my manuscript, I decided to throw out The Gremlin too.
Soon afterwards, I started OwningPink.com, which began as a simple blog about how I had lost my mojo (which I defined as “MOre JOy”) and how I was committed to getting it back. OwningPink.com quickly grew into a community of others who had lost their mojo, as well as healers who were helping people get it back, and suddenly, I wound up leading a movement of women committed to owning their feminine power and living authentically so they can heal, connect, and thrive.
Now, I can honestly say that if I found out I had only three months to live, I would keep right on doing exactly what I’m doing, because I’m living my dream, a dream I couldn’t have even imagined back when I was living in fear. These days, I spend a lot of time thumbing my nose at The Gremlin (who, unfortunately, knows how to swim and didn’t stay in that ocean long). I tell The Gremlin, “Told ya so.” But The Gremlin is a relentless SOB. Even now, he shows up like the sneaky little bugger that he is, and I have to yell, “Shut your piehole, Gremlin!”
It’s a song and dance I suspect will never end. Some days I’m stronger than others. But most of the time, I can keep The Gremlin at bay, even as he chatters away about how, if I blink, I could lose it all. It’s a process, and I have to be ever mindful about it. But it’s SO worth the effort, because ever since I chose to live in love instead of in fear, the Universe has rolled out the red carpet for me. I am no longer imprisoned by The Gremlin. I am free. And I promise that, if you can send your Gremlin to time out, you’ll be granted the same blessings.
Are you ready to take the leap? Can you send The Gremlin to time out, and if you did, what would you do differently in your life? Will you accept my invitation to live in love and freedom, instead of in fear?
Sticking my tongue out at The Gremlin,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Revolutionary, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
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